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.
According to Beirut newspaper L'Orient, any one of the recognized religions (a system known as "confessionalism") can ask the Sûreté to ban any book unilaterally. The Muslim Dar al-Fatwa and the Catholic Information Center are the most active and effective. (The latter got Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" banned.) Even works by self-proclaimed Islamists such as Assadeq al-Nayhoum's "Islam Held Hostage," have been banned, and issued only when re-edited in sympathetic editions (in Syria).
Censorship is a problem throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Though a signatory of the Florence Agreement, the Academy of Islamic Research in Egypt, through its censorship board al-Azhar, decides what may not be printed: Nobel Prize winner Naghib Mahfouz's "Awlad Haratina" (The Sons of the Medina) was found sacrilegious and only printed in bowdlerized form in Egypt in 2006. Saudi Arabia sponsors international book fairs in Riyadh, but Katia Ghosn reported in L'Orient that it sends undercover agents into book stores regularly.
It is troubling that many books and movies that have are about Jews and the Shoah are banned. It is troubling that shows and movies that have Jews in them are banned. It is troubling that any books are banned at an event sponsored by the United Nations, especially and event that is supposed to celebrate freedom of expression. Jews have cooties?
H/t: Soccer Dad