Saturday, May 22, 2010

An open letter to an Israeli Immigration Officer

RE: the denial of entry to Noam Chomsky

Mr. Israeli Immigration officer,
I wonder what the qualifications for your job are.
When you decided to deny entry from Noam Chomsky, what exactly were you thinking?
I mean, let us give you some credit. I will assume that you didn’t really worry that Chomsky, an 81 year old MIT professor, would wear a bomb belt and blow himself up in a Tel Aviv main street. It makes sense that even you, an Israeli establishment official, didn’t really have this scenario in mind. It makes more sense that you were afraid that Prof. Chomsky, in his planned talk to a Palestinian audience in Bir-Zeit, would instigate them against the Israeli government. And it doesn’t really matter what you, or I, or Prof. Chomsky himself, think about the conflict. The only thing that matters, for the sake of this discussion, is whether you thought the consequences of your decision through, or not.
Let us consider the situation that you so bravely prevented. You, in your heroic action, made sure that Prof. Chomsky did not talk in Bir-Zeit, and his dangerous influence on the Palestinian’s minds was, thank God almighty, avoided.
But did you think what would happen next? For example, did you envision the organizers of the event, telling the audience: “Brothers and sisters, unfortunately Prof Chomsky will not be able to speak to us tonight. This is not because he broke his leg, or because he just didn’t feel like coming. In fact, he made the effort to travel to Jordan, and waited 3 hours on the Israeli side of the border control, before he was told that the Israeli government wouldn’t grant his entry to Palestine. You are all familiar with the sensitivity of those Jews to their security, so we hope you understand. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Good night and God bless you.”
Now, Mr. brave and smart immigration officer, you can tap yourself on the shoulder: you prevented another provocative talk from an anti-Semitist self-hater American Jew. And now, the audience will appreciate us for our cautious procedures. It's not enough that the Israeli government keeps them under what they see as brutal and unjust occupation, but on top of that, does not allow outsiders to come and speak to them about that – well, what would they think, really?
Think about it, if you haven’t done so yet: In the absence of Chomsky, is it possible that somebody else can tell them about their miserable situation? Or remind them of the endless lines at the checkpoints, of the hours it takes to travel a distance of 10 miles, and in general, of the lack of basic human and national rights?
But there is another issue here, much more severe than whether or not the Chomsky speech would have added to their knowledge of the situation. Did you consider the effect of the cancellation of the talk, on the feelings and thoughts of the Palestinians?
I’m not asking this question, God forbid, out of concern to those people’s emotions. I am only discussing the effect that this might have on the intensity of this conflict.

Mr. officer, I don’t blame you of disloyalty to your country. This is not our way in the Left camp. It is much more common among Right wing speakers, in Israel and everywhere else, to leave aside any due-point arguments, and just blame the other party of betrayal. I’m not like them. Actually, I am sure that you did what you did out of honest care to your country. So, what did you think would be the effect of denying a person to speak, on the hearts and minds of those who feel humiliated, oppressed and occupied, on a daily basis? Did you really consider this, and decided that we are better off with the anger and frustration of the students and teachers in Bir-Zeit, so long as they just can’t hear what Chomsky has to say?

We should not even mention the costly price, that Israel will pay in the international arena, in which our situation is not so bright at this moment, to begin with. Well, for one thing, you can claim that Israel is already used to this. Second, this should never be a concern, because those Goyim all hate us anyway. And third, well, you are just an immigration officer. Nobody expects you to think that far.

It’s good to know, Mr. immigration officer, that such brilliant and capable persons take care of our most sensitive security and good image matters. I salute you for an excellent job.

1 comment:

  1. Here is a supporting opinion from the Israeli daily Haaretz: