Israel bans outspoken US academic

 

A Jewish American political scientist and author known for his harsh criticism of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians has been banned from entering the country.

Israeli security officials said Professor Norman Finkelstein was denied entry on Friday because of their suspicions that he had contact with elements "hostile" to Israel.

The academic, who specialises in Jewish-related issues, especially the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was questioned after his arrival at Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and placed on a flight back to Amsterdam, his point of origin.

Earlier this year, Finkelstein met a top Hizbullah commander in Lebanon.

Prof Finkelstein has fallen foul of supporters of the Israeli state after accusing Jews in Israel and the US of exploiting the legacy of the Holocaust for political and financial gain. He also has argued that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism to stifle criticism.

Prof Finkelstein resigned from DePaul University in Chicago last year after he was denied tenure. At the time, Prof Finkelstein was quoted as saying the decision was based on “transparently political grounds” and an “egregious violation” of academic freedom.

He could not immediately be reached for comment. But before leaving Israel, he told Ha'aretz that he is "not an enemy" of the country, and he supports a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Finkelstein told the newspaper he was held at the airport for nearly 24 hours and was asked whether he had met with al-Qaeda operatives, whether he had been sent to Israel by Hizbullah and how he intended to pay for his stay in Israel.