Wednesday, May 19

The Banning Begins

Prof. Noam Chomsky

In my article' Zionism and Democratic Erosion", I wrote about the danger of the future of democracy in Israel as we drift more and more into a self-righteous mentality of the ghetto.

Many Israelis like to boast that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, but when the Ministry of the Interior bans people from entering the country because of their political views then something is not right. This happened to Prof. Noam Chomsky, a linguist from Massachusetts University of Technology. The excuse being that he was invited to give two lectures at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank and would not be delivering an address at an Israeli University. His views are not compatible with establishment right wing thinking which forms part of Israel’s government policy.

The Israel of today seems to be moving towards the scenario as depicted in George Orwell's famous novel "1984".

Prof. Chomsky is a very controversial intellectual who attacks many governments verbally. He is radically left in his ideas and Israel has not escaped the lashings from his tongue especially in regards to the occupation. Ok - so he is very critical of Israel but he is no threat to Israel's existence nor does he deny Israel's right to exist or advocate terror against Israel's citizens. However he is sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle against the occupation. Does this justify banning him from entering Israel?

The only reasons for preventing foreigners from entering Israel or any sovereign country are if they have a serious criminal record; engage in terrorism against the state they visit and its people or wish to undermine the rule of law. This is not the case here with Prof. Chomsky who has lived on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1950s for a brief period and even speaks Hebrew.

This decision of the Ministry of Interior under its custodian, the racist and intolerable Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, should come as no surprise!

This means that if the truth comes out that there are potential visitors coming to Israel whose viewpoints do not coincide with Eli Yishai, Avigdor Lieberman and the various ruling right wing factions ruling Israel, they stand a good chance of not being granted an entry visa. Many Israelis feel that it is a positive development.They says that "traitors are not welcome here". If you ask them what they mean by "traitors". The answer is always the same "left wingers, Arab lovers and those who disagree with the right wing ruling establishment which is security-minded and knows what is best for Israel. After all we are under siege and our existence as a Jewish state must be preserved without allowing undue criticism which is a danger to Israel's existence”. This means (in their view) that those who are against the Israeli Zionist right wing are willing to compromise on Israel's security and seek Israel's destruction. The interpretation of treacherous behavior has become so wide as to become paranoid. It is sufficient to refer to this hyperlink which illustrates current right wing thinking as Ariel Eldad the extreme right wing guru writes in his article.

I have a feeling of déjà vu. The attitude that Israel's rulers are adopting towards those whose views are different from the government resembles apartheid South Africa of the 1960s. Apartheid South Africa labeled the opposition as communist and placed many people in prison for opposing apartheid without recourse to a lawyer. Are we in Israel moving in a similar direction, harassing those who work for peace and oppose the occupation? In situations like this where the world is becoming increasingly hostile to its occupation policies and treatment of the Palestinians, Israel is becoming more involved in public relations campaigns which are more on the defensive to justify its policies.

Even Boaz Okun, the legal commentator of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot which is not a fifth column Israeli newspaper by any stretch of the imagination, stated in his Monday column, that the banning of Chomsky from entering the West Bank to lecture at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah "is a foolish act in a frequent series of recent follies. Put together, they may mark the end of Israel as a law abiding and freedom-loving state, or at least place a large question mark over this notion".

Even Knesset Member Otniel Schneller of the right wing flank of the opposition Kadima Party, made a presumptuous statement as to what Chomsky would be saying at Bir Zeit University which justifies preventing him from entering Israel at all costs. According to the "prophet and foreseer of speeches hostile to Israel", Otniel Schneller, Chomsky will say "that Israel kills Arabs and is an apartheid state". In other words, Schneller presumes that Chomsky is an instigator for violence and must be prevented from delivering his lecture.

Chomsky is not the first nor will he be the last whose entry into Israel and the occupied West Bank is prohibited. It also depends on the whims of Ministry of the Interior clerks who have mandatory powers to declare certain visitors as personae non grata on the basis of scanty evidence much based on hearsay, "speak write" (or “speak right” from Israel's perspective), or just plain rumors.

The list of people prohibited entry into Israel will only grow. Surely from this Chomsky scenario the direction that Israel’s policy makers are not healthy for ensuring the future of democracy in Israel. There is a movement towards a fascist system with a stamp of “security” justifying the erosion of human rights to reach that goal.

No comments: