Deported for “Criticism” of Israel?

finkelsteinThe Guardian’s headline “US academic deported and banned for criticising Israel” immediately conjures up an image of a regime where freedom of expression is under threat from an authoritarian government. Israel, where people are free to express their opinions and criticise the government in the strongest terms, is certainly not one of those places.

The Guardian, however, disingenuously implies that American Jewish pseudo-academic and anti-Israel polemicist Norman Finkelstein has been deported and banned from Israel as a result of his opinions. Finkelstein certainly holds some offensive views, including publicly expressing solidarity with Hezbollah and accusing Israel and Jewish groups of maintaining a “Holocaust Industry” for financial and political gain.

Israel, however, did not deport him for his political opinions. It deported him because his activities – which include meetings with Hezbollah leaders – make him a threat to Israel’s security.

Any democracy, including the UK, US and Israel, has the right to refuse entry to foreign nationals whose presence may not be conducive to the public good. Israel has every right to consider Finkelstein’s presence to be a security threat and thus to prevent his entry into the country. The Guardian’s report minimises this to create a false context behind the incident.

The Guardian then attempts to turn the issue into one of academic freedom, falsely portraying Israel as a place where freedom of expression is curtailed:

Finkelstein is one of several scholars rejected by Israel in the increasingly bitter divide in academic circles, between those who support and those who criticise its treatment of Palestinians.

Last year, Israel’s most contentious “new historian”, Ilan Pappe, left his job as senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa after he endorsed the international academic boycott of Israeli institutions, provoking the university president to call for his resignation.

Indeed, Pappe, a prominent anti-Zionist activist, who was free to criticise Israel while living there, left the country and relocated to the University of Exeter. He did so voluntarily and not, as The Guardian would lead you to believe, as a result of Israeli governmental or state measures.

Please send your considered comments to The Guardian asking why the paper has seriously misled its readers - letters@guardian.co.uk

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