“West Beirut” and “The Insult” Director Ziad Doueiri Arrested in Beirut Because His Last Movie Was In Israel

Pity the nation that insults its people as other nations honor them.

Ziad Doueiri is probably the most essential contemporary Lebanese cinematic director. His movie “West Beirut” is probably the most renowned Lebanese movie for the past 2 decades and his latest “The Insult” just made its debut at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews and a best actor win for Kamel El Basha, starring as Yasser in the aforementioned movie.

And yet, here we are, with such a Lebanese pioneer being arrested because his prior movie, The Attack, was set in Israel even if it did not show the Israeli state in a good light.

I had the chance to watch The Attack in 2013 when I was with a friend in Paris. That same movie had been banned in Lebanon because it was set in Israel. Understandable, given the country couldn’t even handle a movie where the main actress was Israeli. And even though I was not a fan of that movie at the time, I was still able to commend the fact that it commanded a discussion. Be it with the other Lebanese who watched it with me, or the French people in that theatre who were wondering about what the details the movie discussed actually meant.

“The Insult” opens in theaters in Lebanon in a few days. Local movie reviewers such as Anis Tabet have given it a glowing recommendation. But that seems not to be on the same wavelength of the Lebanese state that’s arrested Mr. Doueiri at our airport for “dealing with the enemy.” He was coming here prior to the Tuesday premiere of his movie.

It’s horrifying to see how narrow-minded we can be and how despicable our levels can sink when dealing with the people of our country that help raise our voice on international levels, such as Mr. Doueiri, because of convoluted measures that have no reflection whatsoever on reality: a person filming a movie in Israel does not mean they are in bed with the enemy.

Following his arrest at the airport, Doueiri’s Lebanese and French passports were both confiscated. He is scheduled to stand trial in front of Military Court tomorrow at 9AM, Beirut time. Meanwhile, his movie “The Insult” has been selected by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture to represent Lebanon at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Bipolarity much? Not only are they arresting him five years after he had been in Israel and after multiple visits back to Beirut, but you can’t also arrest a director for “treason”, and then use him to propel you on the international cinematic stage. You can’t arrest a Lebanese citizen and then use his work to wash away the many failings that constitute your modern republic.

The arrest of Ziad Doueiri comes after a complaint lodged against him. Expect the campaign against the director to go into full blown mania soon.

It’s not just the lack of consistency that’s horrifying, it’s the absolute carelessness of our basic rights as citizens, and the fact we are at the whim of some entities that have nothing better to do.

The entire notion that Military Court can judge civil issues is abysmal. It’s even worse when you realize that Doueiry was in Lebanon to film “The Insult,” even spending two weeks doing so at the country’s highest court.

The question therefore becomes: why now? What prompted them to realize just before his movie’s Lebanese release that he has a troublesome past?

I bet some people in Lebanon would be happy to see Mr. Doueiri foresake his Lebanese citizenship. After all, the bar at which some label others as traitors seems to fluctuate depending on whether their existence is essential or not. At the rate we’re going, he wouldn’t be mistaken to do so. After all, we have no issue with any other foreigner who’s visited Israel to come into the country as long as their passport doesn’t have a stamp.

Utterly despicable. Here’s hoping the Prime Minister and our government see through this bullshit.

Update: he’s been cleared by military court.


15 thoughts on ““West Beirut” and “The Insult” Director Ziad Doueiri Arrested in Beirut Because His Last Movie Was In Israel

  1. For more than 5 decades until just recently, the United States, the land of the free, had banned its citizens to travel to Cuba. As a U.S. citizen, you could even be arrested and prosecuted for buying and importing their Cuban cigars, let alone traveling to their land to make a movie.

    I agree with you about the schizophrenic positions shown by the authorities, and I am not one to defend our useless government and worthless politicians. However, I disagree with you on the principle of Doueiri’s arrest. Any state has the right to define its enemies, set travel restrictions against them, and enforce the laws on its own citizens if they break them. Whether or not Mr. Doueiri was “in bed with the enemy” at the time of filming is immaterial. He broke a clearly stated Lebanese law. And his arrest, like the arrest of countless American citizens who ventured to go to Cuba or brought in innocuous Persian rugs from Iran, should not be regarded out of the norm.

    But fret not. This arrest cloud carries a huge silver lining; it could be the best thing that happened to the movie maker. Doueiri’s court trial could well be the strong pivot point the film needs at the Academy Awards. As we all know, most of Hollywood voters at the Oscars are Israel-sympathizers. When the word goes out about the director’s mistreatment, “prosecution and persecution” in his own Lebanon, that could thrust the movie to nomination – and even winning. I have little doubt that will happen.

    And Ziad Doueiri will have the last laugh.


    • samrexter I fully agree with you! And I’m sure Ziad Doueiri expected that to eventually happen and he probably did his due delegence before taking that step; whether shooting the movie in Israel or coming back to Lebanon after it.
      Regardless if we agree with it or not, the law is the law and it has to apply to all citizens. Whether a director, a human right activist or even a priest.


    • My Dear Sam.rxter..
      Not sure I buy most of your argument except a small part of the last paragraph which contained the silver lining but not for the reasons you mentioned. I was going to respond in more length but I decided against it. I think the article explained it well. Now, regarding this treason law for simply visiting Israel, and since you seem to think that America is right by imposing their extraterritorial laws on Cuba, they now cancelled it; may be Lebanon should do the same and be like the rest the Arab brothers.


  2. Samrxster: you have no idea what you’re talking about. I am American and have American friends who were able to legally acquire permits to film in Cuba. They were not arrested for their behavior.


    • Sarah – samrxter wrote “For more than 5 decades until recently…”. Perhaps the commenter is older & lived through & remembers the Cold War & you are younger so do not? I’m not saying this is the case; but it happens all the time between people whose ages vary. Before the travel ban was lifted (1990s?) it was quite a different situation. So apparently your American friends filmed after that. (I am American also. Lebanese American).


    • “Who writes this shit?”

      People who have more to bring to the table than “Who writes this shit?”. People who have better things to do than curse at strangers to introduce themselves. The list goes on…


  3. I’m Lebanese and I support peace with Israel.
    If the Lebanese authority would like to arrest me, I’d be more than happy to give them my contact details.


    • My dear, no one is against peace.
      It’s about a fair and sustainable peace that does not ignore the facts of history, injustices and the human rights including self determination of individuals.
      Do you fancy a peace treaty similar to Egypt and Israel’s? Jordan and Israel’s? With the current Israeli and Lebanese leadership, do you believe a peace treaty would be well developed, fair and sustainable?


  4. I am going to start off w/ something meant to be taken w/ laughter before the pointy objects begin flying at me from every direction for the rest of my comment. There is an orientalist stereotype (in the States etc.) that we are late to everything (& disorganised & chaotic etc.). So the ‘five years’ aspect is really funny. How great would it be if the Lebanese govt would say they’d been joking all along because of *that*.

    I saw this director speak at MoMa (Museum of Modern Art in NYC) after a premiere NYC showing of West Beirut. (Film Society of New York debut of the film in 1999). I didn’t see his film The Attack; but when I read about it – at the time of its release – the big trouble some had w/ it was its depiction of a Christian as a suicide bomber. (Was that not at the heart of the plot? Please correct me if I’m wrong). Since people were saying that there was never a Christian suicide bomber. (That there has been other violence from Christians was not part of the argument). I wonder if that is an unspoken motive for the govt here? xx


  5. The Lebanese have always been so wishy washy
    They can’t have any concencess when it comes to politics and policies and the law!! Some plolitians have done more grave actions than Mr doueiri.
    But I still disagree with you on the arrest since countries do set laws and rules defining their ban on countries their citizens can travel to whether they are considerd an enemy or not.


  6. Pingback: “The Insult” Is Nominated For Best Foreign Film Oscar, First Time Ever For A Lebanese Movie | A Separate State of Mind | A Blog by Elie Fares

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