US student barred by Israel appeals to its top court

US student Lara Alqasem sits for a hearing at the Tel Aviv district Court on October 11, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2018

US student barred by Israel appeals to its top court

  • Lara Alqasem, 22, flew to Israel on Oct. 2 on a study visa but was refused entry by security officials
  • In airport detention since, she has been contesting the exclusion, with the backing of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, where she was due to begin a year-long master’s program

JERUSALEM: A US student barred from Israel under a law against pro-Palestinian boycotters filed an appeal on Sunday with its top court, which suspended her deportation pending a discussion of the case.
Lara Alqasem, 22, flew to Israel on Oct. 2 on a study visa but was refused entry by security officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida.
In airport detention since, she has been contesting the exclusion, with the backing of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, where she was due to begin a year-long master’s program on Sunday.
On Friday, a Tel Aviv District Court rejected Alqasem’s appeal to be allowed in. On Sunday, her lawyers said she filed a dual motion to Israel’s Supreme Court to block her looming deportation and consider a last-ditch appeal for entry.
“A stay has been issued against the deportation, and the appeal motion will be heard this week,” a court spokesman said.
Her case has touched off debate in Israel over whether democratic values have been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support anti-Israel boycotts, and if a hard line against the student would ultimately harm the country’s image.
Students for Justice activities, the government said, included a campaign to boycott Sabra hummus, made and sold in the United States by a company partly owned by a firm in Israel.
Israel sees such groups, and the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, not only as a bid to isolate it over its occupation of territory which Palestinians seek for a state, but also to campaign for its destruction.
Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, stopped her activities in the Students for Justice group months before the anti-boycott law came into effect, has pledged not to take part in boycott activities while in Israel and did not plan to visit the West Bank, her attorneys have said.
Israel’s Supreme Court rarely agrees to hear appeals over administrative matters ruled on by lower courts, Alqasem lawyer Leora Bechor said. “It needs very unique circumstances,” she told Reuters.
Bechor said Alqasem could have opted to fly back to the United States, but had chosen to remain in airport detention, where she had only intermittent access to phone communication and had been denied reading and writing materials.
“If she boards a plane the case loses its urgency. If a person is not physically here, it becomes more abstract,” Bechor said. “From her perspective, she’s a 22-year-old, young woman, she’s not receiving financial assistance, and she can’t afford another ticket.”


Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2020

Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

  • Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020

DUBAI: The number of reported coronavirus cases has gone over 3 million in the Middle East, an Associated Press count showed on Friday, with the true number likely even higher.
Across the Mideast, there have been over 75,000 deaths attributed to the virus by health authorities, the AP count relying on reported figures by individual countries shows.
There have been 2.5 million recoveries from the virus causing the COVID-19 illness.
In the Mideast, the hardest-hit nation remains Iran, which served as the initial epicenter of the virus in the region. In Iran alone, authorities say there have been over 600,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with some 477,000 recoveries and 34,000 deaths. Yet even those numbers are believed to be low, Iranian officials say.

NUMBER

Deaths have been reported in the Middle East region due to the coronavirus, according to health authorities.

In some war-torn nations, it remains difficult to know the scope of the pandemic as well. In Yemen for instance, it’s believed that the vast majority of the country’s cases have gone undiagnosed and untreated, and health workers have said only those who are near death are usually brought to hospitals.