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Chomsky Calls Israeli Government ‘Stalinist’ for Refusing Him Entry

Blocking the famous Israel basher from lecturing at a West Bank university set off a huge debate in Israel.

by
Stephanie L. Freid

Bio

May 18, 2010 - 12:00 am
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“Israel is encouraging academic boycott by denying entry to Chomsky,” a blog headline read.

The timing on this one is impossible to overlook. Less than two weeks ago, Israel officials created a stir by turning back Spain’s most popular clown, Ivan Prado, at the airport for his ties to Palestinian organizations. Since returning to Madrid, Prado has launched a campaign decrying Israel and comparing the situation of West Bank Palestinians with Jews in Poland.

Last Wednesday, Elvis Costello announced he is canceling his June performances. He has decided to join the Israel boycott.

And fresh in our memories is the Joseph Biden-East Jerusalem housing embarrassment.

Not a stranger to PR and the power it wields, Chomsky — who says Israel’s behavior reminds him of South African policy in the 1960s — is declining the government’s offer to re-cross the border, opting to address West Bank academics via video from Amman instead.

At a time when anti-Israel sentiment is on the rise, what’s with all the seemingly wrong-headed government moves?

“Israel has improved substantially when it comes to image in the media throughout the decades. But Chomsky is totally different from Biden is totally different from Elvis Costello,” says  Sam Lehman-Wilzig, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University. “Biden was a serious case because he’s a close ally whereas Chomsky isn’t. The clown could have been handled better and Elvis Costello … well … this happens every summer with performers for the same reason.

“I’m all for free speech for citizens but an outsider who wants to spit in the house? Other countries block people from coming in for this sort of thing all the time. Chomsky is a minor black eye for Israel.  It was a smart and wildly popular  domestic move for Netanyahu. He has his own flock to tend to,” Lehman-Wilzig concluded.

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Stephanie L. Freid is a freelance writer in Israel.
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