American Professor Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky Photo by Bloomberg
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500 academics, students, and intellectuals have signed a letter addressed to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, protesting the Ministry's decision to refuse entry to linguist Noam Chomsky into Israel and the West Bank last week.

Chomsky, who aligns himself with the radical left, had been scheduled to lecture at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, and visit Bil'in and Hebron, as well as meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and various Palestinian activists. Chomsky was stopped at the Allenby Bridge border crossing from Jordan, and there was denied entry into Israel.

"We are protesting the humiliating way in which the Israeli government treated a citizen who asked to enter its territory. We are also protesting the harm and disrespect to democracy your ministry and the Israeli government have caused," the letter read.

Among the signatories of the letter are Israeli philosophers Professor Avishai Margalit and Professor Asa Kasher, as well as Professor Nuritz Geretz, Professor Yehuda Shenhav, Dr. Anat Matar, and poet Aharon Shabtai.

"Refusing entry to a person whose political views may not be acceptable to the one doing the refusing is a serious harm to democracy. One of the basic principles of democracy can be defined simply: Under democracy, we do not silence voices that express an opinion which is different than the dominant one – not in science, and of course not in society and in politics," the letter read.

Professor Asa Kasher told Haaretz that "I have known Chomsky for many years. I am very familiar with his opinions, his books in linguistics and philosophy as well as his books on politics. I, of course, do not identify with his ideas most of the time when it comes to Israel, but I do not see any danger in voicing these opinions out in the open, there is no danger that he will direct people to take violent or illegal actions. So we must let him express his opinions and we must deal with them. I do not believe that preventing his entry into Israel or the West Bank is an acceptable course of action."

Dr. Anat Matar from Tel Aviv University said that the Interior Ministry's act was "so baseless and insane, that it is very difficult to criticize [the decision] – that is the situation we have reached."

The Interior Ministry has yet to comment on the letter.