Lebanon bans new ‘Wonder Woman’ film, after campaigners target Israeli star Gal Gadot
‘First and foremost she is Israeli. We don’t distinguish between a good Israeli and a bad Israeli’
Lebanese authorities banned the new Wonder Woman film on Wednesday, hours before it was due to premiere in the capital, following a campaign against lead actress Gal Gadot, who served in the Israeli army.
Cinemas in Beirut began removing the film’s posters and cinema executives said it will not be shown because of the ban.
Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and the two countries have been through a number of wars. A particularly devastating 2006 war battered Lebanon’s infrastructure and left hundreds of civilians killed.
The ban is in accordance with a decades-old law that boycotts Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from travelling to Israel or having contacts with Israelis. The official says the ban issued by the minister of interior on Wednesday has been relayed to the distribution company, which in turn has to inform the cinemas planning to show the film.
A premiere later on Wednesday in Beirut was cancelled. An executive at the Grand Cinema chain said the company was planning to show the film in 16 out of its 18 cinemas around the country, but it would now be removed.
The security official said violators of the ban will have to face legal consequences, but he didn’t specify. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been published.
A campaigner against the film, Rania Masri, hailed the decision to ban Wonder Woman, saying it signalled respect for the law. She said there was much anticipation as the decision was last minute, just before the official launch of the film.
“Still, it was a joyous moment the minute the law was implemented,” said Masri, of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel.
A similar campaign against another film where Gadot played the role of Wonder Woman last year, Batman v Superman, never turned into an outright ban. Masri said it was “different” this time because of a major media campaign against the film that has helped push for the ban.
On its front page on Wednesday, the leading al-Akhbar newspaper had a column titled: “The Israeli soldier. She has no place in Lebanon.” The column featured a picture of Gadot carrying her Wonder Woman shield.
Warner Bros, which has released the film, declined to comment.
Economy Ministry official Alia Abbas said her department, which is responsible for enforcing the boycott of Israel, had delivered a request to ban Batman v Superman last year. But the ban didn’t come together. This time they presented their petition to the security agencies on Monday, she said.
Tensions have been rising between Israel and Hezbollah, with Israel reportedly bombing several Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent months. Israel has signalled that the targets were smuggling sophisticated weapons to Lebanon. Hezbollah officials said recently that they are not seeking war but are ready for it.
On her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the 2014 Gaza-Israel war, sending prayers to soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas”.
Masri said the campaign to boycott is about “self-respect” and “resisting” normalising relations with a state that is at war with Lebanon and occupies Palestinian land. “First and foremost she is Israeli. We don’t distinguish between a good Israeli and a bad Israeli,” Masri said of the boycott campaign.