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Chomsky ban: "An end to freedom"?
Israeli commentators question whether entry refusal is party of a growing trend.
Last Modified: 17 May 2010 22:03 GMT
Chomsky was turned away as he tried to enter the West Bank to give a lecture

Noam Chomsky, the American academic barred from entering the occupied West Bank on Sunday night, has not been particularly outspoken about the incident.

He told Al Jazeera that the Israeli government was upset that his plans to speak at a Palestinian university were scuppered; he likened Israel to a "Stalinist regime" in a brief interviewwith Haaretz; but he has otherwise kept a low public profile.

In the US media, too, Chomsky's expulsion attracted relatively little interest.

But the incident has sparked a debate within Israel, where a number of prominent journalists and writers questioned whether it's part of a trend - of the Israeli government denying entry to people simply because of their political views.

The Israeli daily Ma'ariv reported that the decision to bar Chomsky came from an official in the Israeli interior ministry - and that he was barred for being a "leftist."

Chomsky is hardly the first person barred from Israel on ideological grounds. Jared Malsin, the English editor of the Ma'an news service, was deported from Israel in January for his political views. And Ivan Prado, a Spanish clown, was deported earlier this year, also for his political views.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel told the Jerusalem Post that people with left-wing views are routinely barredfrom entering Israel.

Oded Feller, an attorney for the group, said the Israeli interior ministry has not set out clear criteria for barring people from Israel, and that political considerations are often involved.

"There may be a million reasons, but try to find a single criterion for entry refusal and you’ll hit a blank wall," Feller said.

"Dozens of people are refused entry to Israel every week and I'm sure that the interior ministry has great reasons for every refusal, but if you try to discern what the regulations that guide the decision to grant or refuse an individual’s entry to Israel are, you won’t find them.

"The interior ministry simply doesn't publish them, this despite a court ruling that ordered them to do so."

Boaz Okon, the legal affairs editor for the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said the issue could mark"the end of Israel as a freedom-loving state of law".

"When freedom disappears - it comes first of all at the expense of the weak, the marginal groups or the minorities. But it does not end there. Now it is also reaching intellectuals with a worldwide reputation.

"Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the decision to shut up Prof. Chomsky is an attempt to put an end to freedom in the State of Israel," Okon wrote.

Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times, reported on the debate within Israel, where one conservative member of the Knesset said barring people with Chomsky's viewswas a decision "to protect our existence."

Israel's interior ministry has characterized the incident as a "misunderstanding," and there's some speculation in the Israeli press that Chomsky will be allowed to enter the West Bank in the coming days.

If you missed it, here's the video of Chomsky's interview with Al Jazeera on Sunday night:

Source:
Al Jazeera
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