Friday, May 1, 2009

Jane Fonda and Anne Frank: Banned in Beirut

There is an interesting oped in today's Wall St. Journal on censorship in Beirut by William Marling:

A professor at the American University here recently ordered copies of "The Diary of Anne Frank" for his classes, only to learn that the book is banned. Inquiring further, he discovered a long list of prohibited books, films and music.

This is perplexing -- and deeply ironic -- because Beirut has been named UNESCO's 2009 "World Book Capital City." Just last week "World Book and Copyright Day" was kicked off with a variety of readings and exhibits that honor "conformity to the principles of freedom of expression [and] freedom to publish," as stated by the UNESCO Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.\


Even a partial list of books banned in Lebanon gives pause: William Styron's "Sophie's Choice"; Thomas Keneally's "Schindler's List"; Thomas Friedman's "From Beirut to Jerusalem"; books by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer. In fact, all books that portray Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably are banned.

Writers in Arabic are not exempt....


All of Jane Fonda's films are banned, since she visited Israel in 1982 to court votes for Tom Hayden's Senate run. "Torn Curtain" is banned: Paul Newman starred in "Exodus." And the television series "The Nanny" is banned because of Fran Drescher.


Even works by self-proclaimed Islamists such as Assadeq al-Nayhoum's "Islam Held Hostage," have been banned, and issued only when re-edited in sympathetic editions (in Syria).

Censorship is a problem throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Though a signatory of the Florence Agreement, the Academy of Islamic Research in Egypt, through its censorship board al-Azhar, decides what may not be printed: Nobel Prize winner Naghib Mahfouz's "Awlad Haratina" (The Sons of the Medina) was found sacrilegious and only printed in bowdlerized form in Egypt in 2006. Saudi Arabia sponsors international book fairs in Riyadh, but Katia Ghosn reported in L'Orient that it sends undercover agents into book stores regularly.

Works that could stimulate dialogue in Lebanon are perfunctorily banned. "Waltz with Bashir," an Israeli film of 2008, is banned -- even though it alleges that Ariel Sharon was complicit in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. According to the Web site Monstersandcritics, however, "Waltz with Bashir" became an instant classic in the very Palestinian camps it depicts, because it is the only history the younger generation has. But how did those copies get there?

The answer is also embarrassing. Just as it ignores freedom of circulation, Lebanon also ignores international copyright laws. Books of all types are routinely photocopied for use in high schools and universities.


Mr. Marling is a visiting professor of American Studies at the American University of Beirut and professor of English at Case Western Reserve University.


hockey hound said...

And let's hear again from Islam's apologists why the Koran and the religion of Islam should not be regarded as culpable for anti-Jewish hatred.

I've become tired of pointing out the obvious.

Good Shabbas, Prof. Lipstadt.

Guy said...

The Waltz With Bashir ban is astoundingly stupid. I'm not sure if it was officially banned by the Lebanese government, but I read that Hezbollah called for a boycott of Independence Day, that silly alien movie where they blow up the White House. The terrorist organization alleged that the film was "propaganda for the so-called genius of the Jews and their alleged concern for humanity," presumably referring to the Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch characters.

Guy said...

Here's the source for my last comment:

StGuyFawkes said...

The sadness of this censorship is highlighted by the fact that many critics would say that the works of Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Isaac Singer DO NOT portray Jews, Israel or Zionism favoribly.

I've yet to read a Singer novel in which a idealistic young man doesn't embrace Zionism or Socialism, and end up dead.

I've yet to find a novel by Bellow or Roth in which Jews are not depicted "warts and all".

Bellow's "Ravelstein" has a character based on Allen Bloom dying of AIDS and paying male prostitutes to visit him.

My point is that these guys in Beirut aren't out to eliminate "posiitve" views of Jews. They want there to be no representation of Jews in any way whatsoever.

In other words they want them to just not exist.

This is worse than it seems.

Rather than make fun of Portnoy they'd rather he were never born.

Think about it.

Tom said...


Don't know if you saw this (I searched your site but didn't find it), yet another disappointing case in which a university academic has engaged in antisemitism and used his classroom as recruiting station:,0,7753995.story

The incident is burning up the blogosphere out here on the West coast and has brought out in Robinson's defense all the usual suspects.

Tom said...

A troubling piece about the escalating violence against Jews in Venezuela.

OPINION: HOUSES OF WORSHIP MAY 1, 2009 The Politics of Intimidation

In 1998, the year Hugo Chavez was elected president, there were 22,000 Jews in Venezuela. Today the Jewish population is estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000.

Those numbers tell a story, and it's not a happy one. The Jews of Venezuela are fleeing to Miami, Madrid and elsewhere because of the anti-Semitism they face at home. In an interview this week in Washington, D.C., the country's chief rabbi sounds a warning bell: "There's anxiety in the Jewish community because of what has happened," says Rabbi Pynchas Bremer, "and of course because of what may happen."

Mr. Chavez's vitriol about Jews is well documented and of long standing. In recent years he has referred to Venezuelan Jews as "descendants of the same ones who crucified Christ" and "a minority [that] has taken ownership of all the gold of the planet." According to Shmuel Herzfeld, a Washington, D.C., rabbi who visited Venezuela in March: "Chavez is isolating the Jews and turning Venezuelans against the Jewish community. . . . The government is transforming a society that has been welcoming and accepting of Jews" in the past. Rabbi Bremer, who has lived in Venezuela for more than 40 years, says that he had never personally encountered anti-Semitism or heard of anti-Semitic incidents until recently.

This year has seen an intensification of attacks -- verbal and physical -- on Jews and Jewish institutions in Venezuela. In January, the largest Sephardic synagogue in Caracas was vandalized and desecrated. Among the slogans painted on the wall was "damned Jews, death to you." A list of members of the congregation was stolen. In February, another synagogue was attacked with a grenade. Eleven people have been arrested in the first attack.

The attacks on the two synagogues took place in the context of Mr. Chavez's tirades against Israel over its campaign in Gaza as well as his continuing charm offensive with Iran. In early January, the president expelled the Israeli ambassador, calling Israel's campaign a "holocaust." He demanded that Venezuelan Jews denounce Israel.

In January, a professor published an article online calling on citizens to boycott Jewish-owned businesses and confiscate the property of Jews who support Israel. He urged Venezuelans to "summon publicly every Jew found in the streets, squares, shopping malls, etc. and force them to take positions, screaming at them slogans in favor of Palestine and against the abortion-state of Israel." Change the language from Spanish to German, and this could be an anti-Semitic tract from the 1930s.

In a report to be released today, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom puts Venezuela on a watch list of countries where religious freedom is threatened. "Anti-Semitic statements by government officials and state media," it says, "have created a hostile environment whereby some Venezuelan citizens have harassed and threatened rabbis, vandalized Jewish businesses with anti-Semitic slogans, and called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses in Venezuela." In a report on global anti-Semitism last year, the State Department listed Venezuela as a state sponsor of anti-Semitism.

Venezuelan Catholics are also "at risk," the Commission on International Religious Freedom notes, and there have been "repeated attacks" on Catholic leaders and Catholic institutions. In January, La Piedrita, a pro-Chavez group, threw tear-gas cannisters into the house of the papal nuncio. Last year pro-Chavez thugs occupied the residence of the archbishop of Caracas and held a press conference at which they denounced Catholic leaders. There have been no arrests in either incident.

Last week Rabbi Herzfeld and others asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to hold a hearing on anti-Semitism in Venezuela. A brief filed with the commission documents the "escalating violence and hostility" against Jews, which it says is "designed to isolate, terrify and ostracize that community." The commission will make a decision on the request in September, a spokeswoman says.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Bremer, the chief rabbi of Venezuela, asks that the world pay attention to the plight of Jews in his country. "We don't know what the future holds for us," he says. But he believes Mr. Chavez pays attention to world opinion. "I hope we will hear from the world community if there is future deterioration."

Rabbi Herzfeld is blunter: "I think we're in the early stages of something catastrophic."

Ms. Kirkpatrick is a deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W13

hockey hound said...

"Others may find Germany in the ‘30s the more instructive comparison. “It isn’t silent majorities that drive things, but vocal minorities,” the Canadian public intellectual George Jonas recently wrote. “Don’t count heads; count decibels. All entities—the United States, the Western world, the Arab street—have prevailing moods, and it’s prevailing moods that define aggregates at any given time.” Last December, in a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing power and wealth, Pakistani terrorists nevertheless found time to divert one-fifth of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If this was a territorial dispute over Kashmir, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Because Pakistani Islam has been in effect Arabized. Demographically, in Europe and elsewhere, Islam has the numbers. But ideologically, radical Islam has the decibels—in Turkey, in the Balkans, in Western Europe.

"And the prevailing mood in much of the world makes Israel an easy sacrifice. Long before Muslims are a statistical majority, there will be three permanent members of the Security Council—Britain, France, Russia—for whom the accommodation of Islam is a domestic political imperative.


"On the heels of his call for the incorporation of Sharia within British law, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave an interview to the Muslim News praising Islam for making “a very significant contribution to getting a debate about religion into public life.” Well, that’s one way of putting it. The urge to look on the bright side of its own remorseless cultural retreat will intensify: Once Europeans have accepted a not entirely voluntary biculturalism, they will see no reason why Israel should not do the same, and they will embrace a one-state, one-man, one-vote solution for the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean." -Mark Steyn (from the article, 'Israel Today, the West Tomorrow')