Israeli authorities admitted today that they erred by denying renowned left-wing, U.S. intellectual Noam Chomsky entry into Israeli-controlled territory.
After hours of questioning Sunday by Israeli officials at a border crossing between Jordan and the occupied Palestinian West Bank, he was forced to return to the Jordanian capital, Amman.
A linguist and political activist with a track record of criticizing Israeli policy, Chomsky had been scheduled to deliver two lectures at the Palestinian University of Bir Zeit. He was also due to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyed and other officials from the Palestinian Authority.
Chomsky told the Israeli daily Haaretz in a telephone interview that he thought the decision had been taken because of his political views and because he was only visiting a Palestinian college and not an Israeli one as well.
"I find it hard to think of a similar case in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv, perhaps only in Stalinist regimes," he said.
In recent months, Israeli officials have restricted access to foreigners traveling directly to the occupied West Bank. Under Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, travel to and from Palestinian areas is exclusively controlled by Israeli authorities.
Israel's Interior Ministry admitted Monday that Chomsky's rejection had been made in error and without referring the case to the correct body. Access should be controlled by a special Israeli body responsible for coordinating activities in the Occupied Territories.
"Because he entered the Palestinian territories only, his entry is the responsibility of the coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories," ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadaad said, adding that the case would be reviewed. "There was a misunderstanding on our side."
The embarrassing incident provoked widespread comment in Israel's media. In the popular daily Yedioth Aharanot, legal editor Boaz Okon wrote Monday, "It would not be an exaggeration to say that the decision to shut up Professor Chomsky is an attempt to put an end to freedom in the State of Israel."
In his interview with Haaretz, Chomsky said the Israeli official at the border told him, "Israel does not like what you say."
Chomsky's response: "Find one government in the world which does."