Lebanon's Hariri orders overturn of ban on Spielberg's 'The Post'

The Censorship Committee of the General Security Directorate made a decision to ban the film, which was due to open in Lebanon on January 18, in accordance with laws obliging Lebanon to enforce the Arab League's boycott of Israel, said directorate spokesperson Nabil Hanoun Monday. Over the past three years, at least five films either directed or produced by Spielberg were accepted and approved by the Lebanese censorship board.

"Machnouk does not see any reason to ban the film since the content focuses specifically on the war in Vietnam during the 1960s and has no connection to Lebanon or the conflict with the Israeli enemy", the ministry statement said.

The Washington Post, the paper at the heart of Spielberg's movie, notes that the filmmaker was put on the Arab League blacklist of sanctioned individuals after his foundation donated $1M to relief efforts in Israel during its 2006 war with Hezbollah.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the boycott might be "due to (Spielberg's) Oscar-winning Holocaust film Schindler's List, which shot some scenes in Jerusalem", as if that might justify boycotting The Post and other movies.

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"We think this is not the right decision", he said.

The ban sparked an outcry on social media, prompting both Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran to urge Mashnouq to reverse the ban, Carlo Vincente, General Manager of Italia Films, the movie's distribution group, told Annahar Wednesday.

This latest prohibition illustrates what appears to be a growing appetite on the part of the Lebanese authorities for implementing the country's often arbitrary censorship laws, and especially those pertaining to Israel. Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe, was also banned previous year, two weeks after its release, due to the social-media buzz surrounding the survival thriller, which features an Israeli protagonist. Over 1,000 Lebanese civilians and 43 Israeli civilians died in the fighting. Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, and the movement to boycott Israel enjoys wide support in the country.

Lebanon is divided on the boycott-driven bans, with some welcoming them as a bulwark against the "cultural normalisation" of Israel's occupation.

  • Carlos Nash