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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Censoring Jews in Lebanon

AFP reports:
Lebanon is a liberal Middle East country with unfettered Internet access, but state censorship is also rife on any topics that touch upon Israel or sensitive issues such as religion.

Oscar-winning films such as "Schindler's List," the music of late violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the songs of Enrico Macias... the list of artists and their works deemed to be inappropriate is long.

"There has been ruthless censorship in Lebanon for decades, using absurd criteria and under the pretext of national security," said Bassam Eid, production manager at movie distributors Circuit Empire.

Hollywood stars including Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman have long been banned for their perceived support for Jews or because they were in a film directed by a Jew as Lebanon scrupulously applied an Arab League blacklist boycotting Israel.

Censorship is applied in Lebanon if a work is thought to incite religious dissent, damage morals or state security or contribute to Israeli propaganda.

Music does not escape either. "About 80 percent of Death Metal is seized" because of anti-Christ content, according to one record store owner in Beirut who asked not to be named.

"To ban the Israeli Philharmonic is understandable, but not top world violinist Jascha Heifetz who's Jewish but not Israeli. Even so both Daniel Barenboim and Gilad Atzmon are OK because they're seen to be anti-Zionist!"

Normally, this would be considered anti-semitism, but that terminology seems to escape AFP.