|American linguist Noam Chomsky was denied entry into Israel on May 16, 2010|
|Photo by: Bloomberg|
Professor Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and left-wing activist, was denied entry into Israel and the West Bank on Sunday.
No reason was initially given for the decision, but the Interior Ministry later said immigration officials at the Allenby Bridge border crossing from Jordan had misunderstood Chomsky’s intentions thinking initially he was also due to visit Israel.
Chomsky, who is on a speaking tour in the region, was scheduled to speak at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank on Monday.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said officials were now trying to get clearance from the Israel Defense Forces, which controls access to the West Bank to allow Chomsky to enter that territory.
“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,” said Hadad.
Chomsky said inspectors had stamped the words “denied entry” onto his passport when he tried to cross from Jordan over Allenby Bridge.
When he asked an Israeli inspector why he had not received permission, he was told that an explanation would be sent in writing to the American embassy. “They apparently didn’t like the fact that I was due to lecture at a Palestinian university and not in Israel,” Chomsky told Reuters by telephone from Amman.
Chomsky arrived at the Allenby Bridge at around 1:30 in the afternoon and was taken for questioning, before being released back to Amman at 4:30 P.M.
In a telephone interview with Channel 10, Chomsky said the interrogators had told him he had written things that the Israeli government did not like. “I suggested [the interrogator try to] find any government in the world that likes anything I say,” he said.
Chomsky is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is considered among the foremost academics in the world. He identifies with the radical left and is often critical of both Israeli and American policies.
Chomsky said he last visited Israel and the West Bank in 1997 when he lectured at Ben-Gurion University and also at Bir Zeit. He said all his previous West Bank visits had been as a part of trips to Israel.
His Palestinian host, lawmaker Mustafa al-Barghouti called the decision “a fascist action, amounting to suppression of freedom of expression.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel slammed the Interior Ministry for “using detention and deportation to prevent a man from expressing his opinion”, calling it “characteristic of a totalitarian regime.”
“A democratic country where freedom of expression is a guiding principle does not close in the face of criticism or ideas that are not comfortable and does not deny entry to guests only because it does not accept their opinions. Instead, it deals with these opinions through public discussion,” said ACRI in a statement.
Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, on the other hand, praised the move.
“It’s good that Israel did not allow one of its accusers to enter its territory,” said Schneller. “I recommend [Chomsky] try one of the tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt.”