American linguist, political thinker and outspoken critic of Israel, Noam Chomsky, was denied entry into the West Bank on Sunday by Israeli immigration officials when he tried to cross into the Palestinian territory from Jordan to deliver a lecture.
Amira Hass of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported:
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.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s interior ministry also told Reuters that there had been a misunderstanding and “officials were trying to get clearance from the Israeli military, which controls access to the West Bank to allow Chomsky to enter.”
In a television interview from Amman, Jordan, after he was rebuffed, Mr. Chomsky told Al Jazeera English, “the facts were completely clear to everyone; there was no basis for a misunderstanding.” He explained that he was interrogated for several hours before being told that he would not be allowed to cross into the occupied Palestinian territory. The 81-year-old scholar added:
“I can only say what was conveyed to me in the discussion with the official who was carrying out the interrogation — he was receiving instructions from the [Israeli] ministry of interior and relaying them. There were two basic points. One was that the government of Israel does not like the kinds of things I say — which puts them into the category of I suppose every other government in the world. The second was that they seemed upset about the fact that I was just taking an invitation from Bir Zeit and I had no plans to go on to speak in Israeli universities, as I have done many times in the past but not this time.”
Chomsky had been invited to speak about American foreign and domestic policy by the philosophy department at the Palestinian university in Ramallah.
The renowned linguist was outspoken in his opposition to the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which ended in January 2009 and has criticized Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory many times.
In an interview with Deborah Solomon of The New York Times Magazine in 2003, Mr. Chomsky said:
“I objected to the founding of Israel as a Jewish state. I don’t think a Jewish or Christian or Islamic state is a proper concept. I would object to the United States as a Christian state.” When Ms. Solomon pressed Mr. Chomsky on his opposition to Israel, saying, “Your father was a respected Hebraic scholar, and sometimes you sound like a self-hating Jew,” he replied:
It is a shame that critics of Israeli policies are seen as either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. It’s grotesque. If an Italian criticized Italian policies, would he be seen as a self-hating Italian?