Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Update on the "freedom of expression and tolerance" front

Another sign of the times, not that surprising or even unusual but still, in its way, astonishing if one actually thinks about it for a moment. This little story (to which I was first alerted by Norman Geras on Normblog) is either grimly amusing, exceptionally outrageous, or nauseatingly normal--or all of them, depending on one's mood. Anyway, it's a gem.

The article below does not bother to spell out that Yossi Sarid, the Israeli journalist and former Member of Parliament (MK) involved in this story, was the long-time head of the left-wing Meretz Party and continues to be a major figure in the Israeli peace camp.

--Jeff Weintraub
August 27, 2006
Sarid rejects Norway's offer of citizenship to bypass boycott
By Amiram Barkat

Former MK and Haaretz journalist Yossi Sarid has declined an official offer from the Norwegian government to grant him citizenship so he can attend an international conference on freedom of expression and tolerance in Bali, Indonesia. His invitation was rescinded because he is Israeli.

Three months ago, Sarid was invited by the Norwegian foreign ministry to attend the Global Inter-Media Dialog in Bali, which is being co-sponsored by the prime minister of Norway and the president of Indonesia. Sarid was among 60 journalists invited to take part in the conference, whose stated goal is "bridging gaps between different religions, cultures and peoples."

However, three weeks ago the Norwegian embassy in Israel informed Sarid that Indonesia refuses to grant him a visa "in the existing circumstances." According to Sarid, the Norwegian foreign ministry assured him that a solution would be found since Norway considers it "a matter of principle."

On Friday the Norwegians offered their solution: Sarid could travel to Indonesia on a Norwegian passport.On Saturday, Sarid rejected the offer in a letter addressed to the Indonesian president and Norwegian prime minister.

"I almost fell out of my chair with astonishment," wrote Sarid in reference to the offer. "The more thought I gave to the offer, the angrier I became. I have no other country and I have no other nationality. No self-respecting person in the world, no person who respects his nationality, would accept such a twisted offer."

Sarid again urged other participants invited to the conference to decline their invitations in protest of his rejection.

[JW: Yes, under the circumstances, how could other people invited to this conference, which is allegedly about "freedom of expression and tolerance," participate with a straight face? Well, we can be sure they'll manage somehow.]