Noam Chomsky has decided not to try to travel through the Allenby Bridge border crossing a second time. Instead, he will hold his scheduled lecture at Birzeit University by video conference from Amman. The lecture will also be broadcast live on Al Jazeera television.
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Despite reports in the Israeli media that Israel would allow Chomsky to cross, the linguist discovered yesterday that there was no official guarantee of this. He told his hosts at Birzeit he felt the Israeli authorities were playing games. His daughter and friends, who are traveling with him, also said they prefer not to tire the 81-year-old with another fruitless journey.
Chomsky spoke yesterday to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whom he was supposed to meet in Ramallah. Fayyad's office released a statement saying the two men "discussed the political situation and developments in Palestine." Fayyad said he "strongly condemns the decision of the occupation forces to prevent Chomsky from entering Palestinian land."
Israel's refusal to allow Chomsky to travel to the West Bank received considerable coverage in the foreign media and blogosphere. The BBC quoted Chomsky as saying the Israeli officials were very polite, but didn't let him in because "the government did not like the kinds of things I say and they did not like that I was only talking at Birzeit and not at an Israeli university too."
Chomsky told Al Jazeera yesterday that nobody likes the things he says, so this puts Israel in the same category as every other government in the world. "I asked them if they can find a government that does like the things I say."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev told the New York Times yesterday that the idea that Israel prevents people critical of the government from entering is "ludicrous," and "it's not happening."