Thursday, May 20, 2010

TWO VIEWS: Was Israel right in banning Chomsky?


Thursday, May 20, 2010

by Boaz Okon

The decision to expel Noam Chomsky from the
West Bank border crossing in order to prevent
him from delivering a lecture at Birzeit
University in the West Bank was 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.

The decision to ban Chomsky is first and
foremost blatantly illegal, as it blatantly
contradicts the Supreme Court.s most
important verdict in the Kol case,
where it ruled that restraining the freedom
of speech is legal only in respect to
statements that may create clear and
immediate danger to public safety.

The truth is not dictated from above, and
views and ideas cannot be monitored, the
court ruled. The best "truth test" is the
ability of a certain notion to be accepted
within the competitive conditions of the free
market of ideas.

However, in Israel our government has already
started to threaten the freedom, or at least
the freedom of those perceived as "others."
We are no longer interested in what "others"
have to say, let alone in their right to live
here normally. We want them to get out of
here. We persecute "others" based on
generalizations, suspicions, bias or just
because they annoy us.

The police detain protesters in east
Jerusalem.s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on
false pretenses. The custody court expels a
pregnant foreign worker so she won.t give
birth to a foreign child in Israel. The
family court prevents babies in India from
being brought into Israel based on unfounded
excuses, which may serve as a veneer for the
disapproval of the sexual orientation of
their father (although this week Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked that the
father and his twins be allowed to return to

Meanwhile, our courts issue gag orders
routinely and without much thought, possibly
in order to cover the shame. We even expelled
a clown who wished to arrive at a festival in
Ramallah because we are scared.

What we have here is a worrisome common
denominator. When freedom disappears, it
comes first and foremost at the expense of
the weak, marginal groups, or minorities. Yet
this does not end there. Now it.s also being
directed toward globally recognized

For that reason, it would not be an
exaggeration to say that the decision to
silence Chomsky is an attempt to put an end
to freedom in the State of Israel.

I am not referring to the foolishness
inherent in providing ammunition for those
who argue that Israel is fascist, but rather,
to the fear that we may indeed be in the
process of becoming that way.

Boaz Okon is a retired judge in Israel and
legal affairs editor of the Israeli daily
Yediot Achronot. This piece appeared on


Thursday, May 20, 2010 | return to: views,

TWO VIEWS: Was Israel right in banning
Chomsky? 2

by Aryeh Eldad

Quite a few freedom of speech fans, champions
of democracy, and other people detached from
the realities of our life -- and convinced
that Birzeit University is located in
Switzerland -- stood up to fight on behalf of
professor Noam Chomsky, who was prevented
from entering Israel.

Many times in history did intellectuals
stand up to fight the battles of their
state.s enemies. Lenin, who led the communist
revolution in Russia, was once asked about
his opinion on the west European and American
intellectuals who battled on his behalf, and
characterized them as "useful idiots."

Chomsky is certainly no idiot, yet there is
no doubt that this is how our enemies
characterize him behind closed doors, while
they rub their hands with glee when they see
and hear a Jewish Israel-hater enlisting for
their cause.

Chomsky is known as one whose venomous
criticism of the State of Israel is being
uttered from many platforms worldwide, so
those who play dumb wonder: Why does it
matter if he also speaks in Israel?

Yet apparently there is one common
denominator to soccer goalkeepers, real
estate agents and professional cursers -- all
of them know that the most important thing is

There is no doubt that freedom of speech is a
basic democratic right. Hence, anyone who so
wishes can bring a stool from home, place it
at Speakers. Corner in London.s Hyde Park,
and deliver any speech they want. One is even
allowed to support Israel there, imagine
that. However, even Britain.s democracy does
not believe that the BBC should air speeches
in favor of the Taliban and al Qaida.s right
to kill soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It.s not only what you say that is important;
no less important, and possibly even more so,
is where you utter your curses.

Before World War II, British national William
Joyce established a fascist party in the U.K.
On the eve of the war, when it was clear to
him that he would not be allowed to operate
in Britain, he traveled to Germany and
started working on behalf of German
propaganda. His broadcasts, which were
uttered in a British accent and were premised
on intimate familiarity with British society,
caused real demoralization in England and in
its colonies. The British referred to him as
Lord Haw Haw, and at the end of the war
nabbed him, tried him on high treason charges
and hanged him.

Britain did not cease being a democracy even
when it fought for survival, yet nonetheless,
nobody even imagined the possibility of
allowing Lord Haw Haw to bark from London
during the war.

Why then do democracy lovers want Lord
Chomsky to bark curses against the State of
Israel from our own backyard? Where is the
borderline between democracy and suicidal
tendencies? Between freedom of speech and
reckless abandon?

There is no doubt that Chomsky.s hate for
Israel will continue to be distributed, as a
free service granted to all our enemies.

Chomsky is a famed linguist, yet most of his
fame (and possibly his livelihood) in recent
years stemmed from him becoming a
professional Israel curser. Whoever invited
him to deliver a speech at Birzeit knew that
location is the most important thing,
because, after all, his words are published
even when he curses us from Boston.

Had Israel allowed him to enter, this would
have been interpreted in Ramallah, Gaza,
Damascus and Tehran as yet another sign that
Israel is no longer able to produce
antibodies against the internal erosion
wrought upon us by the left and threatening
to rot the center as well.

The "entry denied" stamped in his passport is
a badge of honor for Israel. It.s proof that
there are some people among us who still hold
on to their survival instincts.

Aryeh Eldad of Israel is a member of the
Knesset representing the National Union
party. This piece appeared on

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