by Lloyd Billingsley
Lebanon bans “The Israeli Soldier Film.”
After its first day in U.S. theaters Friday, Wonder Woman was pushing close to $100 million in gross box office returns, and overseas the response was already strong. According to Variety, Wonder Woman earned $18.7 million in 37 international markets through Thursday, even before the film opened in China. The foreign markets included Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait, but not Lebanon, which banned Wonder Woman because of its star, Gal Gadot.
“First and foremost, she is Israeli,” Rania Masri, told reporters. Masri is with the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon, the social media group supporting the ban on Wonder Woman. “We don’t distinguish between a good Israeli and a bad Israeli,” Masri helpfully explained, but as it turns out, there’s more to this than undisguised bigotry based on national origin.
Like most Israelis, Gal Gadot served in her country’s armed forces. That is a problem for Lebanon, which calls Wonder Woman the “Israeli soldier” film, even though it is an American movie from Warner Brothers. As it happens, Gadot has already appeared in other movies duly screened in Lebanon, such as Furious 7 and Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. So there’s more to it still.
The real reason for Lebanon’s current ban may be Gadot’s 2014 Instagram post, in which she wrote:
“I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children ... We shall overcome!!! Shabbat Shalom! #weareright #freegazafromhamas #stopterror #coexistance #loveidf””
In this message, Gal Gadot, 32, expresses no hostility to Lebanon, which considers itself at war with Israel. The actress’ target is Hamas, a terrorist organization, and she dares to celebrate those who fight it, and push for victory over them. In other posts she has also boasted about the army training her for Hollywood, and the Lebanese government wants to punish that sort of free expression.
Lebanese blogger Elie Fares told reporters that if the ban made “the least of sense,” they would have done it a year ago when the trailer was released. After the film was green-lighted for release, the ban on Wonder Woman hands “massive financial losses to the Lebanese company that won its distribution rights.”
Paul Dergarabedian, senior box office analyst for comScore told USA Today the ban is “more a commentary on the state of world affairs.” Such controversy, he said, “only raises awareness for the film.” Dergarabedian predicted Wonder Woman will be “a monster hit this weekend.” Even so, viewers and critics alike have cause for reflection.
News articles on the ban were missing statements from actresses such as Meryl Streep, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Fonda and Barbara Streisand. None seemed at pains to offer support for Gal Gadot, in a film directed by Patty Jenkins no less. Actors such as Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, and Danny Glover also failed to step up. On the other hand, the Hollywood left only supports women through whose plight the United States, its allies and the West can be denounced. So the silence of the leftist lambs was predictable.
Journalists will have a hard time finding cases of Israel or the United States banning any film because its star was Lebanese. Performers such as Danny Thomas and Paul Anka never suffered for their Lebanese ancestry. No western nation banned Doctor Zhivago because the male star, Omar Sharif, was an Egyptian, and nobody said, in the style of Rania Masri, “we don’t distinguish between good and bad Egyptians.”
Nobody supports a ban on movies produced in Lebanon, and there is no global campaign to wipe out the nation of Lebanon. American university campuses do not provide safe spaces for groups such as Students for Justice in Lebanon, calling for divestment, economic boycotts and such.
Israel has often tangled with Lebanon, which has conflicts of its own. In 1983, U.S. Marines were part of a force to oversee Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. A suicide bomber killed 241 Marines in their Beirut barracks, and 58 French soldiers in a separate attack.
It was also in Lebanon where in 1984 Islamic terrorists gunned down American University of Beirut president Malcolm Kerr. He was the father of Steve Kerr, whose Golden State Warriors again contend for the NBA championship. Those deadly terrorist attacks sparked no campaign to ban Lebanese products or movies.
Countries dominated by Muslims do not exactly boast a strong record in movie production, and movies with Islamic themes pose a particular problem, as Richard Grenier noted in The Marrakesh One-Two. The model for that story was The Message (1976), starring Anthony Quinn and subtitled The Story of Islam.
Director Moustapha Akkad, a Syrian who had worked with Sam Peckinpah, suggested the presence of Mohammed with a shadow. Orthodox Muslims denounced the film and the Nation of Islam took hostages. Akkad went on to make millions on the “Halloween” horror movies but was killed by a terrorist bomb in Jordan in 2005.
When Turner Classic Movies ran The Message in 2012, it touched off no protests anywhere. The United States and its allies do not ban movies about Muslims, directed by Muslims and starring Muslims. Lebanon bans a movie because the star is an Israeli and as supporters of the ban say, “we don’t distinguish between a good Israeli and a bad Israeli.”
Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation, and Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield.
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