Israel Denies Entry to High-profile Critic Norman Finkelstein

U.S. academic has met with Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon; accused of links to 'hostile elements.'

Yossi Melman
Haaretz Correspondent
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Yossi Melman
Haaretz Correspondent

The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday.

Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years.

The Shin Bet said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions."

However, in e-mail and phone interviews with Haaretz after leaving Israel for Amsterdam, Finkelstein said, "I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me. I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn't much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organizations. I've always supported a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. I'm not an enemy of Israel."

Finkelstein visited Lebanon a few months ago and met with Hezbollah operatives there, and subsequently published articles.

Finkelstein, 55, has accused Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political ends. He recently left DePaul University following pressure by Jewish organizations and individuals, including Professor Alan Dershowitz.

He also said in the interview that he was "en route to Palestine to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, Musa Abu-Hashhash."

Finkelstein said he was asked whether he had met with Al Qaida operatives, whether he had been sent to Israel by Hezbollah and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.

"I was kept in a holding cell at the airport for approximately 24 hours. It wasn't a Belgian bed-and-breakfast, but it wasn't Auschwitz either. I had several unpleasant moments with the guards at the airport and in the holding cell, but since martyrdom is not my cup of tea, I'll spare you the details," Finkelstein said.

He said he eventually used a cellphone belonging to another detainee and called another friend he was scheduled to see in Israel, the journalist Allan Nairn, who called attorney Michael Sfard. Sfard met with Finkelstein and told him he could appeal the ban; however, Finkelstein said he has been to Israel at least 15 times and declined to appeal.

Sfard on Saturday said banning Finkelstein from entering the country "recalls the behavior of the Soviet bloc countries."

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