In the generally sensationalist tabloid Yediot, Israel’s most popular newspaper, the legal affairs editor, Judge (ret.) Boaz Okon, is a breath of fresh air. He is one of the few mainstream Israeli journalists who dare use the “A word” to describe segregation policies.
The decision to expel Prof. Noam Chomsky from the border terminal in order to prevent him from lecturing at Bir Zeit University is an act of folly, part of a large series of follies in the recent period, which together could mark the end of Israel as a freedom-loving state of law, or at least pose a large question mark over this.
This decision is first of all patently illegal, since it stands in stark contrast to the most important ruling of the Supreme Court in the Kol Haam affair, in which it was determined that restricting freedom of speech is only legal if the statement is of a kind that could pose a clear and immediate danger to state security. Truth is not dictated from on high and opinions and ideas cannot be supervised. The best “test of truth” is the power of an idea to be accepted in the marketplace of ideas.
But in Israel, the government has already started to threaten freedom, at least the freedom of those who are perceived as “others.” We have ceased to take an interest in what the “others” have to say, not to mention their rights to live here in a normal fashion. We want them to get out of our sight. We hound the “others” on the basis of generalizations, suspicions, prejudice or just because they are annoying.
The police detain the demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah on false grounds. A custody affairs court expels a foreign worker who is pregnant, so that she does not give birth to a foreign child in Israel. A family court prevents infants from being brought into Israel from India on the basis of groundless excuses, possibly due to distaste for their father’s sexual orientation. Courts issue gag orders easily and as a routine matter, perhaps to cover up the shame. We even expel clowns who want to attend a festival in Ramallah, because we are afraid.
There is a worrying common denominator here. When freedom disappears — it comes first of all at the expense of the weak, the marginal groups or the minorities. But it does not end there. Now it is also reaching intellectuals with a worldwide reputation. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the decision to shut up Prof. Chomsky is an attempt to put an end to freedom in the State of Israel. I am not talking about the stupidity of supplying ammunition to those who say that Israel is fascist, but rather about our concern that we may be becoming fascists.