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Israeli government shoots self in foot again

It said something good about the USA when Noam Chomsky was invited to address a class of Army cadets at West Point during the Bush administration, to critique the “just war” theory and the invasion of Iraq.

As I wrote: “[J]ust try to imagine a fierce critic of [Hugo] Chavez being invited to address a class of military cadets in Venezuela.”

Clearly, exposing America’s future military officers to the views of Prof. Chomsky did not endanger national security in the least.

So I’m mystified why Israeli authorities felt it necessary to bar Chomsky from crossing into the West Bank from Jordan to deliver a lecture at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah. In what way was this a genuine threat to Israel?

Jeffrey Goldberg puts it simply: “Real democracies aren’t afraid of ridiculous men like Noam Chomsky.”

Israel’s government does itself no favors when it acts like this. It only helps those who want to discredit it.

When it comes to foreign critics, Israeli authorities should not be tempted to follow in Hugo Chavez’s footsteps.

Update: It’s a little late, but this is good. The New York Times reports:

Government spokesmen were mortified at the development and issued statements saying that the decision was made by an Interior Ministry official at the Jordan-West Bank border and did not represent policy.

“There is no change in our policy,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The idea that Israel is preventing people from entering whose opinions are critical of the state is ludicrous; it is not happening. This was a mishap. A guy at the border overstepped his authority.”

Mr. Regev suggested that if Professor Chomsky tried to enter again, he would succeed.

(Hat tip: habibi)