The decision to expel Professor Noam Chomsky from the West Bank border crossing in order to prevent him from delivering a lecture at Birzeit University is 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 Ha’am 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 protestors 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.
Turning fascist?Meanwhile, our courts issue gag orders routinely and without much thought, possibly in order to cover the shame. We even expelled clowns 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, if 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 towards globally recognized intellectuals.
For that reason, it would not be exaggerated to say that the decision to silence Professor Noam 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.