The Post, a critically acclaimed American film about The Washington Post’s coverage of the 1971 Pentagon Papers, was banned in Lebanon due to director Steven Spielberg’s outward support of Israel.
Here is a small win for freedom and justice in #Lebanon
THE POST IS RELEASED TODAY IN ALL CINEMAS IN LEBANON
The banning recommendation by the censorship commission has been overruled and reversed by the minister of interior. More details here https://t.co/jhy5CRA5pe pic.twitter.com/Yaymw9vOEC
— Anne Marie (@AnneMarie_TC) January 18, 2018
According to The Times of Israel, Spielberg donated $1 million to Israel in 2006 when war broke out between the country and Lebanon. Spielberg has been blacklisted since then by the Arab League, an organization composed of 22 countries that have a majority Arabic-speaking population.
Lebanon’s General Security controls the country’s borders and has jurisdiction over the censorship of literature, plays and movies. The department recommended that Lebanon’s Ministry of the Interior honor the Arab League Boycott Office as it had in the past.
According to Reuters, however, Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouk decided to overturn the ban on The Post. Mashnouk “saw no obstacle preventing the film from being shown because it has nothing to do with Lebanon or the conflict with the Israeli enemy.”
— etalk (@etalkCTV) January 20, 2018
“It is (good) for freedom of cinema and culture and for being fair and just in our defense against Israel and Zionism. There is an efficient way, not a stone age way,” said sales and distribution manager of the Grand Cinemas chain, Isaac Fahed, to The Washington Post. Fahed goes on to say that reversing the ban was “good news for the cultural scene in Lebanon.”
The Post is especially relevant in the topic of censorship due to its emphasis on fighting the Nixon administration in order to publish government secrets and reveal decades of lies to the American people.
Other films were not pardoned, however, due to their ties to Israel.
Lebanon followed The Arab League’s boycott of Wonder Woman in 2017 and will be banning Steven Spielberg’s The Jungle, which tells the story of Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg when lost in the Amazon in the 1980s. According to The Guardian, Wonder Woman had passed the country’s normal screening procedures, but the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel (CBSI) “put pressure on the government to block the film,” claiming that due to Gal Gadot’s two years in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and title of Miss Israel earned at age 18, the production became “an Israeli Soldier Film.”
— Grand Cinemas (@GCLebanon) May 31, 2017
In the past few years, Lebanon has increased the amount of content banned due to ties to Israel.
According to The Jakarta Post, there is a cultural divide between the Lebanese people who welcome an end to the “cultural normalisation of Israel’s occupation” and those who feel that boycotts should be carried out by individuals instead of by a governing authority. This issue impacts all Lebanese industries, from film to fashion.
The Jakarta Post reports that Lebanese authorities questioned French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri about his work on The Attack (2012), which had scenes filmed in Israel. More recently, Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab received critique from Lebanese fans on social media for posting a photo on Instagram of Gal Gadot wearing a dress Saab had created. The photo has been deleted.
Though showing The Post serves as a step forward, many Lebanese are calling for more clear standards for restricting content — to end censorship, but also continue disapproval of Israel.
“When Lebanese authorities decide a particular film is allowed to be screened because it complies with the laws and conditions of the boycott, I don’t understand how other authorities can come back and change this decision,” film critic Nadim Jarjura told AFP, according to The Express Tribune.