Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Whoops, Israel denying entry to Chomsky was all a big mistake...

More on Chomsky's denial.  The Minstry of Interior said it was the military's responsibility to say 'yah' or 'neigh.'  Complete BS, because the Ministry of Interior's questions to Chomsky were very clear and knowledgeable and assumed they had the ability to make a decision to deny him entry.  Cross-posted from Richard Silverstein over at Tikun Olam.

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.

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