By: Khaled Amayreh
Fearing that he would further expose Israel’s anti-peace stance and its oppression of the Palestinian people, the Israeli government this week barred Noam Chomsky from entering Israel-Palestine.
Chomsky, a world-renowned intellectual and linguist, was detained briefly at the Palestinian side of the Allenby Bridge on Sunday 16 May. There he was told by Israeli authorities that the Israeli government didn’t like his writings and that he was viewed as persona non grata.
Chomsky, 81, had been scheduled to lecture at the Birzeit University in the West Bank. Following his deportation, the non-conformist American Jewish intellectual told reporters that he concluded from the questions of the Israeli official at the border terminal 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 the Stalinist regime.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor of linguistics and philosophy is a well-known critic of the Israeli occupation of Arab lands. On many occasions, Chomsky compared Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank with those of the defunct white minority apartheid regime in South Africa.
Chomsky also castigated the genocidal Israeli onslaught on Gaza last year along with the ongoing blockade of the coastal enclave’s 1.7 million people initiated by Israel more than three years ago for the purpose of pushing Gazans to rise up against Hamas. Hamas won a landslide victory in the 2006 general elections, which infuriated Israel and its guardian-ally, the United States, prompting them to impose draconian sanctions on Gaza.
“The young man [the Israeli border official] asked me whether I had ever been denied entry into other countries. I told him once, to Czechoslovakia, after the Soviet invasion in 1968,” Chomsky said, adding that he had gone to visit ousted Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubcek, whose reforms the Soviets crushed.
According to Haaretz newspaper, Chomsky, who was accompanied by his daughter and several other friends, was questioned on the nature of his lectures, whether he was going to criticise Israeli policies and whether he had spoken with Lebanon’s Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. He was further asked why he didn’t have an Israeli passport since he was Jewish. He reportedly answered, “I am an American citizen”.
Chomsky supports the two-state solution but he rejects the Israeli concept of the two-state solution strategy: namely, ceding the Palestinians some isolated cantons cut off from each other and that could never be a “viable and territorially contiguous state”.
In recent years, especially with the rise to power in Israel of religious and rightwing anti- democratic parties, the Israeli political establishment became more sensitive to criticisms of Israeli policies abroad, especially from such Jewish intellectuals such as Chomsky.
In 2008, Israel refused entry to Richard Falk, an American Jewish academic, for comparing the Israeli occupation with Nazi crimes against Jews. In 2007, Falk, a Princeton University professor of international law, was quoted as saying that Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip was “a Holocaust in the making”. Falk was later appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel defended its decision to deport Falk, arguing that he indulged in “shameful comparisons to the Holocaust”.
Similarly, nearly, two years ago, Israeli security services deported Norman Finkelstein, another American Jewish intellectual and critic of the Israeli occupation. The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, said that Finkelstein was not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicious involvement with hostile elements in Lebanon, and because “he didn’t give a full account to interrogators with regards to these suspicions”.
Finkelstein remarked on that episode, saying: “I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn’t much more to say for myself — no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organisations.”
Finkelstein, 57, had accused Israel of exploiting the holocaust for political ends and in order to justify its crimes against the Palestinian people. In 2000, Finkelstein wrote The Holocaust Industry on the exploitation of Jewish suffering.
Mounting international criticism of the repressive Israeli treatment of Palestinians, as well as the extensive havoc and destruction wreaked on civilians in the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon, generated strong reactions by intellectuals and human rights activists around the world. Such criticisms seemed to push the political class in Israel towards stonewalling with the Israeli government resorting to deportation as a method to silence vocal critics of Israeli practices.
In 2008, Israel refused Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu entry while on a UN fact-finding mission in the Gaza Strip. Israel apparently feared that Tutu would file a damning report, indicting Israel for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, as did Judge Richard Goldstone a year and a half later, following the Israeli blitzkrieg against Gaza that killed and maimed thousands of Palestinian civilians and inflicted widespread destruction.
Subsequently, Israel and its supporters repeatedly accused Goldstone of being biased against, and hostile to, Israel. Some “Israel-Firsters”, especially in North America, have gone as far as calling Goldstone an “anti- Semite” and “self-hating Jew”.
The abovementioned intellectuals are mere examples of how Israel, which claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, is drifting towards Jewish fascism. On 18 May, one Israeli journalist wrote, commenting on the deportation of Chomsky: “Denying Noam Chomsky entry to Israel puts an end to the myth that Israel is a democracy. It is a state where the police arrest demonstrators protesting the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and expel a pregnant non-Jewish woman so that she won’t give birth to her child in Israel. I will not argue whether Israel is fascist or not. But in reality, Israel is walking in the path of fascism.”