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Israel bars academic Chomsky entry to West Bank

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Noam Chomsky, a leading American intellectual highly critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, was denied entry to the West Bank on Sunday by Israeli immigration officials.

U.S. linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky pauses while addressing the audience at the National Autonomous University's Educational Investigation Institute (UNAM) in Mexico City September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Jorge Dan

Chomsky, 82, told Reuters in a phone conversation from the Jordanian capital, Amman, he had traveled to the Allenby Bridge crossing on the Jordan River where Israeli immigration officials refused to allow him across.

“They apparently didn’t like the fact that I was due to lecture at a Palestinian university and not in Israel,” Chomsky, who is Jewish, said.

Chomsky’s Palestinian host, lawmaker Mustafa al-Barghouti said the American linguistics professor and philosopher was due to lecture at Birzeit University and the Institute for Palestine Studies in Ramallah in the West Bank.

“This decision is a fascist action, amounting to suppression of freedom of expression,” Barghouti told Reuters.

An Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman said immigration officials at the border crossing had misunderstood Chomsky’s intentions thinking initially he was also due to visit Israel.

She said officials were trying to get clearance from the Israeli military, which controls access to the West Bank to allow Chomsky to enter.

“We are trying to contact the military to clear things up and if they have no objection we see no reason why he should not be allowed in,” spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said.

Chomsky said he was on a speaking tour in the region and added his schedule was too tight to allow him to try again to enter the West Bank during his current trip as he had other engagements.

Chomsky said he last visited Israel and the West Bank in 1997 when he lectured at Ben-Gurion University and also at Birzeit. He said all his previous West Bank visits had been as a part of trips to Israel.

Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Ramallah, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Matthew Jones