UNESCO makes Beirut “World Book Capital 2009” as it bans “The Diary of Anne Frank”

May 04, 2009

* Belgian opera accused of whipping up anti-Semitism. Concocted scene shows “Israeli soldiers” raping a woman and stroking their weapons while placing them horizontally against their crotches

* Lebanese authorities ban books by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and other Jewish writers

* All of Jane Fonda’s films are also banned in Lebanon, “since she visited Israel in the 1980s”

* Slumdog Millionaire stars spotted making out in Tel Aviv restaurant

* Making a horrible business even uglier, one of the lawyers of the leader of the gang that slaughtered Ilan Halimi in Paris, reportedly represented Saddam Hussein and the other is married to the terrorist Carlos


This dispatch primarily concerns Israel and anti-Semitism. I also attach one item on an unrelated topic at the end of this dispatch, which I first posted on The National Review website yesterday morning: Israeli jets practiced a long-distance strike against Iranian nuclear targets over Gibraltar.



1. UNESCO makes Beirut “World Book Capital” as it bans The Diary of Anne Frank
2. Belgian opera shows Jew raping woman in anti-Israel piece
3. American Jewish professor probed after comparing Israel to Nazis
4. Trial of anti-Semitic torture and murder that shocked France begins
5. Pat Buchanan compares John Demjanjuk with Jesus
6. Klinghoffer killer freed in Italy; fights deportation
7. UK politician rejected as candidate for being Jewish
8. British airline wipes Israel off the map
9. “Trade Unions linking Israel and Palestine”
10. Austrian Holocaust denier jailed for five years
11. Czechs expel ex-KKK leader on Holocaust denial charges
12. Two Israelis make Time’s 100 most influential people list
13. “Slumdog Millionaire” stars find love in Israel
14. “Don’t have sex and drive”
15. “Why Jane Fonda is banned in Beirut” (Wall St. Journal, May 1, 2009)
16. “A Loud and Promised Land” (By David Brooks, New York Times)
17. “Israel practiced Iran strike over Gibraltar” (By Tom Gross, NRO, May 3, 2009)

[Notes by Tom Gross]


William Marling, a visiting professor at the American University of Beirut, writes in The Wall Street Journal:

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.

This is perplexing – and deeply ironic – because Beirut has been named UNESCO’s 2009 “World Book Capital City.” 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 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

… Even a partial list of books banned in Lebanon gives pause: 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. Syria’s Sadiq Jalal al-Azm was prosecuted for his “Critique of Religious Thinking.”

… All of Jane Fonda’s films are banned, since she visited Israel in 1982. “Torn Curtain” is banned: Paul Newman starred in “Exodus.” And the television series “The Nanny” is banned because of Fran Drescher…

(Full article below.)



Leading members of Belgium’s Jewish community last week accused the producers of a new production at the state-funded Flanders Opera of whipping up anti-Semitism by portraying a religious Jew raping a woman in a show about Israel.

The highly-controversial scene appeared in the premiere of a new production (and horrible distortion) of Saint-Saens’ nineteenth-century opera “Samson and Delilah” in Antwerp on Tuesday evening. The production was created by two extreme leftist Israelis, who turned the biblical tale of Samson into what they said was “a reverse-role protest against Israel’s treatment Palestinians.”

Almost uniquely among armies, the Israeli army has never been accused of rape. There have been several anti-Semitic attacks in Belgium in recent years.

Belgium’s Jewish community has condemned the opera and the two “self-hating” Israelis who directed it, Omri Nitzan and Amir Nizar Zuabi, of deliberately trying to encourage anti-Semitism.

Another scene in the opera showed “Israeli soldiers” clad in black combat suits and armed with M-16 assault rifles stroking their weapons while placing them horizontally against their crotches.



A Jewish professor from The University of California, Santa Barbara is under review for disseminating material that equates Israelis to Nazis.

The university is investigating allegations of improper conduct and anti-Semitism against tenured sociology professor William I. Robinson for sending an e-mail to 80 of his students that contained photos of Jews killed by the Nazis and similar photos of Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Robinson added a personal note to his students at the top of his email saying that Gaza was a “concentration camp” and Israel was committing “genocide”.

Jewish groups said that besides the fact that Professor Robinson’s email contained blatant anti-Semitic lies, “the bylaws of the school forbid using classrooms as platforms for dogmas that have nothing whatsoever to do with the material being studied.” The complaint against Robinson was filed by two of his Jewish students.

The same email that Robinson sent already roused controversy in January, after a Norwegian diplomat serving in Saudi Arabia used her official mail from the Norwegian foreign ministry to spread it to recipients (as reported on this website at the time).


Robinson, 50, is one of a small but vociferous band of American Jewish academics and “intellectuals” who have been accused of being the latest in a 2,000 year line of self-loathing Jewish anti-Semites.

Robinson said he “regularly sends his students voluntary reading material about current events for the global affairs course, and didn’t see what the problem was.”

According to The Los Angeles Times, letters of support for Robinson have arrived from academics across America, including one from California Scholars for Academic Freedom, which says it represents 100 professors at 20 college campuses. The group argues that the allegations have been raised against Robinson to “silence criticism of Israeli policies and practices.”



Twenty-seven people have gone on trial in Paris for the kidnapping, torture and sadistic murder of a young Jewish man that shocked France three years ago.

Ilan Halimi, 23, was randomly chosen as a Jew, kidnapped, and brutally tortured for more than three weeks before he was found naked and tied to a tree near a railway track in the suburbs south of Paris. He had been stabbed in many places, including his throat, doused in alcohol and set alight. He died on the way to hospital.

During the 24-day torture, he had acid thrown on him, was repeatedly burned with cigarettes, had his skin cut open, his mouth bound with tape, and his eyes Sellotaped shut. Tens of thousands took to the streets of Paris to march against anti-Semitism after the brutal crime

Youssouf Fofana, the leader of a Paris gang known as The Barbarians, shouted “Allah Akbar” in Arabic and anti-Semitic slogans at Halimi’s family as he entered court last week. He is alleged to have instructed gang members to target Jews and to kidnap them until their families paid a ransom.

During the kidnap ordeal, Fofana phoned Halimi’s family and made them listen to their son scream while he insulted Jews and sang verses from the Koran in between ransom demands over the phone.

“My son died like millions of Jews before him, because of anti-Semitism,” wrote Ruth Halimi in a recent book about the ordeal in which she compared the kidnapping with that of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist beheaded by Muslim extremists in 2002.


Writing in The Wall Street Journal from Paris, Nidra Poller said: “One of the most troubling aspects of this affair is the probable involvement of relatives and neighbors, beyond the immediate circle of the gang, who were told about the Jewish hostage and dropped in to participate in the torture.”

Ruth Halimi has had her son’s body disinterred and his remains reburied in Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem. “You will never be able to hurt him any more,” she wrote in her book, addressing the killers. “I took him away from here because one day you will be free and you would have been able to come and spit on his tomb.”

The desecration of Jewish graveyards has become a common crime in France. Halimi’s family said they hoped that the trial will focus attention on rising attacks on French Jews over the past few years, during which time thousands have immigrated to Israel.

One of Fofana’s lawyers also reportedly represented Saddam Hussein and the other is married to the terrorist Carlos.

* I have written extensively about the Halimi case here in an op-ed for The National Post (Canada) and The Jerusalem Post (Israel).



While much anti-Semitism today comes from left-wing commentators and intellectuals, some far rightists also still engage in it.

In his latest outburst, American politician and broadcaster Pat Buchanan has compared suspected Nazi mass murderer John Demjanjuk with Jesus.

Demjanjuk was last month sentenced to be deported by the United States to stand trial in Germany for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

“The spirit behind this un-American persecution has never been that of justice tempered by mercy,” Buchanan said last week. “It is the same satanic brew of hate and revenge that drove another innocent Man up Calvary that first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.”

Both Jewish and Catholic commentators have condemned Buchanan, a Catholic, for his “obscene and anti-Semitic comparison between Demjanjuk and Jesus.”

Buchanan continues to be employed as a political commentator on the MSNBC cable network. He has made many statements in the past which have been condemned as anti-Semitic. For example, he compared the 2002 Battle of Jenin to the Auschwitz extermination camp.



Italian authorities last week freed one of the four terrorists that hijacked the passenger ship Achille Lauro in 1985, and shot elderly wheelchair-bound American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer and tossed him overboard in his wheelchair, still alive, where he drowned.

Yusuf Magid Al-Mulqi was transferred to a holding facility where he is fighting deportation claiming that he should be allowed to remain in Italy because he has married an Italian citizen. Another member of the terror squad was released last year and pleaded for asylum in Italy, but was turned down by Italian officials.



The British Labor Party has become embroiled in a race row after a woman claimed she had been told that she was “too white and Jewish” to be selected as a candidate for local elections.

Labor councilor Mahmood Hussain said he would not support Elaina Cohen’s application for a seat on Birmingham city council. “My Muslim members don’t want you because you are Jewish,” he reportedly told her.

Cohen filed a complaint against Hussain, who is a former lord mayor of Birmingham. “I am shocked and upset that a member of the Labor Party in this day and age could even think something like that, let alone say it. I feel particularly aggrieved because I have worked across all sections of the community, particularly with the Muslim section, and have been on official visits to Pakistan,” she told The Daily Mail newspaper.

Hussain, who served as Birmingham’s first Muslim Lord Mayor seven years ago, is alleged to have made the comment to Cohen who wanted to stand in the East Handsworth and Lozells by-election.



Complaints have been brought against the British airline BMI regarding a digital in-flight map that omitted Israel. The map was even used by BMI on its flights to Tel Aviv. The only Israeli city, Haifa, is noted as “Khefa,” an Arabic name for the city used by Hamas.

BMI apologized and insisted that the map had not been drawn with an anti-Israel agenda in mind – rather the aircraft in question were recently bought from a bankrupt charter company that largely flew to Arab countries. BMI said the map would be changed immediately.

“If BMI had any political agenda in order not to anger neighboring countries, it would not have invested so much in our Tel Aviv air route,” a BMI spokesperson told The Times of London. BMI operates daily flights between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport.

BMI said the map had been created by British airline BMED (British Mediterranean Airways), from which BMI acquired the planes two years ago. BMED, formerly a franchise of British Airways, was absorbed into BMI in October 2007.


BMI also made headlines recently after it fired a staff member for refusing to fly to Saudi Arabia. Flight attendant Lisa Ashton was told to wear an abaya, a black robe which covers everything but the face, feet and hands in public places in Saudi Arabia. She was also instructed to walk behind her male colleagues, irrespective of rank.

Ashton, a practicing Christian, filed for unfair dismissal at a UK employment tribunal earlier this year. The court dismissed the case, stating that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff.



Trade union leaders from three continents have announced the launch of a new global movement “to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbullah in the labor movement” and to fight against attempts to boycott Israel, which they said are counterproductive for those who want a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The movement is called “Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine,” or TULIP (www.tuliponline.org). The organizers come from the Australian Workers Union, The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union of America, and from Community, a British trade union.



An Austrian court last week sentenced extreme-right wing writer and poet Gerd Honsik to five years in prison for denying the Holocaust and promoting Nazi ideology. Honsik is author of the book “Acquittal for Hitler?” and various texts denying the Holocaust.

The prosecutor called Honsik “one of the ideological leaders of neo-Nazism in Europe” and noted that he had distributed his “anti-Semitic hate magazine” at schools. Honsik called himself a Social Democrat and said he had merely “rejected the textbook wisdom that demonizes National Socialism.”



The former leader of America’s Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, was arrested by a team of at least 30 masked policemen in a restaurant in Prague last week on suspicion of denying the Holocaust, and was deported from the Czech Republic. Duke had been guarded at the restaurant’s entrance by far right extremists belonging to a Czech group called “Narodni Odpor” (National Resistance).

Duke’s latest book has just been published in Czech and he was due to deliver two lectures in Prague. The Czech interior minister said the government would not tolerate neo-Nazism. Denying the Holocaust is punishable by up to three years in prison in the Czech Republic.



Two Israelis have been included in Time Magazine’s annual “100 most influential people in the world” issue for 2009 – Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi.

The foreign minister appears on the list under the category “Leaders and Revolutionaries” alongside U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The new Israeli and American administrations may be on a collision course,” writes Time, “and the co-navigator of the Israeli ship of state is Avigdor Lieberman, the Foreign Minister.”

The other Israeli on the list, Agassi, appears in the category of “Scientists and Thinkers” for his contribution to the development of the electric car. Time notes he is “helping the world end its addiction to oil by transforming cars from their climate-changing, lung-polluting, gas-guzzling design to one that’s clean, affordable and all-electric.”



Rumors of a romance between the two stars of the hit film “Slumdog Millionaire” have been circulating for some time, but now their love affair seems to have been confirmed, following a secret rendezvous in Israel.

The mother of Dev Patel, who plays Jamal in the Oscar-winning movie, has confirmed that her son flew out to Israel to join former co-star Freida Pinto, where she is filming for Julian Schnabel’s latest film “Miral”. (“Slumdog Millionaire” won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009.)

The British tabloid The Daily Mirror printed photos of 19-year-old Patel and 24-year-old Pinto enjoying an intimate meeting together in Tel Aviv as Pinto took time off from filming her latest movie in Jerusalem.

“Miral” is the story of an Arab man who tries to open an orphanage in Jerusalem following Israel’s war of independence in 1948.

The Indian model-turned-actress is also now being talked of as a possible future Bond Girl opposite 007 star Daniel Craig.



It is not all news about politics, economics and swine flu in the Israeli press.

The headline and sub-heading in an edition of the Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom last week read:

“Don’t have sex and drive: Policemen couldn’t believe it: In the zigzagging car they stopped were the driver – and a nude young woman sitting on him.”

[All notes above by Tom Gross]



Why Jane Fonda is banned in Beirut
Anti-Semitism leads to startling censorship in Lebanon
By William Marling
The Wall Street Journal
May 1, 2009

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.

This is perplexing – and deeply ironic – because Beirut has been named UNESCO’s 2009 “World Book Capital City.” 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.

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.

Works that could stimulate dialogue in Lebanon are perfunctorily banned. “Waltz with Bashir,” an Israeli film of 2008, is banned – even though it alleges that Ariel Sharon was complicit in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. According to the Web site Monstersandcritics, however, “Waltz with Bashir” became an instant classic in the very Palestinian camps it depicts, because it is the only history the younger generation has. But how did those copies get there?

The answer is also embarrassing. Just as it ignores freedom of circulation, Lebanon also ignores international copyright laws. Books of all types are routinely photocopied for use in high schools and universities. As for DVDs, you have only to mention a title and a pirated copy appears. “Slumdog Millionaire” was available in video shops before it opened in the U.S.



A Loud and Promised Land
By David Brooks
The New York Times
April 17, 2009

TEL AVIV – On my 12th visit to Israel, I finally had my baptism by traffic accident. I was sitting at a red light, when a bus turning the corner honked at me to back up. When I did, I scraped the fender of the car behind me.

The driver – a young, hip-looking, alt-rocker dude – came running out of the car in a fury. He ran up to the bus driver and got into a ferocious screaming match. Then he came up to me graciously and kindly. We were brothers in the war against bus drivers. Then, as we were filling out our paperwork, another bus happened by and honked. The rocker ran out into the street and got into another ferocious screaming match with this driver. Then he came back to me all smiles and warmth.

Israel is a country held together by argument. Public culture is one long cacophony of criticism. The politicians go at each other with a fury we can’t even fathom in the U.S. At news conferences, Israeli journalists ridicule and abuse their national leaders. Subordinates in companies feel free to correct their superiors. People who move here from Britain or the States talk about going through a period of adjustment as they learn to toughen up and talk back.

Ethan Bronner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, notes that Israelis don’t observe the distinction between the public and private realms. They treat strangers as if they were their brothers-in-law and feel perfectly comfortable giving them advice on how to live.

One Israeli acquaintance recounts the time he was depositing money into his savings account and everybody else behind him in line got into an argument about whether he should really be putting his money somewhere else. Another friend tells of the time he called directory assistance to get a phone number for a restaurant. The operator responded, “You don’t want to eat there,” and proceeded to give him the numbers of some other restaurants she thought were better.

We can all think of reasons that Israeli culture should have evolved into a reticence-free zone, and that the average behavior should be different here. This is a tough, scrappy country, perpetually fighting for survival. The most emotionally intense experiences are national ones, so the public-private distinction was bound to erode. Moreover, the status system doesn’t really revolve around money. It consists of trying to prove you are savvier than everybody else, that above all you are nobody’s patsy.

As an American Jew, I was taught to go all gooey-eyed at the thought of Israel, but I have to confess, I find the place by turns exhausting, admirable, annoying, impressive and foreign. Israel’s enemies claim the country is an outpost of Western colonialism. That’s not true. Israel is, in large measure, a Middle Eastern country, and the Israeli-Arab dispute is in part an intra-Mideast conflict.

This culture of disputatiousness does yield some essential fruits. First, it gives the country a special vividness. There is no bar on earth quite so vibrant as a bar filled with Israelis.

Second, it explains the genuine national unity. Israel is the most diverse small country imaginable. Nonetheless, I may be interviewing a left-wing artist in Tel Aviv or a right-wing settler in Hebron, and I can be highly confident that they will have a few things in common: an intense sense of national mission, a hunger for emotionally significant moments, an inability to read social signals when I try to suggest that I really don’t want them to harangue me about moving here and adopting their lifestyle.

Most important, this argumentative culture nurtures a sense of responsibility. The other countries in this region are more gracious, but often there is a communal unwillingness to accept responsibility for national problems. The Israelis, on the other hand, blame themselves for everything and work hard to get the most out of each person. From that wail of criticism things really do change. I come here nearly annually, and while the peace process is always the same, there is always something unrecognizable about the national scene – whether it is the structure of the political parties, the absorption of immigrants or the new engines of economic growth.

Today, Israel is stuck in a period of frustrating stasis. Iran poses an existential threat that is too big for Israel to deal with alone. Hamas and Hezbollah will frustrate peace plans, even if the Israelis magically do everything right.

This conflict will go on for a generation or more. Israelis will keep up their insufferable and necessary barrage of self-assertion. And yet we still dream of peace and the day when I am standing in line at an Israeli cash register and an Israeli shopper sees a chance to butt in front of me, and – miracle of miracles – she will not try to take it.



French Magazine: Israel practiced Iran strike over Gibraltar
By Tom Gross
National Review
Sunday, May 3, 2009

The French magazine L’Express today reports that Israeli jets practiced a long-distance strike against Iranian nuclear targets over Gibraltar. If accurate, the report means the Israelis rehearsed a strike some 2,600 miles from home – a distance sufficient to simulate a strike on Iranian territory.

The report in L’Express is the latest to suggest that the Israeli air force (IAF) has decided to be ready to launch a mission at a moment’s notice should Israel’s political leaders give the go-ahead.

Israeli strategists believe that the leaking of such Israeli preparations serve as an important element of deterrence regardless of whether or not Israel has actually decided to strike if it determines that a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program has become impossible.

Also today, The Jerusalem Post reveals that Israeli air force reservists who operate the Arrow and Patriot missile defense systems have recently begun spending one day a week on duty to sharpen their skills, amid fears that in a conflict with Iran, dozens of long-range missiles would be fired at Israel.

Later this year, the IAF will hold an unprecedented and massive exercise with the U.S. military to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems, including the Israeli-made Arrow and the American THAAD and Aegis, which will be brought specially to Israel for the exercise.

The high-powered American X-Band radar, deployed in the Negev Desert in late 2008* as a farewell gift from former President George W. Bush, participated in the recent Arrow test and tracked the incoming target. (* See item 3 here.)

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.