Israel has denied Noam Chomsky entry into the country to speak at Bir Zeit University.
Professor Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and left-wing activist, was denied entry into Israel on Sunday, for reasons that were not immediately clear.
Chomsky, who was scheduled to deliver a lecture at Bir Zeit University near Jerusalem, told the Right to Enter activist group by telephone that inspectors had stamped the words “denied entry” onto his passport when he tried to cross from Jordan over Allenby Bridge.
When he asked an Israeli inspector why he had not received permission, he was told that an explanation would be sent in writing to the American embassy.
While I often disagree with Chomsky’s views I do find his work worth reading, and exposure to a wide variety of views should be part of the function of a university. The Israeli government shows a poor understanding of this concept in making this decision, as well as undermining Americans who support Israel out of a support for a democratic nation in the middle east. While Chomsky has been very critical of Israel, those who disagree with him would be wiser to respond to his arguments than to deny him entry into the country.
Update: Not surprisingly some among the authoritarian right do not understand the belief of liberals in defending freedom of speech–even when coming from those we disagree with. Donald Douglas writes that “some folks on the left — unsurprisingly — are outraged. See for example, Steve Clemons, Ron Chusid, Taylor Marsh, and Village Voice.”
I do not feel threatened by people such as Chomsky expressing views I disagree with. I do see governments who prevent people from speaking their opinion to be a danger. I also do not agree with Douglas equating censoring Chomsky with defending its sovereignty. As I noted in the original post, a far better response would be to defend their position and dispute Chomsky’s views. (I also find it unusual to be linked to Taylor Marsh since the 2008 Democratic race).