At the entrance to the March Lebanon office in Beirut on an adjacent shelf sits an eclectic CD collection including Frank Sinatra (Banned: Zionist tendencies)
Sinatra was a Zionist Catholic:
March, a Lebanese NGO and the owners of this collection, have been documenting these obscure and arbitrary censorship practices in Lebanon via their Virtual Museum of Censorship since the group was founded in 2011. To describe their findings as bizarre would be an understatement.
Criteria for censorship listed in one of March’s publications seem unhelpfully broad:
– Offensive to the sensitivities of the public
– Propaganda against Lebanese interests
– Disrespectful to public order, morals and good ethics
– Exposing the State to danger
One highly confusing reason for censorship is the 1955 Lebanese Anti-Israeli Boycott law, which outlaws any material related to the State of Israel. Although the law itself targets Israel, rather than Jews, it has been interpreted extremely broadly by some censorship decision-makers. This has resulted in random decisions to ban some movies in which Jewish actors appear while allowing others, and the random black markering of any name that has a Jewish ring to it.
The Israeli factor also extends to actors, composers or artists who, while not being Jewish, have had some connection to Israel. For example all movies featuring Jane Fonda (banned since visiting Israel in 1982), Elizabeth Taylor (who converted to Judaism) or the music of Frank Sinatra are banned because they have been labeled in Lebanon as supporters of the Israeli state.
“If a non-Israeli person supports Israel and acts in a movie about tomatoes it will be banned,” Baroudi said. “There is a fundamental problem in this way of thinking. Why can’t we watch it? In what way is this promoting Israel or Israeli culture? It’s a big hypocrisy.”
In 2009, The New York Times reported that Francis Ford Coppola was refused entry by airport security after attempting to fly his private jet to Lebanon for the opening of the Beirut Film Festival. The reason, part of the engine was made in Israel. He was forced to land in Damascus and travel overland.
But the biggest issue for groups like March and open-minded Lebanese citizens is that censorship is an insult to their intellect.