In today’s Wall Street Journal, William Marling notes the Orwellian irony of UNESCO naming Beirut, Lebanon the 2009 “World Book Capital City.” Lebanon, after all, maintains a long list of banned books: The Diary of Anne Frank (blacklisted because it portrays Jews favorably); The Da Vinci Code (protested by the Catholic Information Center); From Beirut to Jerusalem (portrays Zionism favorably); a variety of books critiquing Islam (protested by Dar al-Fatwa); and many, many more.
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.)
Lebanon’s exceedingly low standards for censorship — any of the country’s major sects can request that a book be banned — make it nearly impossible to challenge its pervasive prejudices. But insofar as these titles sit prominently in bookstore windows surrounding the Arab world’s top university, this seems to be the point — to protect hatred for hatred’s sake.
No wonder they hate us, indeed.