Noam Chomsky, a renowned Jewish-American scholar and political activist, has been barred from entering the West Bank.
Chomsky was denied entry by Israeli immigration officials as he attempted to cross the Allenby Bridge from Jordan on Sunday.
The lingusitics professor, who frequently speaks out against Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, had been scheduled to give a lecture at Birzeit University in the West Bank.
“I entered with my daughter and two friends who we met in Amman the day before,” he told Al Jazeera.
“After several hours of waiting and multiple interrogations our two friends were permitted entry and my daughter and I were informed that we were denied entry after much discussion indirectly with the interior ministry.”
Chomsky said the border officials were “very polite” as they “transmitted inquiries from the [Israeli] ministry of the interior”.
He said that he believed he was denied entry was for two reasons.
“The government does not like the kind of things I say which puts them into the category of every other government in the world,” he said.
“The second was that they seemed upset about the fact that I was taking an invitation from Birzeit and I had no plans of speaking to any Israeli universities as I’ve done many times in the past, but not this time.”
However, a spokeswoman at the Israeli interior ministry, which controls the country’s borders, said Chomsky had not been allowed to cross the border due to misunderstanding.
She said officials were trying to get clearance from the Israeli military, which controls access to the West Bank to allow Chomsky to enter.
“We are trying to contact the military to clear things up and if they have no objection we see no reason why he should not be allowed in,” Sabine Hadad told the Reuters news agency.
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian MP who had invited Chomsky to speak at the university’s philosophy department, said the scholar had been detained at the border for five hours.
“This act shows the nature of the Israeli government that is against freedom of speech, particularly from such a noted international figure like Chomsky,” Barghouti said.
Chomsky, 81, is a professor of linguistics at the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has frequently spoken out against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
And here’s the key point, well explained by Israeli Noam Sheizaf:
Much has been written on Israel’s decision not to allow entry to left-wing linguist Noam Chomsky today, and I guess even more will be written. From the official Israeli response, it is not clear who made the decision in this case — a top government official or a low level bureaucrat — and it seems that Chomsky might still be permitted to enter the West Bank, once people realize the PR damage caused to what’s left of the reputation of the only democracy in the Middle East. But that’s not the important issue here.
According to Chomsky, what bothered Israeli officials at the Allenby crossing was not only his views, but the fact that he intends to visit the West Bank, and not Israel. Later it was said that the IDF authority might end up granting him a visa. But whatever way this affair ends, it is clear that Chomsky made a better case against Israel today than in anything he said or wrote. He practically proved that the Palestinians are far from being autonomous, and that the West Bank is in reality under siege, with Israel dictating who and what can leave or enter.
When the Spanish clown Ivan Pedro was denied entry by the Shabak into the West Bank, some people tried to make a national security case out of it, claiming Pedro refused to submit information regarding his contacts in the West Bank. I hope nobody is planning the same line with the Chomsky. Israel simply decided not to let him in because he is pro-Palestinian, like it does every day to many others. The only difference is that in those cases nobody alerts Reuters.
There is no arguing that Israel is now viewing certain ideas, not just actions, as an existential threat, and is willing to make full use of its powers in order to suppress them. It is important to understand this point: Some people think that the state made a stupid mistake today, when it chose to deny entry to Chomsky. But that’s only true if you judge the affair in terms of actual security — then you conclude that making such a fuss over a speech in Ramallah by an aging linguist that no one would even notice is pure madness. But if you are obsessed with the persecution of “dangerous ideas” and constantly searching for ideological menaces, then Chomsky is a threat. In this context, not allowing him to enter your country might be logical and even legal — again, if you consider Israel’s control of all access to the West Bank legal — but it is also scary as hell.