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Sunday, May 03, 2009

What do Anne Frank, Jane Fonda and the Nanny have in common?

Friday's Wall Street Journal had an interesting column about what the public is allowed to read and see in Beirut, Lebanon. The answer to the question posed in the title of this post is that Anne Frank, Jane Fonda and the television series called the Nanny are all banned in Beirut.
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.


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. Abdo Wazen's "The Garden of the Senses" and Layla Baalbaki's "Hana's Voyage to the Moon" were taken to court. Syria's Sadiq Jalal al-Azm was prosecuted for his "Critique of Religious Thinking."

Censorship is carried out by the Sûreté General, which combines the functions of the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security. It does not post a list of banned works, much less answer questions. However a major book importer, in an email, provided a list of banned films and the reasons given by the Sûreté. Here are some: "A Voice From Heaven" (verses of Koran recited during dance scenes); "Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" (homosexuality); "Barfly" ( blacklisted company Canon); and "Daniel Deronda" (shot in Israel).

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.
But what's most astounding is the occasion for this Journal article, which the Journal itself calls "perplexing and deeply ironic." Beirut has been named UNESCO's "World Book Capital City" for 2009.
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, and the UNESCO's "Florence Agreement." The catch is that Lebanon has not signed the Florence Agreement, which focuses on the free circulation of print and audio-visual material.
Read the whole thing.

Only in the obtuse world of the United Nations could Libya, Iran and Cuba chair a 'human rights' conference, and a country with as poor a record of censoring ideas as Lebanon host an international 'book fair.'


At 3:51 PM, Blogger Ron said...

I believe the UN's world is called the Bizarro world, from Superman comics (and Jerry Seinfeld).

At 6:01 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

If it has anything to do with Israel or the Jews, its banned. Freedom and censorship in the Arab World is the opposite of what its meant in Israel and the West. And the UN sees nothing wrong with Lebanon's hostility to free thought and we all know why.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Vicious Babushka said...

Why would books by Philip Roth be banned? His portrayal of Jews is pretty obnoxious.


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