Oops, it was all a big misunderstanding claims Eli Yishai’s Interior Ministry. That’s what Al Jazeera claims the goons who denied Prof. Noam Chomsky entry into the West Bank at the Allenby crossing are now saying. As Chomsky says in this interview, what could they have misunderstood? Who he was? Where he was going (to speak at Bir Zeit University)?
Here’s the government’s statement which should be read to see how bureaucracy functions so well in service of Occupation and its associated evils:
Sabine Haddad, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, confirmed to Haaretz that the officials at the border were from the ministry.
“Because he entered the Palestinian Authority territory only, his entry is the responsibility of the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories at the Defense Ministry. There was a misunderstanding on our side, and the matter was not brought to the attention of the COGAT.”
Haddad told Haaretz that “the minute the COGAT says that they do not object, Chomsky’s entry would have been permitted.”
So what she’s saying is that her own ministry official made a mistake in not passing off Chomsky’s entry to the Defense Ministry. If entry via the Allenby Bridge is supposed to be handled by the Defense Ministry, why was it handled by the wrong Ministry? Are there two types of entries there that are handled differently depending on the individual? It simply doesn’t pass the smell test.
Israel Radio quotes an apparently conflicting statement from the Interior Ministry specifying that Chomsky must access the West Bank through Ben Gurion Airport. Reading between the lines, aside from petty harrassment, this seems to be another attempt by Israel to compel Chomsky to concede that Israel controls the West Bank. Undoubtedly, they viewed his attempt at entering via Jordan as a way to deny Israeli sovereignty over the territory.
Given the alternate statements it makes you wonder who’s running the show, or whether anyone’s running the show at the Ministry. Joe Biden probably wondered the same thing the day he was buffaloed by the Ramat Shlomo announcement.
On days like today when Omar Said’s detention has been extended along with a prohibition against consulting his attorney, I tear my hair because there is too much about which to write. Too much injustice. Too much repression. Too much fear. Too much stupidity.
When Professor Chomsky, one of the world’s most distinguished linguists and a fierce critic of Israeli Occupation and policy, presented himself at the Allenby Bridge, he was grilled for hours about his intentions. The official interrogating him made clear that they were refusing him entry because of his hostile views and because he was only speaking at Bir Zeit, but not in Israel (which he has often done). The latter is a laughable criticism. If Chomsky had been on his way to lecture at Bir Zeit and an Israeli university then they would have had grounds to claim that his views couldn’t be espoused within Israel without harming the security interests of the State. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
His interrogator consulted closely with his superiors in the Ministry. So for Yishai’s minions to claim it was all a big misunderstanding is ludicrous. They knew exactly what they were doing and did it. It was about as much of a misunderstanding as Joe Biden’s snub at the hands of the same Ministry which had approved 1,600 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem the day before he arrived in Israel. All an accident, a big misunderstanding. It’s almost like they’d put a shiv in between your ribs and watch you bleed to death all the while telling you it was all just a big misunderstanding.
Noam Sheizaf had one of the best summaries of the significance of this incident:
There is no arguing that Israel is now viewing certain ideas, not just actions, as existential threat, and is willing to make use of its powers in order to suppress them. It is important to understand this point: Some people think that the state made a stupid mistake today, when it chose to refuse Chomsky a visa. But that’s only true if you judge the affair in terms of actual security – then you conclude that making such a fuss over a speech in Ramallah by an aging linguistic that no one would even notice is pure madness. But if you are obsessed with the persecution of “dangerous ideas” and constantly searching for ideological menaces, then Chomsky is a threat. In this context, not allowing him to enter your country might be logical…but it is also scary is hell.
This comes on top of other nasty developments in the case of Omar Said and Ameer Makhoul. Today, the Petah Tikvah kangaroo court extended Said’s remand for another six days, while Makhoul’s counsel announced that they would hereby cease participating in the legal charade that was his case since they had not been able to consult with him since his detention over two weeks ago. Adalah, the Israeli Palestinian NGO providing his legal representation said:
“Due to the utter lack of respect for due process, the representation of Ameer Makhoul in the detention hearings has become meaningless.”
What this proves is that there are at least two tiers of justice (possibly more). One for Israelis involved in conventional legal cases and another for those involved in security cases. Those caught up in the latter can expect minimal rights if any (cf. Anat Kamm). And if you are a Palestinian Israeli citizen you can even those minimal rights to be truncated almost at will.
Neither Makhoul nor Said have seen any evidence against them. They don’t know what they did that constituted espionage. They haven’t seen the most elemental rights accorded to suspects in any case in a western democracy (unless you want to compare their treatment to enemy combatants at Guantanamo, but they aren’t even U.S. citizens and Makhoul and Said are).
As the headline of the Moderate Voice’s story (see link below) on this incident says, “Democracies do not fear ideas.” I guess this one does, unless you want to argue that it isn’t a democracy, which Israel makes is easier and easier for its enemies to do. Is this any way to run a democracy? You bet it isn’t.
On dark days like today I can even laugh at the black humor in the title of a new Facebook group founded by one of the members of the Free Ameer Makhoul group I created: Together Toward Collective Suicide.
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- Chomsky Barred From West Bank by Israel (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Noam Chomsky barred by Israelis from lecturing in Palestinian West Bank (guardian.co.uk)
- Peace-Loving Democracies Do Not Fear Ideas (themoderatevoice.com)
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.