A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 17, 2010

Israel Bars Chomsky

Noam Chomsky drives a lot of people crazy. Sometimes, he drives me a little crazy. Some of his critiques of US foreign policy seem cogent; others seem ideological, intemperate, or just plain extreme.

He's a well-known (Jewish) critic of Israel. There's a flap going on at the moment because Israeli border guards prevented him from crossing into the West Bank at the Allenby Bridge, to speak at Birzeit University near Ramallah. More here, including Chomsky's assertion Israel behaved like a "Stalinist" regime.

I have real mixed emotions on this one since I gather Chomsky can be really infuriating to those who have to deal directly with him, but I also think turning back a dovish intellectual of Chomsky's stature makes Israel look like it's 1) unable to abide criticism, or at least let Arabs hear it; 2) way too sensitive about Western critics, especially Jewish ones; and/or trying to alienate external observers (not impossible).

My attitude towards Chomsky has to be the Voltairian "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it," combined with a certain Schadenfreude.

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