Moroccan-French comedian Gad Elmaleh has been forced to cancel his performances at the Lebanese Beiteddine festival following a fierce propaganda campaign against him driven by Hezbollah.
The photomontage above, which includes a picture of the artist, a photo of an Israeli soldier, and an image of Lebanon under attack, is how the Shiite TV channel al Manar portrayed Gad Elmaleh. The channel claimed that the photograph of the Israeli soldier, which does bear something of a resemblance, was that of the artist at hand, leading viewers to believe that the Moroccan-born French citizen at some point served in the IDF. The photograph, along with several others, had been originally published on a pro-Israel website some 12 years ago. FRANCE 24 contacted the website, which explained that as an organisation which supports ASBI-Keren soldiers, the photographs, each accompanied by a comment from a celebrity, were sold in order to raise funds for social work projects. The picture in question however, was certainly not that of Gad Elmaleh.
Despite being hugely popular in Lebanon (tickets for the shows sold like hot cakes and he was even solicited into performing an extra show), Elmaleh announced on Saturday that he would not be able to perform at July's Beiteddine festival "in light of various protests and calls for boycott". The announcement has raised concerns with some ministers and ire from the public. An online movement based on Facebook vows to fight what they call "the terrorism of culture" by Hezbollah.
“This story is catastrophic for Lebanon’s image”
Reina Sarkis is a Lebanese psychoanalyst and researcher living in France. She's part of the movement which is calling for resistance against Hezbollah.
I'm absolutely furious. It's through intellectual terrorism that Hezbollah has managed to get their way. They've taken the Lebanese people hostage, because people outside the country associate all of us with Hezbollah's ideas. [French publication] ‘Le Nouvel Observateur' published a post entitled ‘In Gad Elmaleh, Lebanon sees an Israeli soldier'. There's the proof. This story is catastrophic for Lebanon's image.
By over-politicising Lebanon, there's no space for hindsight or self-criticism. And it's possible to assume that a Jew must also be a Zionist and an Israeli soldier! You can't ban the right to laugh. What will go next? Woody Allen films and Freud books? We need to resist this; we can't let them censore us with ideas that only suit them. We're all victims in this case, just like Gad.
I've already counted myself in and signed up to the movement on Facebook that plans to project a spectacle of the artist, preferably on a big screen at Beiteddine, the day he's supposed to be performing. If the festival organisers won't go along with it, then we'll do it elsewhere."
The original, entirely unrelated, photo