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. [emphasis added]And that is no small catch:
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.Eric Trager points out that the flip side is no less disturbing:
Of course, the books that Beirutis do read are just as important as the ones that are prohibited. In this vein, here’s a rundown of some titles that I picked up from the bookstores that surround the American University of Beirut’s campus when I studied there during the summer of 2004: How the Jews Made the Holocaust, by Norman Finkelstein; Secrets of the Wicked: The Jews, The Secret Organizations, and the Pursuit of World Dominance; The Zionist Threat to Lebanon; Iraq First: Israel’s Blitzkrieg on the Middle East’s Oil (Operation Shekhinah); and Uncle Sam’s Talmud: The Hebrew Myths Upon Which America Was Founded. (To get a sense of the flagrantly anti-Semitic imagery with which even Beirut’s best educated are inundated on a daily basis, click on the links I’ve provided, which show each book’s disturbing cover art.)Oh, and in case you are wondering why Jane Fonda is banned in Beirut:
All of Jane Fonda's films are banned, since she visited Israel in 1982 to court votes for Tom Hayden's Senate run.And yes, Marling writes that The Diary of Anne Frank is banned too.
By the way, according to the UNESCO website, World Press Freedom Day was celebrated this past May 2 and 3--in Qatar. According to the Freedom House list of 2009, Qatar rates a 6 for Political Rights and a 5 for Civil Liberties--and is rated as 'not free'.