Noam Chomsky, the internationally renowned US scholar and political activist, was yesterday stopped by Israeli immigration officials from entering the West Bank to deliver a lecture.
The 81-year-old Jewish professor, an often mordant critic of the Israeli government who had been due to lecture at Birzeit University and the Institute for Palestine Studies, was refused entry at the Allenby Bridge across the river Jordan.
The bar was described by Professor Chomsky's host, the Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, as a "fascist action, amounting to suppression of freedom of expression".
Professor Chomsky told Reuters from Amman, where he had returned from the crossing, that officials had refused him permission to enter the West Bank, adding: "They apparently didn't like the fact that I was due to lecture at a Palestinian university and not in Israel."
But the Israeli Ministry of Interior said last night that the bar had been a "mistake" by a member of the staff on the spot and that the Ministry had no objection to Professor Chomsky making the crossing if he was travelling directly to Ramallah, as distinct from visiting or passing through Israel.
Asked how a staff member at the crossing could have erred, an official said that the person may have wrongly responded to information held on a computer database.
Professor Chomsky, widely recognised as a giant of 20th-century linguistic philosophy as well as a prominent critic of US and Western foreign policy over decades, said that he was on a speaking tour of the region and that his schedule was too tight to attempt another entry into the West Bank.