Israel bans Harry Potter imports

Arab-Israeli publisher Salah Abassi has been ordered (via) to stop importing Arabic-language childrens books, such as Harry Potter and Pinocchio, from Syria and Lebanon. The ban also includes Arabic classics.

The ban is based on a 1939 decree - when the area was under British mandate - prohibiting the importation of books from hostile countries. According to Abassi, however, the Arabic translations of many of these books can be found only in Lebanon and Syria.

If they were printed in Jordan or Egypt, which are friendly to Israel, I would lose no time in buying them there. Now the significance is that the Arabic reading public in Israel will not be able to enjoy the best literature, he said.

Watching the IDF watching the watchers

Haaretz has an interesting article detailing the very different experiences of filmmakers working with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

David Mandil is the producer of Beaufort, which tells the story of the last unit of soldiers at the Lebanese outpost of the same name. His view is that: The support the IDF lent us was amazing.

Renan Schorr, whose film, Habodedim (The Lonely Ones) is currently being filmed, however, feels that, the Defense Ministry and the IDF have an unreasonable and inappropriate monopoly over the collective IDF experience, which belongs to all of us. The army assists only those who self-censor. The IDF spokesmans outdated, hypocritical and anti-liberal modus operandi in the production field must be exposed.

The distinction all comes down to whether the IDF feels that the films reflects the values it promotes.

Every film of TV production that needs the defence establishments support, whether in borrowing military equipment or receiving logistical advice, is required to file a request with the IDF Spokesmans Office. This request is processed by a production department and, if they feel that the script reflects the values promoted by the IDF Spokesmans Office, it is approved and passed through the ranks until it is rubber stamped by the chief of staff.

Once the approval is granted, the filmmaker is presented with a standard contract, which includes draconian claims that bear witness to the militarys influence on Israeli culture.

Clause B of the contract, for example, under the heading general, states that the IDF spokesman can withdraw permission for filming - without any prior notification - including in the midst of filming. In clause B, under the heading submission of photographed material, it states the IDF spokesman and the Defense Ministry are allowed to reject parts of the raw material and/or script and/or the finished product.

If the filmmaker accepts the contract terms, IDF Spokesmans Office soldiers then escort him throughout the filming period. They keep a watchful eye, are present at every scene and at every interview, and ensure the filmmaker abides by all the agreed-upon conditions.

Major Shavit, who has been head of the production department at the IDF Spokesmans Office for four years, describes some of the conditions for aiding a production. The army and the nations values cant be harmed. And if we see that there is such harm, we draw the filmmakers attention to this and say that if they want, they can fix it, so we can cooperate and assist them. We support criticism and dilemmas, but we wont support a movie, which promotes something that goes against our values. She justifies this attitude on the basis that every production that receives IDF assistance also, receives the IDF signature.

Gal Ohovsky, producer of Yossi Jagger, which tells the story of a secret love affair between two male officers at a military post, doesnt believe that the IDF should be making decisions like this. The IDF is not a private body, it represents all of Israels citizens, he says, and the right thing to do is to supply everyone with the same service.

IDF Spokeswoman Miri Regev is currently working with cable and satellite networks to launch new channel airing strictly IDF content. Needless to say, this channel will not air any values that run contrary to the IDF Spokesmans Office.

Yet another cartoon controversy

Against the background of the ongoing conflict between Hezbollah, Israel and the rest of Lebanon, Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet published a cartoon by Finn Graff on July 10 which depicts Israeli PM Ehud Olmert as the infamous SS Major Amon Goeth, who used to amuse himself by sniping at random Jews from his balcony in the Paszow death camp.

The scene was famously depicted by Steven Spielberg in Schindlers List and some people are not happy at the comparison:

In response, the Norwegian Israel Center against Anti-Semitism, an Oslo-based organization comprising Jews and Christians, has appealed to the government to speak out against hatred of Jews.

We have launched a campaign to get Norwegians to send letters to the minister of justice to make Norway a safer place for Jews, said center founder Erez Urieli by phone from Oslo.

We should not go underground. We have to take care of anti-Semitism before it becomes dangerous, he said.

According to the BBC, Israels ambassador to Norway has complained to press regulators about the cartoon claiming that it somehow went beyond free speech and would be open to prosecution in some countries.

Lars Helle, Dagbladets acting editor-in-chief, disagrees although the newspaper is taking the complaint seriously.


With everything else going on in the region, lawmakers from Israels ultra-Orthodox Shas party have decided to demostrate just how disconnected they are from reality by proposing two laws restricting access to Internet pornography.

The first proposal, from Member of Knesset Yaakov Magari, seeks to outlaw access to pornographic Websites in government offices.

The second - and much more intrusive - proposed law, from Shas MK Amnon Cohen, would require Internet surfers at home to identify themselves via password and fingerprint to gain access to the page.

Citing a need to restrict childrens access to pornography, Cohen said, (I) proposed this law to create a situation where these sites are blocked from the outset, and opening them will only be possible with a physical key that identifies the user, according to the report.

In a similar move, National Religious Party MK Zevulun Orlev has proposed a law that would bar cellular customers from accessing sex lines from their cell phones unless they request access beforehand from the cellular providers, the report said.

The campaign against Paradise. Now.

As mentioned earlier, Palestinian film Paradise Now has attracted a campaign to have its Oscar nomination withdrawn. Yesterday, the three men leading the campaigns sent a 32,000 name petition to Hollywood to demand the film be dropped.

Paradise Now tells the story of two suicide bombers, so its not surprising that there is some controversy around the film. And its probably inevitable that some people will take offence at it. But the reaction of Yossi Mendellevich seems to go a little further that that.

Paradise Now is artistic terror. Instead of giving a judgment on such an act, the film contributes to the death industry and the myth of the suicide bombers. By promoting and praising the film as an Oscar nominee, Im sure the queue to become suicide killers will be much longer. What they call Paradise Now is Hell Now for us.

According to one of the films producers, Amir Harel, an Israeli, the film promotes dialogue rather than terrorism by encouraging audiences to reflect on what motivates a suicide bomber. He denied it was wrong not to show the consequences of the bombing.

Everyone knows perfectly well what happens [after a bomb], but we felt at that point theres no need to tell the story any more. Our purpose as film makers is to tell the story focused on the protagonists point of view. I believe it doesnt undermine in any way the victims. It just doesnt deal directly with them.

Whenever theres a film depicting the Israeli side, no one ever says we should present the Palestinian side. I think balance is totally unimportant to art.

Fighting hatred with humour

As noted previously, an Iranian newspaper is calling for cartoons about the Holocaust as a response to the Muhammed cartoons controversy.

Now a group of Israelis has decided to show that they can do better.

We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published,” said Amitai Sandy a graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing in Tel Aviv. “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf,” he added.

The contest is open until March 5th and the results can be seen on Boomka.

(via Pickled Politics)