Lebanon's Anti-Israel Blacklist Will Keep Spielberg Film Out of its Theaters

The decision by Lebanese authorities to ban Steven Spielberg's upcoming political drama "The Post" is unlikely to go through, a source from the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

Several days ago, the Lebanese branch of the Campaign to Boycott the Supporters of Israel (CBSI) called on Lebanese nationals to boycott "Jungle", citing ties to Israel.

Acclaimed director Steven Spielberg's film "The Post" will be shown in Lebanese cinemas this Thursday after Lebanon's Interior Ministry revoked its ban by the country's General Security Directorate. It is only now that the board is invoking Spielberg's inclusion on the "boycott Israel" list. The Interior Ministry has the final word on implementing the ban, he said, but it is unusual for the ministry to overturn the decision of the censorship committee.

The ban recommendation is also believed to have been made because Spielberg is blacklisted by the Arab League for reportedly donating $1 million to relief efforts in Israel in 2016 during its war with Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

In the last three years, at least five films directed or produced by Spielberg were screened in Lebanon, including "The BFG", and "Bridge of Spies".

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Free speech advocates in Lebanon noted the irony of banning a movie whose plot promotes press freedoms.

"This is an wonderful development, and to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented in Lebanon", Gino Raidy, of the anti-censorship group March, wrote on his blog.

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.

Banned films can often be found in bootleg movie shops across the country for as little as one dollar, and even blacklisted books can sometimes be found in regular bookstores. Spielberg, however, is not an Israeli citizen, nor is he affiliated in any official way with the Jewish state.

Some months back, movie-goers in Beirut who thought they were going to see the premier of Wonder Woman were disappointed when all screenings were canceled only hours before showtime because the lead role was played by Gal Gadot - an Israeli actress. Lebanon does not recognize Israel as a country and boycotts its goods and cultural exports.

  • Megan Austin