Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Banning Wonder Woman could be bad for Lebanon

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Lebanon and Israel have been at war for decades. But for the past seventeen years, Lebanon has been winning. At great cost, of course, but winning nonetheless. We can’t thank politicians for this achievement. If they were in charge of battle, we would have lost every single time. The recent Wonder Woman ban is another proof of their total lack of understanding of war tactics.

A war doesn’t always happen on the battlefield. Most of the time, it happens politically and economically on the international scene. For the past seventeen years, Lebanon has had the upper hand on the battlefield, forcing Israel to withdraw its troops in 2000 then stopping it from achieving its goals in 2006.

But on the international scene, Lebanon is losing. The country’s economy is much weaker than the Israeli economy. And its political influence is close to zero, while Israel has never been so influential. This growing international influence is driving the Israeli government to implement more oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people and act more aggressively towards its neighbors.

The BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) was created to hurt the Israeli economy and force the Israeli government to do things for the Palestinians it wouldn’t have done otherwise. Its other purpose is to financially hurt companies supporting Israel so they'd stop or at least minimize their support. In other words: a ban is a weapon, and a weapon is supposed to hurt. If it doesn’t, there’s no point firing it.

How banning the movie Wonder Woman, because its main cast is Israeli, is going to hurt Israel? There are not enough moviegoers in Lebanon for a low-budget Lebanese movie to insure payback on investment, let alone make some profit. So imagine what banning a multi-million dollar Hollywood production with a worldwide distribution can do. Nothing, not even a poke.

Some argue that the film had to be banned because Gal Gadot, the actress playing Wonder Woman, has publicly expressed her support for the Israeli army. And screening a movie where she’s the hero is a dangerous message for the Lebanese people.

How would that work? Would the Lebanese moviegoers watch the film and say Wonder Woman is awesome so let’s join the Israeli army or the Mossad? Would they think more of Israel? Considering this is simply ridiculous. Lebanon has suffered way too much and way too many times on the hands of Israel for any Lebanese that doesn’t have pro-Israeli sympathies to change his mind.

Basically, this ban doesn’t do any harm whatsoever to Israel and doesn’t have any benefit for Lebanon. On the contrary, it could have very harmful consequences on the country’s economy and for Lebanese around the world.

If Israel decides to reciprocate and ban every company that does business in or with Lebanon, how many international companies wouldn’t leave eventually? How many local companies dealing with foreign counterparts wouldn’t be forced to close down? How many thousands jobs could be lost?

Furthermore, if Israel bans every entertainment product (film, TV, music, etc.) that involves a Lebanese, and uses its international influence to enforce that ban throughout the world, how many would be able to keep their job, let alone stay center stage? Unless they speak out against Lebanon’s anti-Israeli resistance, they don’t stand a chance.

Let’s not even mention the country’s reputation. Already the international mainstream media is reporting the story, painting the local situation in a not-so-positive light. Lebanon didn’t need this type of publicity, especially when the summer season is about to start and the economy is so desperate for tourists.

To put it simply: the Wonder Woman ban doesn’t affect Israel in any way or form but could be very harmful to Lebanon. In war tactics, it’s called a stupid move.

So what could be done to avoid this type of mishap in the future? Sadly, not much. Lebanese politicians don’t work for the benefit of the country and its citizens but to further their personal agenda. If they think that a similar communication stunt can increase their popularity, they’ll go for it regardless of the consequences.

Actually, the most important question the Lebanese need to ask is what can be done to replicate the battlefield victories on the international scene? The answer is obvious: be united, work hard, discreetly and efficiently, with clear objectives and well-defined strategies to achieve them.

Unfortunately, that seems too much to ask of Lebanese politicians. They don’t even realize that communication is a major weapon during wartime, and that communication is now mainly on the Internet. The country’s Internet connection is as bad as bad can be, and will surely stop altogether if or when Israel attacks Lebanon, rendering the Lebanese silent and leaving the Israeli propaganda unchallenged.

© Claude El Khal, 2017