The Chomsky affair: Israel has showed the world today that the West Bank, not just Gaza, is under siege

Posted: May 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments »

noam_chomskyMuch has been written on Israel’s decision not to allow entry to Left-wing linguist Noam Chomsky today, and I guess even more will be written. Form the official Israeli response, it is not clear who made the decision in this case – a top government official or a low level bureaucrat – and it seems that Chomsky might still be permitted to enter the West Bank, once some people will realize the PR damage to what’s left of the reputation of the only democracy in the Middle East. But that’s not the important issue here.

According to Chomsky, what bothered Israeli officials at the Allenby crossing was not only his views, but the fact that he intends to visit the West Bank, and not Israel. Later it was said that the IDF authority might end up granting him a visa. But whatever way this affair ends, it is clear that Chomsky made a better case against Israel today than in anything he said or wrote. He practically proved that the Palestinians are far from being autonomous, and that the West Bank is in reality under siege, with Israel dictating who and what might leave or enter.

When the Spanish clown Ivan Pedro was denied entry by the Shin Beit into the West Bank, some people tried to make a national security case out of it, claiming Pedro refused to submit information regarding his contacts in the West Bank. I hope nobody is planning the same line with the Chomsky. Israel simply decided not to let him in because he is pro-Palestinian, like it does every day to many others. The only difference is that in those cases nobody alerts Reuters.

There is no arguing that Israel is now viewing certain ideas, not just actions, as existential threat, and is willing to make use of its powers in order to suppress them. It is important to understand this point: Some people think that the state made a stupid mistake today, when it chose to refuse Chomsky a visa. But That’s only true if you judge the affair in terms of actual security – then you conclude that making such a fuss over a speech in Ramallah by an aging linguistic that no one would even notice is pure madness. But if you are obsessed with the persecution of “dangerous ideas” and constantly searching for ideological menaces, then Chomsky is a threat. In this context, not allowing him to enter your country might be logical and even legal – again, if you consider Israel’s control of all entrances to the West bank legal – but it is also scary is hell.


Arrested for Post Zionism (II)

Posted: April 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Eamonn McDonagh wrote a response on Z-Word’s blog to my post regarding the arrest of two ISM activists a couple of weeks ago. Ariadna Jove Marti and Bridgette Chappell were arrested by the army in area A, which is supposed to be under Palestinian control, and charged in Israeli court with being part of the International Solidarity Movement, “an organization that supports an ideology that is anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and universally revolutionary.”

McDonagh writes:

“…the arrest of the two conflict tourists… does seem to have been ill advised. They were inside Area A when they were nabbed and Israel really shouldn’t be sticking its nose in there without a powerfully good reason.

However, I have a couple of points to make about what Noam Sheizaf, the blog’s author, has to say about the matter. He’s very upset that they are being accused of being critical of Zionism and supporting the Palestinians and concludes that there can be no justification for expelling them on the basis of their political views. And just what are those critical views? Well you can read those of Ariadna Jove Martí, one of the two arrested, here [in Spanish]. It’s all you might imagine; Israel is an apartheid state, it is founded on a systematic plan of ethnic cleansing, the IDF was founded on the base of the Haganah, a terrorist organization and plenty more besides. Oh, and she refuses to use Hebrew place names.

Has she the right to hold such views and express them. Absolutely. The crunch question is this, does Israel have an obligation to let her enter its territory (I’m presuming she came to the West Bank through it) with the purpose of propounding those views either in Israel or the Palestinian territories? I would say that it is under no such obligation.  I would go further and say that it be would extremely foolish to continue to allow foreigners to abuse tourist visas to carry out activities other than tourism.”

I think Eamonn McDonagh is missing the point here. Israel has the right to refuse visa to anyone, and it does so in the case of pro-Palestinian activists on a regular basis. The question here is what makes a cause for an arrest once you are in Israel (remember – an army unit was sent to pick them up!). I don’t think that speaking against the IDF or against the government should serve as such a cause. We should be very careful before we turn words into criminal offenses. Read the rest of this entry »


Arrested for Post Zionism

Posted: March 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »
Chappell and Mrti after their release from prison (AP)

Chappell and Mrti after their release from prison (AP)

Pay close attention to this item. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s an important one:

Two international activists, Ariadna Jove Marti (from Spain) and Bridgette Chappell (Australia), who are living in Bir Zeit in the West Bank (it’s near Ramallah, and well within the Palestinian Autonomy), were arrested by the IDF last month. The two were about to be expelled from Israel, and as it happens in most cases, they appealed against the decision to the Israel Supreme Court.

As Chaim Levinson reports in Haaretz, while trying to defend the arrests and deportation, the state argued before the court that the two activists

…belong to the International Solidarity Movement, an organization “that supports an ideology that is anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and universally revolutionary.”

There are two precedents here, and I can’t overstate their importance:

A. The main charge against the activists had nothing to do with national security, but with the ideas they expressed (the state even presented before the court quotes taken from an internet site!). The “crime” involved words, not actions.

It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first (but certainly not last) attempt to present critic of Zionism or support for the Palestinian cause as illegal, and what’s even worse is that the actual arrest was carried out not by police and under orders from the state attorney, but by the army.

It takes a very flexible definition of democracy to describe a regime which makes questioning the dominant ideology a criminal offense.

B. The arrest of the two activists took place in the Palestinian Autonomy’s territory (area A according to the Oslo agreement). Israel often claims that the situation in the West Bank cannot be labeled as Apartheid, since the Palestinians have their own state-like entity. But as we saw in this case (as well as in others), Israel does not respect this autonomy, and its security forces are acting freely within the Palestinian towns and villages, even in cases which have nothing to do with Israeli national security.

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This time, the court was very critical of the “evidence” presented by the state, and it ruled that it will hear the two activists’ plea. However, as we have come to know in the past, courts cannot hold for a long time against government or security forces’ policies. If the current trends continue, we are not that far from a day in which questioning Zionism might lead to imprisonment – something which was unthinkable not that long ago.

I really don’t think people are aware enough of what’s going on in Israel right now. The rise of racism, the rapid escalation in human rights, the attacks on freedom of speech, the campaign against human rights activists – this is a country on a very dangerous path. As Taayush’s Amos Goldberg wrote in Haaretz a few days ago, It is happening here and now.