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Lebanon bans Spielberg's new movie over director's link to Israel

18 January 2018

Lebanon's Interior Ministry has overturned a directive to ban Steven Spielberg's drama, "The Post", after the country's prime minister intervened to allow the screening of the movie in Lebanese theaters, the head of the movie's distribution group told Annahar Wednesday.

The recommendation still needs to be signed by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to enter into effect but that is considered a formality that's unlikely to stop the ban.

Following the release of the film, which details the story of a businessman who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, the Lebanese government blacklisted Spielberg, who comes from a Jewish family.

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

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French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri was held for questioning by Lebanese authorities in September over his film "The Attack", which was partially shot in Israel.

The Post isn't the only movie Lebanon has banned.

After being accused in 2006 for being critical of Israel following the release of his movie Munich, Spielberg, who is Jewish American, told German magazine Der Spiegel: "If it became necessary, I would be prepared to die for the US and for Israel". Israel occupied large areas of southern Lebanon between 1978 and 2000. A year ago they banned "Wonder Woman" actress Gal Gadot, who is from Israel and also served in the Israeli military. In 2006, it waged a month-long war against Hezbollah after the movement's fighters abducted two Israeli soldiers.

In 2017, Lebanon banned two films but permitted 317 commercial and 766 festival films to screen, Hanna said. Over 1,000 Lebanese civilians and 43 Israeli civilians died in the fighting.

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Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and has a boycott again Israel in place.

The renewed focus on the boycott laws also coincides with a wider clampdown against free speech that has been discernible since President Michel Aoun came to office in 2016, raising concerns of free speech advocates.

Over the years, however, a variety of films have been banned for reasons that often are arbitrary and randomly enforced.

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Lebanon bans Spielberg's new movie over director's link to Israel