Comedian Gad Elmaleh has cancelled the tour dates he was scheduled to perform this summer in Lebanon.
This young Frenchman of Moroccan descent has become the target of a fierce media smear campaign conducted by the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television station along with other Lebanese media organs over the past few days. This media campaign has made claims that Elmaleh has links to Israel, and that he previously served in the Israeli army. This smear campaign has utilized images taken from the internet which were later proven to have been complete fabrications.
Elmaleh is Jewish; however he has never served in the Israeli armed forces, nor is he Israel’s ambassador to the French-speaking states, as the media campaign alleged.
There can be no doubt that Elmaleh’s religion was used against him, and if we are to rely solely on facts, the only thing that has been ascertained is that Elmaleh is indeed Jewish. There is no truth in the allegation that Elmaleh is an Israeli citizen, or that he served in the Israeli armed forces. This media campaign against Gad Elmaleh is ongoing despite his official denial of these accusations.
As for having sympathy to Israel, Lebanon has previously played host to Western and Arab artists who have no problems with Israel; in fact some of these artists even performed on Israeli soil and have a more sympathetic attitude towards Israel than Elmaleh himself. However the difference between these artists and the French comedian is simply that Elmaleh is Jewish.
Those in the media that have cast these accusations against Elmaleh have succeeded in raising an irrelevant issue. If we decided to boycott all of those who refuse to boycott Israel then we will be in a very poor position, especially with regards to culture, the arts, and politics. This is something that we have clearly seen over the past decades. The world is filled with talent and experience, and this has nothing to do with our conflict with Israel. The decision to boycott this talent and experience would deprive us of considerable expertise in all fields, as well as depriving us of [the power of] communication and dialogue that helps to build a rich imagination and which can be utilized to advance our causes, particularly the Palestinian cause.
All that has resulted from this [media] battle with Gad Elmaleh is an admission of his Jewish faith, but what about the Jewish faith of the Israeli filmmaker Shimon Biton who has done more to advance the Palestinian cause than those who are “anti-normalization” [of relations with Israel].
What about Amira Hass, the Israeli Haaretz journalist who has done more to stand up against Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights than Arab journalists?
Should we have prevented US journalist Thomas Friedman, for example, from visiting Lebanon to observe the parliamentary elections just because he is Jewish?
Should we scrutinize every statement made by US writer Norman Finkelstein to ensure that he is merely criticizing the media policy of promoting the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, rather than showing any sympathy towards Israel? Of course, this is something that is clearly untrue.
Elmaleh was scheduled to put on two performances in Lebanon, but due to overwhelming demand the sponsors [the Beit El-Deen festival] added a third date on this tour. Of course this was prior to the large media smear campaign conducted against the French comic. Elmaleh’s tour of Lebanon was sold out; but this fact did not stop those who masterminded the smear campaign against what they described as an “Israeli attempt to infiltrate Lebanon.”