By Sam Husseini
Many reported that Noam Chomsky was recently stopped from entering Israel. This is false. Totally false. He was prevented from going to the Palestinian city of Ramallah by Israeli forces. This important distinction highlights among other things that Israel controls the borders into occupied Palestinian areas, a large part of the problem.
AP stated: "An Israeli official says academic and polemicist Noam Chomsky, who is a fierce critic of Israel, has been denied entry to the country". Al Jazeera English had Chomsky on and introduced the segment by saying he was "stopped from entering Israel". ABC News ran the headline "Noam Chomsky Denied Entry to Israel". Matthew Rothschild wrote: "On Sunday, the Israeli government denied Noam Chomsky entry into the country".
Some got the facts right, noting that Chomsky was denied entry into the West Bank by Israel — but didn’t highlight why or how that might be. The typical reader is likely unaware that Israel controls access to Palestinian areas, among many other aspects of everyday life that most people take for granted.
Israel regularly prevents people from entering occupied Palestinian areas. It’s turned Gaza into a virtual prison camp. Goods cannot go to Palestinians without Israel’s say so. People cannot go to Palestinian towns without Israel’s say so. I’ve had relatives who are U.S. citizens marry Palestinians in the West Bank — they had to leave every three months because that was the duration of the visa Israel gives them. I’ve seen Israeli forces take little girls into a room to be strip searched at the border from Jordan into the occupied West Bank. Israel in many respects is trying to make life for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza difficult so they will simply leave.
Bob Naiman — who like Chomsky is Jewish — notes on my facebook page: "I would like to go to Ramallah too, but the last time I tried to enter the West Bank, I was blocked at the Sheikh Jarrah bridge, and my passport was stamped ‘no entry’ just like uncle Noam. That was in 1996. Then, a few months ago, the Egyptians stopped me from going to Gaza…" Bob’s last sentence refers to the Gaza Freedom March, when over 1,300 people (including myself) from over 40 countries tried to get into Gaza from Egypt, but the Mubarak regime stopped us, doing Israel’s dirty work and beating many of us up, to the silence of most major media.
Even Amira Hass, a noted Israeli journalist, wrote "Professor Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and left-wing activist, was denied entry into Israel and the West Bank on Sunday".
This too is wrong — Chomsky didn’t request to enter Israel, so such a request couldn’t be denied. Actually, if you listen to Chomsky’s interview carefully on Democracy Now, he indicates that if he had tried to enter Israel, he would likely have been able to enter the West Bank — exactly the opposite of what so many are claiming:
“I have spoken in Bir Zeit [University, near Ramallah] a number of times. … The one difference in this case is that, on those occasions, I was visiting Israel and giving talks at Israeli universities and meetings and so on, and went to Bir Zeit on a side trip, and in this case, I was going to Bir Zeit and not speaking at Israeli universities. And in fact, the [Israeli] interrogator, who was reading questions that were coming from the [Interior] Ministry, repeatedly asked, "Well, why aren’t you also going to give talks in Israel?"”
As Ali Abunimah observes: "It demonstrates that there is in fact one authority and it is not the ‘Palestinian Authority.’ It also shows that Israel is in fact effectively operating a political boycott while complaining about BDS!" [Referring to the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement activists like Abunimah are organizing against Israel, modeled on the similar movement against apartheid South Africa.]
Ironically, Noam Chomsky has been critical of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, listen to this debate earlier this year with him on KPFA.
I have had some qualms with the divestment sanctions movement myself, going back to South Africa. I don’t want change to come by the economic power of people in the U.S. — I want positive change to come because many people are better able to tell the truth or because people are better able to act in solidarity. But maybe we don’t live in that world and the best we can expect is that one type of evil — U.S. economic might — can be used in part to fight Israeli colonialism (Lord knows U.S. economic might frequently helps Israeli colonialism.)
Perhaps the last irony is that the "Interior Ministry" of Israel is calling the shots. Chomsky — and thousands, actually millions of others — wants to go from Jordan to Ramallah and Nablus and Hebron and Bethlehem and Gaza and elsewhere. What does Israel have to do with it? Palestinians should be allowed to control their own borders.
– Sam Husseini is the founder of VotePact.org. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: http://husseini.posterous.com.