By Natacha Yazbeck (AFP) – Nov 6, 2009
BEIRUT — Anne Frank's diary has been censored out of a school textbook in Lebanon following a campaign by the militant group Hezbollah claiming the classic work promotes Zionism.
The row erupted after Hezbollah learned excerpts of "The Diary of Anne Frank" were included in the textbook used by a private English-language school in western Beirut.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel ran a report slamming the book for focusing on the persecution of Jews.
"What is even more dangerous is the dramatic, theatrical way in which the diary is emotionally recounted," said the report aired last week and also published on the station's website.
It questioned how long Lebanon would "remain an open arena for the Zionist invasion of education."
A member of the school board, Jimmy Shoufani, told AFP the school dropped the textbook from its curriculum after the controversy erupted. He asked that the school not be identified.
Hezbollah officials could not reached for comment.
In the Al-Manar report, party MP Hussein Hajj Hassan had criticized the school for showing poor judgement in picking out its textbooks.
"These respected, established schools are teaching the so-called tragedy this girl lived, and yet they are ashamed to teach the tragedy of the Lebanese people, the tragedy of the Palestinian people... the tragedy of the people of the south under the hands of Zionist occupation," he told Al-Manar.
Paris-based organisation Aladdin's Project, which fights Holocaust denial and first translated Anne Frank's diary into Arabic, issued a statement condemning Hezbollah's "intimidation campaign."
Hezbollah fought a devastating war with the Jewish state in 2006. It has since refused to surrender its weapons arguing they are necessary to fight Israel, which withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 after close to two decades of occupation.
The militant party last month also took aim at another textbook used in a leading private school in Beirut in which Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas are referred to as "terrorist organisations".
The chapter in question is usually blanked out by Lebanon's censorship bureau, but an uncensored copy purchased by a student abroad apparently sparked the uproar.
Lebanon, which remains technically at war with Israel, bans the import of products from the Jewish state.
Attorney Naim Kalaani, a member of a committee to ban Zionist products, told Al-Manar that use of the book was a violation of Lebanon's penal code and "tantamount to a step toward normalisation" in ties with Israel.
However journalist and criminologist Omar Nashabe rejected such arguments as unfounded.
"The law talks about the state of Israel -- the Israeli flag, Israeli institutions, the Israeli entity, as a nation," Nashabe told AFP.
"Besides Anne Frank is not Israeli," he added. "Anne Frank is part of world literature."
He also pointed out that Frank's diary was available online.
Frank wrote the diary while her family hid from Nazi police and sympathizers in an Amsterdam attic from 1942 to 1944.
She later died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15, and the diary was published posthumously.
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