Noam Chomsky, a Jewish professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a consistent critic of U.S. and Israeli policies, visited the Gaza Strip on Thursday and attended a conference at the Islamic University.
Chomsky, 83, known for his pro-Palestinian views, has consistently called on Israel to end its naval blockade of Gaza. According to French news agency AFP, Chomsky was quoted by Jamal al-Khudari, a member of Gaza's legislative council and head of the university's administrative board, as saying "The Palestinian people have a right to live peacefully and in freedom."
AFP reported that Palestinian television broadcast comments by Chomsky on Thursday evening. The aging professor reportedly described his travel to Hamas-ruled territory and said "Our trip to Gaza was very difficult, but we arrived here and I saw several things which I hoped before to see."
Khudari told AFP that Chomsky was scheduled to lecture on the Arab Spring on Saturday and would also meet representatives of human rights groups.
Israel rejected a request by Chomsky to enter the West Bank to deliver a lecture in May 2010, and he ended up speaking via video link from Jordan. At the time, a statement by the Prime Minister's Office said Chomsky was refused entry by a border guard who "overstepped his authority." Had Chomsky tried again, the statement said, he would most likely have succeeded.
Chomsky rejected the explanation and said the Interior Ministry official who questioned him received instructions from above not to let him in. The professor claimed he was refused entry due to his views and because he intended to visit Birzeit University in the West Bank, but had no plans to visit Israeli universities.
Chomsky, who lived on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1950s, has been an outspoken critic of the way the Jewish state was established in 1948 and supports a two-state solution.