“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.

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The Lebanese President & The Arrest of Jean Assy

It was July 2011.

Some local band had their song picked up by Lebanon’s “security” agencies and were investigated regarding its supposedly president-insuling content. Everyone got up in a fit. The law being employed to justify the arrest was an ancient one that forbids Lebanese citizens from insulting the president.

A few hours later, it was our president Michel Sleiman himself who ordered the band be released when he found out they were arrested due to insulting him.

It is now June 2013.

A local activist named Jean Assy, who also happens to be a staunch FPM supporter, is arrested for insulting the president. All hell broke loose on social media. The constitution’s preamble that guaranteers freedom of speech has been quoted so many times that I can almost recite it at this point had I been paying closer attention. Jean Assy will soon be released because these charges never, ever stick. And he will become a local hero for many who are beginning to idolize him.

But is July 2011 similar to June 2013?

I do not follow Jean Assy on Twitter because I mostly disagree with content and find the tone unacceptable. But I occasionally get his tweets retweeted onto my timeline. Is this matter only because he “criticized” the president? I remember seeing many tweets in which the words “president” and “castrated” [in that order] were mentioned. Is that freedom of opinion or is it libel?

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Is the arrest of Jean Assy warranted? Possibly not. In an ideal situation, I can call my president anything and expect to get away unscathed. But this isn’t an ideal country. In fact, I can barely think of a few things that make standards of life here remotely acceptable. You only need to check the news – word of advice: do not – to know how deep in this hellhole we are. What Jean Assy’s arrest for investigation, however, is not a matter of political rhetorical martyrdom and the Lebanese president turning into a dictator when, for all matters and purposes, the Lebanese president may be perfectly unaware of this even happening and the whole arrest is carried out by some security men with a vendetta under the pretext of a law that needs to be changed and removed.

The other element of the Jean Assy arrest is some prominent FPM politicians running to his rescue with tweets and retweets of their own. I have to ask those politicians: where were you when Hachem Salman was killed at the front doors of the Iranian Embassy? Where are you now that Ramy and Marwa Olleik are forbidden from going back to their hometown due to their threats on their lives? Or are my liberties as a Lebanese contingent upon the political rhetoric they can spark?

It is a sad day when opinionated people get arrested due to silly outdated laws, regardless of how over-the-line those people may have gone. But look at the silver lining: at least Jean Assy has people to watch his back. Many other Lebanese do not.

Pierre Hachach (El Ma2da7) Arrested

For those who don’t know Pierre Hachach, he’s the man from Batroun behind the “ma2da7” posters in the 2005 parliamentary elections: neyeb l akhdar wel yebes. He has since ventured into many other domains, such as singing.

Pierre Hachach was battered by rifles on his head and taken to the police with no legal warrant yesterday where he was refused medical care. His sister was also attacked and thrown on the streets as she demanded he be administered medical help. He has been held in prison since.

The charge? He insulted the head of the army on his Facebook profile. So as our army general heads the festivities of today’s independence day, Pierre Hachach bleeds on the floor of the HQ of Lebanon’s military police to which he was transferred today.

Last time I checked, it was the army’s duty to protect us not drag us to military court for stuff we post on our Facebook profiles. What harm did Kahwaji receive from Hachach’s supposed insult? What’s next? Round up anyone who dares speak up about any shortcomings in this nation, particularly when it comes to the army, and throw them in jail?

Besides, since when is it the job of the army to check people’s Facebook profiles for offenses against army general Jean Kahwaji? Don’t they have better things to do than stalk people’s profiles all day searching for things that could be held against them in court? And since when should we tolerate these laws that put some figures in power on a pedestal from any form of criticism, be it positive or negative?

Army general Jean Kahwaji may not know about what’s happening to Pierre Hachach and odds are he will ask for Hachach’s release when he knows. But the problem is with the arrest in the first place – we have resources to arrest people randomly but not the resources to enforce security on the entirety of the country.

So let’s focus on Facebook and those on Facebook who stray from the correct path and forget about every other thing taking place in this country. Allah ye7mik ya watan w allah yse3dna kamein. 

Update: It seems that Hachach was arrested not because he insulted the army commander but because he got into a personal feud with someone that led to the army arresting him. Hachach then innundated the army with a slur of swear words. 

Either way, I am against the arrest and especially against dragging him to military court.