Special Report/Compiled by the Lebanese Canadian Coordinating Council (LCCC) web site addressing Hezbollah's terrorism tactics used to hinder the French - Moroccan comedian Gad Elmaleh from performing in the Beiteddine Festival
Lebanon says French comedian is welcome
By HUSSEIN DAKROUB
A Lebanese Cabinet minister said Tuesday a French comedian of Jewish descent is welcome to perform in Lebanon and even offered to receive him at the airport, defying a Hezbollah campaign claiming he served in the Israeli army.
The remarks by outgoing Tourism Minister Elie Marouni came three days after comedian Gad Elmaleh canceled his participation in a festival in Lebanon next month because he apparently feared for his safety after Hezbollah's claims, which were denied by his agent.
Two other Lebanese ministers also criticized Hezbollah's campaign in a rare challenge to the Iranian-backed militant group, which suffered a major setback against the country's pro-Western coalition in June 7 parliamentary elections.
"In my name as the tourism minister, or as a Lebanese state, we tell Gad Elmaleh he is welcome in Lebanon," Marouni said at a news conference.
Marouni said Lebanese authorities had granted Elmaleh permission to enter the country, saying "we are ready to receive him at the airport in order to affirm that Lebanon is a land of freedom and creativity."
Elmaleh, known for his one-man comic
acts, had been scheduled to give three performances July 13-15 at a festival in the mountains outside Beirut.
Noura Jumblatt, head of the festival's organizing committee, said the group had received threats against allowing Elmaleh to perform.
Marouni stressed that cultural and arts festivals are essential to attract Arab and foreign tourists to Lebanon in summer.
"We have to keep arts, culture and tourism away from politics," he said.
Lebanon and Israel technically remain in a state of war, and it is illegal for Lebanese to have contacts with the Jewish state.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said Elmaleh, who is of Moroccan-Jewish descent, was an avid supporter of Israel and showed a purported picture of him wearing an Israeli military uniform. The performer's agent denied the report's claims and said the photo was a fake.
Lebanon's information and culture ministers, speaking at the news conference with Marouni, also criticized the media campaign against Elmaleh.
"The way the campaign was launched has probably harmed Lebanon's image," outgoing Information Minister Tarek Mitri said.
Beiteddine Festival organizers voice 'serious regrets' over campaign against Jewish comic
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
BEIRUT: The organizing committee of the Beiteddine Festival expressed "serious regrets" for the decision of French stand-up comedian Gad Elmaleh to cancel his performances in the festival following accusations by Hizbullah's Al-Manar television that he supported Israel.
"We will fight to preserve freedom and diversity in Lebanon and we will not be discouraged by baseless accusations," the organization's head Nora Jumblatt told reporters.
"We hope that such an incident will never occur again so as to safeguard Lebanon's reputation," she added.
Jumblatt said the 12,000 tickets for Elmaleh's three performances in Beiteddine were sold out.
"We don't blame Elmaleh, we rather blame defamatory campaigns," she added.
The news conference, held at the premises of the Tourism Ministry, was attended by Tourism Minister Elie Marouni, Information Minister Tarek Mitri and Culture Minister Tammam Salam. Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud later joined the event.
Marouni said that arts and culture should be "driven away from politics," adding that Elmaleh was "most welcome in Lebanon."
For his part, Mitri said Elmaleh's "career and shows do not show bias to any side."
The French comedian has canceled his participation in a festival in Lebanon next month because of concerns for his safety after Al-Manar TV claimed he had served in the Israeli army.
Al-Manar TV said Gad Elmaleh, who is of Moroccan-Jewish descent, was an avid supporter of Israel and showed a purported picture of him wearing an Israeli military uniform. The performer's agent denied the report's claims and said the photo was a fake.
Lebanon and Israel technically remain in a state of war, and it is illegal for Lebanese to have contacts with Israelis. Israel and Hizbullah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 160 in Israel, mostly soldiers.
Elmaleh, known for his one-man comic acts, had been due to give three performances on July 13-15 at the annual Beiteddine cultural festival in the central Chouf mountains east of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
A statement from Elmaleh's agent, Gilbert Coullier, denounced the "false information" in Al-Manar's report.
The statement, posted on the Beiteddine festival's website Monday, said Elmaleh was canceling his participation in the festival because of the "aggressive" nature of the report and out of concern for his safety.
The organizing committee of the Beiteddine Festival said on its website that it regretted what it also called a false report.
"As for the artist being Jewish, we are not aware that this religion constitutes a barrier for anyone to take part in activities like any other citizen," it said.
"The campaign led by Hizbullah against [Elmaleh's] travel to Lebanon under the pretext of supporting Israel is racist and an unacceptable mixing between politics, culture and religion," Christian lawmaker Sami Gemayel said in a statement published in Lebanese newspapers Monday.
A local human rights group said the campaign against Elmaleh "harms the image of Lebanon and its cultural richness." - The Daily Star, with AP
On the Net:
2009-06-29 19:31:12 -
BEIRUT (AP) - A French comedian has canceled his participation in a festival in Lebanon next month because of concerns for his safety after Hezbollah's TV station claimed he served in the Israeli army. Al-Manar TV said Gad Elmaleh, who is of Moroccan-Jewish descent, was an avid supporter of Israel and showed a purported picture of him wearing an Israeli military uniform. The performer's agent denied the report's claims and said the photo was a fake. Lebanon and Israel technically remain in a state of war, and it is illegal for Lebanese to have contacts with the Jewish State. Israel and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon _ most of them civilians _ and 160 in Israel. Elmaleh, known for his one-man comic acts, had been due to give three performances on July 13-15 at the annual Beiteddine cultural festival in the central Chouf mountains east of the Lebanese capital, Beirut. A statement from Elmaleh's agent, Gilbert Coullier, denounced the «false information» in Al-Manar's report. The statement, posted on the Beiteddine festival's Web site Monday, said Elmaleh was canceling his participation in the festival because of the «aggressive» nature of the report and out of concern for his safety.
The organizing committee of the Beiteddine Festival said on its Web site that it regretted what it also called a false report. «As for the artist being Jewish, we are not aware that this religion constitutes a barrier for anyone to take part in activities like any other citizen,» it said. «The campaign led by Hezbollah against (Elmaleh's) travel to Lebanon under the pretext of supporting Israel is racist and an unacceptable mixing between politics, culture and religion,» Christian lawmaker Sami Gemayel said in a statement published in Lebanese newspapers Monday.
A local human rights group said the campaign against Elmaleh «harms the image of Lebanon and its cultural richness
Elmaleh's case echoes our liberal
By Michael Young
-Daily Star staff
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Much indignation has been voiced in recent days against the actions of the Al-Manar website and television station that pushed the French actor and comedian, Gad Elmaleh, to cancel his performance at the Beiteddine Festival. That this is a free-speech concern is undeniable; however we should not underestimate the political messages also being sent.
Al-Manar accused Elmaleh, a French Jew of Moroccan origin, of having served in the Israeli army, and of otherwise advancing Israel's interests. This prompted a campaign of threats on the internet, as well as calls to boycott the comedian's stand-up show scheduled for July 13-15. Evidence for the accusations was scant and in some cases doctored, while Elmaleh's manager denied that he had anything to do with Israel.
How this reminds us of another craven campaign from several years ago, when Lebanon was still a Syrian protectorate. Back then, implicit threats were passed through a daily newspaper, probably by Syria's intelligence services, to prevent three Arab Jews from traveling to Beirut. Oddly, all were harsh critics of Israel, among them the Lebanese writer Selim Nassib and the Moroccan dissident Abraham Serfaty. Evidently, there are "acceptable" prominent foreign Jews, like Norman Finkelstein and Seymour Hersh, and there are Jews who, for obscure reasons, just don't make the cut.
Much of the reaction to Al-Manar's campaign centered on what it meant for freedom of speech and how Elmaleh's cancellation marred Lebanon's reputation. What Hizbullah's campaign tells us is that if prominent visitors happen to be Jewish, the party has appropriated the right to filter whether they enter Lebanon or not. Why should Hizbullah hesitate when its secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, declared in a September 1992 interview, that "for the resistance to survive there should be a community that adopts it and adopts the resistance fighter. This means that, in order to remain steadfast, that fighter needs to secure all the support he needs politically, security-wise, culturally and economically ..."
Put Elmaleh down as the latest victim of the resistance fighter's right to enjoy cultural sustenance. However, let's bear in mind a key difference that distinguishes the Elmaleh case (like those of Nassib and Serfaty) from other examples of cultural prohibition common to the Arab world, which can be eminently condemnable in their own right: it is underpinned by a forewarning of violence. Hizbullah has effectively granted permission for someone to take a potshot at the enemy if he dares enter our midst.
The logic is little different than Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie, albeit presented in a more devious way: We, the party or the cleric, issue a general justification for killing or harming an individual, and it is up to the faithful, whoever they might be, to implement it. That is very likely why Elmaleh cancelled his trip. Even if Hizbullah was never likely to do anything against the performer, who could guarantee that a zealot, feeling he or she had gained the party's approval, would not?
Politics has also played a role in the Elmaleh affair. In so many words Hizbullah has accused Walid Jumblatt, through the festival organized by his wife, Nora, of wanting to bring an Israeli soldier to Lebanon. On one cheek Jumblatt receives Nasrallah's kisses of reconciliation, on the other he must prepare for his slaps. Hizbullah knows that the Druze leader needs better relations with the Shiites, and so it apparently intends to make him pay a high price for this. It will not soon forget what Jumblatt said about the party during these past three years, and has even accused people around him of collaborating with Israel during the 2006 war. There is not much that Jumblatt can do about it, and his recent positions against privatization and Saad Hariri's "Lebanon first" slogan were surely, in part, efforts to curry favor with Hizbullah.
No less political was the press conference on Tuesday organized by Nora Jumblatt, the tourism minister, Elie Marouni, the culture minister, Tammam Salam, and the information minister, Tarek Mitri. Marouni declared, "[T]he principal enemy of tourism [in Lebanon] is Israel. Every strike against tourism is a gift to Israel." That a Phalangist minister should have sounded something like a Baathist clerk was unfortunate, but the point was unambiguous: Hizbullah, not those who invited Gad Elmaleh to Beirut, was the one serving Israel's interests. Forgetting about politics for a moment, the Elmaleh incident tells us a great deal about the kind of Lebanon that emerged from the 2005 independence intifada against Syria. Four years on there is still no clear agreement, let alone a debate, over what kind of state Lebanon should become. The liberal spaces in the country are many, but those who want to close these down are becoming more aggressive. Hizbullah is a prime culprit, but the party can only thrive in an environment where there is no consensus over what constitutes a red line in curbing our freedoms. Liberal outrage with what happened to Gad Elmaleh has been heartening, but how deep has this been felt among the mass of Lebanese?
The real battle since 2005 has been between Lebanon's liberal and illiberal tendencies, beyond the March 14-opposition dichotomy. We can lament Elmaleh's decision not to come to Beiteddine, but what we really must regret is that we live in a society where threats still have an impact, because no one trusts Lebanon's state and society to make those threats costly. Hizbullah has won this round, and now feels it can win many more.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
Gad Elmaleh's absence is yet
another missed opportunity
By The Daily Star
Friday, July 03, 2009
Gad Elmaleh, "the funniest man in France," will not be tickling audiences this month at the Beiteddine Festival. Last Saturday, the French stand-up comedian and actor, of Jewish-Moroccan descent, announced he had cancelled his performances in Lebanon because of security concerns.
The story behind Elmaleh's absence kicked off last week when Hizbullah's television affiliate Al-Manar published a photo of the comedian next to a photo of an Israeli soldier in full combat attire bearing his likeness. The accusations began: Elmaleh is an avowed Zionist devoted to Israel's protection; he served in the Israeli army for four years; he participated in campaigns in both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Whether or not these charges are true - organizers of the festival were quick to call the photo a forgery, and Elmaleh's manager flatly denied the claims - the argument taking place is legitimate. No Lebanese needs reminding of why Israeli soldiers are not welcome in our country. Timing has further complicated matters: Elmaleh's first performance was scheduled for the weekend of the third anniversary of the 2006 July War, from which Lebanon still bears considerable scars.
But with a lack of evidence to prove or disprove the accusations, we are left to speculation. Even if Elmaleh at one time served in the Israeli army - and this is indeed an if - what would his performance in Lebanon have meant? Might it at least have indicated a reciprocal curiosity and the ability to compartmentalize popular amusement from politics? As a world-famous comic and actor, Elmaleh stands on a public stage, one that is neither Israeli nor Jewish. His medium is comedy not propaganda, laughs not malice.
Although the absence of one comedian hardly dents the esteemed programs of Lebanon's many summer festivals, it underscores to the crude and dated rubric by which this country's partisan campaigns are waged and its political victories are measured. Lebanon's ruling class is buried up to its ears in politicking and blind to creative problem solving. What if, for example, Walid Jumblatt, whose wife runs the Beiteddine festival, had offered to take Elmaleh and donate his shows' proceeds to one of Lebanon's overcrowded and underserviced Palestinian refugee camps? What's the more principled stance: building awareness or further engendering enmity? The consequences of this deficiency are far broader than Elmaleh or the billing of summer festivals. The backwardness of Lebanon's political jockeying has prevented the country from moving ahead on issues that desperately require an innovative approach, like a long-running energy crisis or a haphazard environmental protection policy. The Elmaleh affair amounts to an opportunity lost, for the comedian, his prospective audience, and a country struggling to find a new way forward.
By Diana Mukkaled
Comedian Gad Elmaleh has cancelled the tour dates he was scheduled to perform this summer in Lebanon.
This young Frenchman of Moroccan descent has become the target of a fierce media smear campaign conducted by the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television station along with other Lebanese media organs over the past few days. This media campaign has made claims that Elmaleh has links to Israel, and that he previously served in the Israeli army. This smear campaign has utilized images taken from the internet which were later proven to have been complete fabrications.
Elmaleh is Jewish; however he has never served in the Israeli armed forces, nor is he Israel’s ambassador to the French-speaking states, as the media campaign alleged.
There can be no doubt that Elmaleh’s religion was used against him, and if we are to rely solely on facts, the only thing that has been ascertained is that Elmaleh is indeed Jewish. There is no truth in the allegation that Elmaleh is an Israeli citizen, or that he served in the Israeli armed forces. This media campaign against Gad Elmaleh is ongoing despite his official denial of these accusations.
As for having sympathy to Israel, Lebanon has previously played host to Western and Arab artists who have no problems with Israel; in fact some of these artists even performed on Israeli soil and have a more sympathetic attitude towards Israel than Elmaleh himself. However the difference between these artists and the French comedian is simply that Elmaleh is Jewish.
Those in the media that have cast these accusations against Elmaleh have succeeded in raising an irrelevant issue. If we decided to boycott all of those who refuse to boycott Israel then we will be in a very poor position, especially with regards to culture, the arts, and politics. This is something that we have clearly seen over the past decades. The world is filled with talent and experience, and this has nothing to do with our conflict with Israel. The decision to boycott this talent and experience would deprive us of considerable expertise in all fields, as well as depriving us of [the power of] communication and dialogue that helps to build a rich imagination and which can be utilized to advance our causes, particularly the Palestinian cause.
All that has resulted from this [media] battle with Gad Elmaleh is an admission of his Jewish faith, but what about the Jewish faith of the Israeli filmmaker Shimon Biton who has done more to advance the Palestinian cause than those who are “anti-normalization” [of relations with Israel].
What about Amira Hass, the Israeli Haaretz journalist who has done more to stand up against Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights than Arab journalists?
Should we have prevented US journalist Thomas Friedman, for example, from visiting Lebanon to observe the parliamentary elections just because he is Jewish?
Should we scrutinize every statement made by US writer Norman Finkelstein to ensure that he is merely criticizing the media policy of promoting the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, rather than showing any sympathy towards Israel? Of course, this is something that is clearly untrue.
Elmaleh was scheduled to put on two performances in Lebanon, but due to overwhelming demand the sponsors [the Beit El-Deen festival] added a third date on this tour. Of course this was prior to the large media smear campaign conducted against the French comic. Elmaleh’s tour of Lebanon was sold out; but this fact did not stop those who masterminded the smear campaign against what they described as an “Israeli attempt to infiltrate Lebanon.”
It goes beyond Gad Elmaleh
Hazem Saghiyeh , July 7, 2009
Some of those who have opposed Hezbollah’s campaign against Gad Elmaleh have fallen into the very trap that Hezbollah set. They have been trying to show that the Moroccan-French-Jewish artist and comedian has not taken any positive stance toward Israel nor harbored any sympathy for it.
This is not the issue at all. The issue, rather, is as follows: Is Gad Elmaleh an artist who deserves to be invited to an art festival, or is he not? Answering this question is a job for art critics.
That is to say that one’s stance with regard to Israel, indeed his political stance generally, is an unnecessary prerequisite. Since, if we were to follow this logic to its conclusion, what would we say in a case where a medical advancement was achieved at the school of medicine at Tel Aviv University? Would we seek to benefit from it to treat the sick among us, or would we spurn such treatment?
One of the most important characteristics of totalitarian culture is that it ties people into political positions and comes to regard them as mere affiliates of these positions. This lies in complete contrast to democratic culture, which would view them according to their numerous crafts and trades and according to their widely varying and diverse personal characteristics.
As such, if we think of an artist as “with us” or “with Israel” without taking his art into account, or caring to become acquainted with it or sharing it (see Firas Zbib in the “Nawafidh” section of Al-Mustaqbal newspaper), then that is the shortest road toward self-destruction and toward the enduring impoverishment that we would bring upon ourselves and our society.
To this effect, the late French orientalist Maxime Rodinson responded to those who attacked orientalism and orientalists with a wonderful line: “What is my concern with Champollion’s political stances so long as he deciphered [Egyptian] hieroglyphics?”
That there are those who break the world down into those who are “with us” and those who are “against us” and are not concerned with the deciphering hieroglyphics has not come out of nowhere. One of its sources is the farce about combating normalization of relations with Israel and combating “cultural invasion.” Here we should keep in mind that this kind of “invasion” is the only acceptable one and that this terminology is literally derived from Italian fascism.
However, those who are indifferent to deciphering hieroglyphics only blind us from the world and hinder our ability to benefit from an enormous amount of knowledge and experience for the mere reason that some Israeli ghost may haunt this convention or that!
This is another characteristic of totalitarian regimes: they fear the free flow of life and confront it with compulsion and force, concocting false images and “checking up” on anyone bearing a Jewish name, even if it were Karl Marx.
An extremely oppressive cultural power is lurking in our midst. It is, once again, bringing us to the question that is creating so great a divide among us and which “patriotism” – the affiliation with one country – will not be enough to bridge. What kind of Lebanon do we want? That is the question. And in such a case where Lebanon were to forgo being a country of cultural freedom, of creative freedom and of the freedom of expression, then that Lebanon can go to hell!
**This article is a translation of the original, which appeared on the NOW Arabic site on July 6.