The Interior Ministry refused to let linguist Noam Chomsky into Israel and the West Bank on Sunday. Chomsky, who aligns himself with the radical left, had been scheduled to lecture at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, and visit Bil’in and Hebron, as well as meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and various Palestinian activists.
In a telephone conversation last night from Amman, Chomsky told Haaretz that he concluded from the questions of the Israeli official that the fact that he came to lecture at a Palestinian and not an Israeli university led to the decision to deny him entry.
“I find it hard to think of a similar case, in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps only in Stalinist regimes,” Chomsky told Haaretz.
Sabine Haddad, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, confirmed to Haaretz that the officials at the border were from the ministry.
“Because he entered the Palestinian Authority territory only, his entry is the responsibility of the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories at the Defense Ministry. There was a misunderstanding on our side, and the matter was not brought to the attention of the COGAT.”
Haddad told Haaretz that “the minute the COGAT says that they do not object, Chomsky’s entry would have been permitted.”
Chomsky, a Jewish professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had spent several months at Kibbutz Hazore’a during the 1950s and had considered a longer stay in Israel. He had been invited by the Department of Philosophy at Bir Zeit.
He planned to spend four days in the West Bank and give two lectures.
On Sunday, at about 1:30 P.M. he came to the Israeli side of the border with Jordan. After three hours of questioning, during which the border officer repeatedly called the Interior Ministry for instructions, Chomsky’s passport was stamped with “Denied Entry.”
With Chomsky, 81, were his daughter Aviva, and a couple of old friends of his and his late wife.
Entry was also denied to his daughter.
Their friends, one of whom is a Palestinian who grew up in Beirut, were allowed in, but they opted to return with Chomsky to Amman.
Chomsky told Haaretz that it was clear that his arrival had been known to the authorities, because the minute he entered the passport control room the official told him that he was honored to see him and that he had read his works.
The professor concluded that the officer was a student, and said he looked embarrassed at the task at hand, especially when he began reading from text the questions that had been dictated to him, and which were also told to him later by telephone.
Chomsky told Haaretz about the questions.
“The official asked me why I was lecturing only at Bir Zeit and not an Israeli university,” Chomsky recalled. “I told him that I have lectured a great deal in Israel. The official read the following statement: ‘Israel does not like what you say.’”
Chomsky replied: “Find one government in the world which does.”
“The young man asked me whether I had ever been denied entry into other countries. I told him that once, to Czechoslovakia, after the Soviet invasion in 1968,” he said, adding that he had gone to visit ousted Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubcek, whose reforms the Soviets crushed.
In Ynet, Boaz Okon expresses his fear that Israel is moving in the direction of becoming a fascist state.
[I]n Israel our government has already started to threaten the freedom, or at least the freedom of those perceived as “others.” We are no longer interested in what “others” have to say, let alone in their right to live here normally. We want them to get out of here. We persecute “others” based on generalizations, suspicions, bias, or just because they annoy us.
The police detain protestors in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on false pretenses. The custody court expels a pregnant foreign worker so she won’t give birth to a foreign child in Israel. The family court prevents babies in India from being brought into Israel based on unfounded excuses, which may serve as a veneer for the disapproval of the sexual orientation of their father.
Meanwhile, our courts issue gag orders routinely and without much thought, possibly in order to cover the shame. We even expelled clowns who wished to arrive at a festival in Ramallah because we are scared.
What we have here is a worrisome common denominator. When freedom disappears, it comes first and foremost at the expense of the weak, marginal groups, or minorities. Yet this does not end there. Now it’s also being directed towards globally recognized intellectuals.
For that reason, it would not be exaggerated to say that the decision to silence Professor Noam Chomsky is an attempt to put an end to freedom in the State of Israel. I am not referring to the foolishness inherent in providing ammunition for those who argue that Israel is fascist, but rather, to the fear that we may indeed be in the process of becoming that way.