Chomsky barred from West Bank

MIT professor turned away at Jordan border

By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / May 17, 2010

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Noam Chomsky, an outspoken voice on the political left and a fierce critic of Israeli foreign policy, was denied entry by Israeli officials into the West Bank yesterday, where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture at a Palestinian university.

Chomsky, a renowned linguistics professor at MIT, was seeking to cross the border between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but was turned away after being questioned for several hours. He said authorities did not provide an explanation, but told him they would send a written account to the American Embassy.

An Israeli official said in published reports that border officials barred Chomsky because they mistakenly thought he was also planning to visit other places in Israel outside of the Palestinian territory. She said border and immigration officials were consulting military officials about potentially letting him enter the country.

“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,’’ Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told Reuters.

In an e-mail to the Globe, Chomsky said he believed he was being singled out for his criticism of Israel, as well as his plans to speak at a Palestinian university. “They are carrying out an action of a kind that I’ve never heard of before, except in totalitarian states,’’ he said.

Chomsky, 81, said he believes he was also targeted because his trip did not include any engagements at Israeli universities, as he has often done in the past. He predicted that Israel would ultimately reverse its decision because of international criticism.

In a live television interview with Al Jazeera, Chomsky said the Israeli government “does not like the kind of things I say, which puts them into the category of every other government in the world.’’

In Jerusalem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel condemned the barring of Chomsky.

“A democratic state, which considers freedom of expression a guiding principle, does not close itself off to criticism or uncomfortable notions and does not refuse entry to visitors whose views it does not accept, but rather deals with them through public discourse,’’ the group said in a statement.

Chomsky, who is Jewish, is a frequent critic of Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories and of US support for Israel.

On its website, Birzeit University said that “academics who hold international passports and wish to teach at Palestinian universities are often denied entry/deported by Israel.’’

Chomsky’s daughter — Aviva Chomsky, a professor at Salem State College — was also denied entry.

In e-mails, she said that she and her father were questioned by an official from the Ministry of the Interior, who asked why Chomsky was going to Birzeit and not to an Israeli university and what he was planning to speak about.

Chomsky said he had traveled to Israel on numerous occasions.

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