American student remains in Israeli detention as judge considers deportation case

The student has been ordered deported over her alleged support for a boycott.

Lara Alqasem, 22, appeared in Tel Aviv District Court this morning to appeal an order to deport her. After an hour of deliberations, Judge Kobi Vardi announced he would make his ruling public in the coming days.

Alqasem smiled as she entered the courtroom, but did not speak to the many journalists present.

Alqasem, who is of Palestinian origin, was refused entry to Israel when she landed at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport on Oct. 2.

Officials cited her alleged support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as BDS, that advocates for boycotts as a political tool to protest Israeli policies related to the Palestinian territories. She is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and is from the Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida, according to the Associated Press.

Leora Bechor, one of Alqasem's attorneys, said after the hearing, "This case is not about a BDS activist, it’s about the state abusing its power in order to misapply its own rules regarding who is an activist and who is not an activist."

She added that there was nothing on the record that showed that Alqasem was the kind of activist that Israeli legislation prohibits.

A recently passed Israeli law allows authorities to ban entry to anyone it deems to have held a senior position in an organization publicly calling to boycott the State of Israel.

An assistant to Gilad Erdan, Israel's minister of strategic affairs who ordered border control officers to place Alqasem in detention, was present at the hearing this morning and told journalists that the student's alleged "actions" disqualified her from entering Israel.

"It's not a question of opinions," Asher Friedman said. "We're not looking to decide on prevention of entry based on opinions. We're looking at actions of certain criteria and we believe Miss Alqasem meets those criteria, based on her actions and the actions of the organization of which she was a senior leader over several years."

Alqasem appealed the deportation order issued last week when she tried to enter Israel and has remained in custody at a Ben-Gurion Airport holding facility for foreigners denied entry.

She was accepted to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and had been granted an Israeli student visa when she was in the United States. Hebrew University has joined her appeal.

Without a verdict on Thursday, Alqasem will continue to be detained at the facility until the court announces a decision. Officials have said she can return to the U.S. at any time.