Noam Chomsky and his Israeli opponents

Quote of the day!

Professor Noam Chomsky, the world-famous political and intellectual dissident once described in the Guardian as "one of the ten most quoted sources in the humanities -- along with Shakespeare and the Bible", has been barred by the Israeli government from lecturing in the occupied West Bank.

From ABC News:

Israeli authorities admitted today that they erred by denying renowned left-wing, US intellectual Noam Chomsky entry into Israeli-controlled territory.

After hours of questioning by Israeli officials at a border crossing between Jordan and the occupied Palestinian West Bank he was forced to return to the Jordanian capital Amman.

A linguist and political activist with a track record of criticizing Israeli policy, Chomsky had been scheduled to deliver two lectures at the Palestinian University of Bir Zeit. He was also due to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyed and other officials from the Palestinian Authority.

Chomsky told the Israeli daily Haaretz in a telephone interview that he thought the decision had been taken because of his political views and because he was only visiting a Palestinian college and not an Israeli one as well.

But for me, the best quotation of all comes from the piece in the Guardian (quoting the prof on al-Jazeera):

He told al-Jazeera television that the immigration official who interviewed him had made it clear that "the government of Israel doesn't like the kinds of things I say, which puts them into the same category as every other government in the world".

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.