Banned Books in Lebanon

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.” He knew well that censorship and freedom had long been enemies, and had he been alive today, he would probably not be very impressed with the state of progress we have achieved as a country.

Lebanon has a long history of censoring books, films, art, songs, opinions, etc. Since the last week of September is celebrated as Banned Books Week, this article will be dedicated solely to presenting banned books in Lebanon—all 54 of them. I will also present an additional 14 books that were once banned but are now allowed, or books that are thought to be banned but are in fact not.

One might not think that books would get banned in our country since authors who are thwarted in other Middle Eastern countries often seek Lebanon to publish their books. One example is Tayib Saleh’s book, “Season of Migration to the North”, which got banned in Sudan, only to be published in Lebanon instead.

Our constitution also seems to protect freedom of speech. Article 13, for example, states that “freedom of expression by word or pen, freedom of the press, freedom of holding meetings and freedom of association are equally guaranteed within the framework of the law”.

However, the reality is that our censorship police is just as malignant as those in other Arab countries. The power to ban books in Lebanon is granted to the General Security, which “consults” religious authorities, like the Catholic Church, the Supreme Islamic Shiaa Council, and Dar Al-Fatwa. Although it is not clearly stated in the law, these religious institutions effectively dictate what material is suitable for the Lebanese population, and more dangerously, what material is unsuitable. Other major players are, of course, the corrupt sectarian political parties that we are all so familiar with.

The reasons for banning books vary, but these regressive forces usually justify their actions by pretending to be driven by the national duty to maintain “social stability”. What they really mean to say is, “If anyone says something we don’t like, we will cause riots and instability,” as they have on multiple occasions. These medieval thugs are not the guardians of stability; if anything, they are holding it as their hostage.

The list of banned books in Lebanon is continuously changing since some books may suddenly be banned or suddenly have the ban on them lifted. If you know of any other banned books that are not included in the list below, please mention them in the comments.

Finally, it is important to note that the censorship police in Lebanon lacks consistency. It is not unusual to have them banning one book for a particular theme/reason while allowing another book that shares the same theme. Competency has never been the hallmark of the Lebanese state.

Note: Some of the books banned in Lebanon can be found in local bookshops that sell used books, as some people buy them from abroad and sell the books to them.

Here is a list of banned books in Lebanon, in alphabetical order:

1 . A Brief History of the Middle East

Author: Christopher Catherwood

 Year of censoring: 2012

Censoring reason: Religiously and politically controversial

Content: In The Brief History of the Middle East, author Christopher Catherwood attempts to show how our entire world is ultimately shaped by events that have unfolded or have their origin in the Middle East. Catherwood insists that, unless we allow ignorance to blind us—which to a certain extent it already has—the Middle East must not be viewed as “some strange place over there”. Three of the world’s major organized religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—all stem from the area, as do defining civilizations from Ancient Egypt to Babylonia. Catherwood examines this storied region through the lens of the present by asking these questions: How did the Palestinian issue arise? Why does Osama bin Laden harp on the glories of Moorish Spain? Why did Islamic extremism come to be a substitute for Arab socialist nationalism for so many? Today’s headlines have clear historical explanations, and The Brief History of the Middle East will bring that concept into focus.

2 . A History of God: The 4,000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam 

 Author: Karen Armstrong

 Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: “Strange as it may seem, the idea of ‘God’ developed in a market economy in a spirit of aggressive capitalism,” Karen Armstrong asserts in her fascinating work, A History of God. Armstrong considers herself a “historian of ideas,” and with this broad view she gives a compelling account of the correspondences among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and the historical, philosophical, intellectual, and social developments through the ages that both shaped them and were shaped by them.

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3 . A History of Zionism

Author: Walter Laqueur

Year of censoring: 2003

Censoring reason: Israeli Author

Content:  Walter Laqueur traces Zionism from its beginnings—with the emancipation of European Jewry from the ghettos in the wake of the French Revolution—to 1948, when the Zionist dream became a reality. He describes the contributions of such notable figures as Benjamin Disraeli, Moses Hess, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and Sir Herbert Samuel, and he analyzes the seminal achievements of Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weitzmann, and David Ben Gurion.

4 . After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine

Author: Anthony Lowenstein & Ahmed Moor

Year of censoring: 2015

Censoring reason: Politically controversial (Israel).

Content:  After Zionism brings together some of the world’s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution.

Time is running out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different future.

Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, John Mearsheimer, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy, and Jonathan Cook.

5 . The Belfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Author: Jonathan Schneer

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Politically controversial (Israel)

Content: Issued in London in 1917, the Balfour Declaration was one of the key documents of the twentieth century. It committed Britain to supporting the establishment in Palestine of “a national home for the Jewish people,” and its reverberations continue to be felt to this day. Now the entire fascinating story of the document is revealed in this impressive work of modern history.

With new material retrieved from historical archives, Jonathan Schneer recounts in dramatic detail the public and private fight for a small strip of land in the Middle East, a battle that started when the Ottoman Empire took Germany’s side in World War I. The key players in this conflict are rendered in nuanced and detailed relief: Sharif Hussein, the Arab leader who secretly sought British support; Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist folks-mensch who charmed British high society; T. E. Lawrence, the legendary British officer who “set the desert on fire” for the Arabs; and the other generals and prime ministers, soldiers and negotiators, who shed blood and cut deals to grab or give away the precious land.

A book crucial to understanding the Middle East as it is today, The Balfour Declaration is a riveting volume about the ancient faiths and timeless treacheries that continue to drive global events.

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6 . Christmas in the Koran: Luxenberg, Syriac, and the Near Eastern and Judeo-Christian Background of Islam

Author: Ibn Warraq

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: Centering on the pioneering work of Christoph Luxenberg, this anthology of scholarly yet accessible studies of the Koran makes a convincing case that Islam’s holy book borrowed heavily from Christian texts in Syriac and other Near Eastern sources.

In this important compilation, Ibn Warraq focuses on the pioneering work in Syriac and Arabic linguistics of Christoph Luxenberg, a native speaker of Arabic who lives in the West and writes under a pseudonym. Luxenberg’s careful studies of the Koran are significant for many reasons. First, he has clarified numerous obscurities in the Koran by treating the confusing passages as poor translations into Arabic of original Syriac texts. He demonstrates that when one translates the difficult Arabic words back into Syriac, the meaning becomes clear. Beyond textual clarity, Luxenberg’s scholarship provides ample evidence that the Koran developed from a Judeo-Christian background, since Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic) was the main language of both Jews and Christians in the Middle East before the advent of Islam.

7 . The Coup Against the Taef

Author: Albert Mansour

Year of censoring: 2000

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: The book discusses the Syrian issue and its impact on Lebanon.

Note: The book is banned in English, but it is available in Arabic.

8 . The Da Vinci Code

Author: Dan Brown

Year of censoring: 2004

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: A mind-bending code hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. A desperate race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe. An astonishing truth concealed for centuries… unveiled at last.

Note: It can be found in used book stores, in which people buy it from abroad and sell it to them.

9 . From Beirut to Jerusalem

 Author: Thomas L. Friedman

 Year of censoring: 2017

 Censoring reason: Politically controversial (Israel)

Content: From Beirut to Jerusalem, winner of the 1989 National Book Award for nonfiction, is the startling, intense and thought-provoking account of Thomas L. Friedman’s decade of reporting in the strife-ridden Middle East. Thomas L. Friedman has won two Pulitzer prizes—one for his reporting in Beirut and one for reporting in Jerusalem, the two cities at the center of the Arab–Israeli conflict. No two cities have received more headline coverage, nor been more hotly debated, and no reporter has covered them more in depth than Friedman. In his journey from Beirut to Jerusalem, Friedman gives us a panoramic view of both the political and personal conflicts.

10 . From Israel to Damascus

Author: Robert Hatem

Year of censoring: 1990

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: This book was written by Robert Maroun Hatem, known as Cobra. Cobra currently resides in France as a political refugee. In pursuit of honor, justice, and a free morale, Robert Maroun Hatem broke the code of silence about the unacceptable, the world of tragedy, corruption, crime and darkness under which Lebanon exists (today).

11 . Grover’s Eight Nights of Light

Author: Jodie Shepherd

Year of censoring: 2017

Censoring reason: It contains a celebration of Hanukkah (Judaism)

Content: It’s Hanukkah on Sesame Street, and Grover invites his friends to a Hanukkah party at his house. Girls and boys ages 2 to 5 will learn the why and how of celebrating Hanukkah along with Elmo, Telly, Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert, Ernie, Zoe, and Murray. The story offers a simple outline of the holiday’s origins, lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and eating latkes and other traditional delicacies. This colorful paperback storybook offers stickers, press-out Hanukkah cards, and a poster with a Hanukkah party game. The story includes gentle messages about friendship, kindness, and tolerance to highlight the Sesame Street mission of helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder—because Sesame Street is the most trusted name in early learning.

12 . Inside the Kingdom

Author: Robert Lacey

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Offensive to Saudi Arabia

Content: Though Saudi Arabia sits on one of the richest oil deposits in the world, it also produced fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. In this immensely important book, journalist Robert Lacey draws on years of access to every circle of Saudi society giving readers the fullest portrait yet of a land straddling the worlds of medievalism and modernity. Moving from the bloody seizure of Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979, through the Persian Gulf War, to the delicate U.S.-Saudi relations in a post 9/11 world, Inside the Kingdom brings recent history to vivid life and offers a powerful story of a country learning how not to be at war with itself.

Note: The book is only banned in English, but it can be found in Arabic in any local bookshop. There is even a special valentine edition in Arabic dedicated to the king!

13 . Israel’s Wars

 Author: Ahrom Bregman

Year of censoring: 2012

Censoring reason: Author is originally Israeli (Israel)

Content: From the 1947-8 Jewish–Palestinian struggle for mastery of the land of Palestine to the Al-Aqsa intifada, the second Lebanon war and the Gaza wars, Bregman exposes hitherto unknown facts, including details of secret Soviet involvement in inciting the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli bombing of the American warship the USS Liberty, and Israeli assassinations of leading Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

14 . Israeli Rejectionism: The Secret History of the Middle East Peace Process

Author: Zalman Amit & Daphna Levit

Year of censoring: 2012

Censoring reason: Politically controversial (Israel)

Content: The Palestine–Israel conflict is one of the longest running and seemingly intractable confrontations in the modern world. This book delves deep into the ‘peace process’ to find out why so little progress has been made on the key issues. Zalman Amit and Daphna Levit find overwhelming evidence of Israeli rejectionism as the main cause for the failure of peace.

15 . The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy

Author: John J. Mearsheimer

Year of censoring: 2015

Censoring reason: Politically controversial (Israel)

Content: The Israel Lobby, by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, was one of the most controversial articles in recent memory. Originally published in the London Review of Books in March 2006, it provoked both howls of outrage and cheers of gratitude for challenging what had been a taboo issue in America—the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy.

16 . Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Author: Yotam Ottolenghi

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Israeli author

Content: In Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi explore  the vibrant cuisine of their home city, with its diverse Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. Both men were born in Jerusalem in the same year—Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. This stunning cookbook offers 120 recipes from their unique cross-cultural perspective, from inventive vegetable dishes to sweet, rich desserts. With five bustling restaurants in London and two stellar cookbooks, Ottolenghi is one of the most respected chefs in the world; in Jerusalem, he and Tamimi have collaborated to produce their most personal cookbook yet.

17 . Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradiction in the Bible (and Why We Don’t  Know About Them)

Author: Bart D. Ehrman

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: The problems with the Bible that New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman discussed in his bestseller Misquoting Jesus—and on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR, and Dateline NBC, among others—are expanded upon exponentially in his latest book: Jesus, Interrupted. This New York Times bestseller reveals how books in the Bible were actually forged by later authors, and that the New Testament itself is riddled with contradictory claims about Jesus—information that scholars know… but the general public does not.

18 . The Jewish Mind

Author: Raphael Patai

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Israel/Zionism

Content: A landmark exploration of Jewish history and culture first published in 1977, The Jewish Mind provides a penetrating insight into the complex collective reality of the Jewish people. Raphael Patai examines how six great historical encounters, spanning three millennia, between the Jews and other cultures led to both change and continuity in Jewish communities throughout the global diaspora.

19 . The Jewish State

Author: Theodor Herzl

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Zionist author (Zionism/Israel)

Content: Hertzl speaks about the condition of the Jews in Europe and raises the idea of the Jewish immigration to Jerusalem

20 . The Lebanese Connection

Author: Jonathan V. Marshall

Year of censoring: 2014

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: The Lebanese Connection uncovers for the first time the story of how Lebanon became one of the world’s leading suppliers of illicit drugs, how its economy and political system were corrupted by drug profits, and how the drug trade contributed to the country’s greatest catastrophe, its fifteen-year civil war from 1975 to 1990.

21 . Le Tsunami Arabe

 Author: Antoine Basbous

Year of censoring: 2010

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: What are these revolts and their unexpected consequences foreshadowing? Is it a disorder, a regression or a profound change? How long will it take for new elites to create viable democratic governance in the Arab world? In the meantime, what are the real risks of civil war or the establishment of an “Islamic Emirate”? And how will the “three neighbors” react: Iran, Turkey and Israel?

22 . The Little Book of Big Penis

Author: Dian Hanson

Year of censoring: 2012

Censoring reason: Immoral

Content: In The Little Book of Big Penis we explore the centuries-old enthrallment with the large phallus, a fascination common to men and women alike. The book is profusely illustrated with over 400 historic photos of spectacular male endowments, including rare photos of the legendary John Holmes. The majority of the photographs are from the 1970s, when the sexual revolution first freed photographers to depict the male entirely nude.

23 . Mahomet

Author: Voltaire

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: This powerful work was read by Voltaire to Frederick of Prussia in 1740, to the king’s great delight. The play was withdrawn after the fourth representation, under pressure of Church authorities who professed to see in it a bloody satire against the Christian religion. Almost three hundred years later critics are still unclear if this play is a rebuke of Islam or of Christianity or, perhaps, both.

24 . Messiah Secret

Author: James Becker

Year of censoring: 2012

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: Assessing the contents of a lavish English estate, museum conservator Angela Lewis discovers a crate full of sealed pottery jars—one of which holds a parchment which describes the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

For Angela, the find is a miracle—a written reference to Jesus outside of the New Testament. But her discovery draws her and her husband, Chris, into a centuries-old race for the truth that they may not win… or survive.

25 . Night

Author: Elie Wiesel

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Judaism (portrays the Jews in a favorable light)

Content: Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be. 

26 . On the Nation and Jewish People

Author: Shlomo Sand & Ernest Renan

Year of censoring: 2012

Censoring reason: Judaism/Israel

Content: Sand shows the relationship of Renan’s work to that of key twentieth-century thinkers on nationalism, such as Raymond Aron and Ernest Gellner, and argues for the continued importance of studying Renan.

Alongside his essay, Sand presents two classic lectures by Renan: the first, the renowned “What Is a Nation?”, argues that nations are not based upon race, religion, and language; in the second he uses historical evidence to show that the Jews cannot be considered a “pure ethnos.” On the Nation and the Jewish People is an important contribution to the understanding of nationalism, bringing back into play the work of a profoundly misunderstood thinker.

27 . Peace for Lebanon? From War to Reconstruction

Author: Deirdre Collings

Year of censoring: 1994

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: Although Lebanon is no longer at war, its long-term stability remains hostage to a myriad of political, economic and regional problems. This book serves as a comprehensive survey of developments in Lebanon following the 1990 peace accord. The authors examine the roles of Syria, Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the internal challenges facing the Lebanese in their attempts to reconstruct their polity, economy and society. They also outline areas in which the international community can, and should, play an active role in Lebanon’s re-stabilization.

28 . The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Author: Adi Ophir, Michal Givoni & Sari Hanafi

Year of censoring: 2010

Censoring reason: Israeli author

 Content: An analysis of Israeli power in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with essays by leading Palestinian and Israeli scholars, a comprehensive chronology, photographs, and original documents.

29 . Princess Nina

Author: Marlise Achterberg

Year of censoring: 2015

Censoring reason: Homosexuality (encourages kids to accept homosexuality)

Content: Princess Nina is an extraordinary princess. She is smart, curious, sweet and also a bit wild. One day the king and queen decide they have to go looking for a suitable prince for princess Nina. They invite princes from all over the world: a prince from China, one from France, from Mexico … But not even the prince on the white horse can steel princess Nina’s heart away! The king and queen are at the end of their wits. But then princess Melowo comes to visit, and suddenly princess Nina is very shy …

A funny and modern fairy-tale about two stubborn princesses who are madly in love. Winner of the Diversity Award, a competition for children’s stories of inclusive works and partners.

 Note: The book got banned after some parents raged about having such a book in the hands of their kids. Bookshops also stopped bringing the book to avoid any quarrels with parents.

30 . The Satanic Verses

Author: Salman Rushdie

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Religiously offensive

Content: Just before dawn one winter’s morning, a hijacked plane blows apart high above the English Channel and two figures tumble, clutched in an embrace, towards the sea: Gibreel Farishta, India’s legendary movie star, and Saladin Chamcha, the man of a thousand voices.

Washed up, alive, on an English beach, their survival is a miracle. But there is a price to pay. Gibreel and Saladin have been chosen as opponents in the eternal wrestling match between Good and Evil. But chosen by whom? And which is which? And what will be the outcome of their final confrontation?

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Note: The book is only banned in Arabic and English, while it is not banned in French.

31 . The Satanic Bible

Author: Anton Szandor Lavey

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Satanism

Content: Called “The Black Pope” by many of his followers, Anton La Vey began the road to High Priesthood of the Church of Satan when he was only 16 years old and an organ player in a carnival:

“On Saturday night I would see men lusting after half-naked girls dancing at the carnival, and on Sunday morning when I was playing the organ for tent-show evangelists at the other end of the carnival lot, I would see these same men sitting in the pews with their wives and children, asking God to forgive them and purge them of carnal desires. And the next Saturday night they’d be back at the carnival or some other place of indulgence.

“I knew then that the Christian Church thrives on hypocrisy, and that man’s carnal nature will out!”

From that time early in his life his path was clear. Finally, on the last night of April, 1966—Walpurgisnacht, the most important festival of the believers in witchcraft—LaVey shaved his head in the tradition of ancient executioners and announced the formation of The Church of Satan. He had seen the need for a church that would recapture man’s body and his carnal desires as objects of celebration. “Since worship of fleshly things produces pleasure,” he said, “there would then be a temple of glorious indulgence . . .”

32. Schindler’s List

 Author: Thomas Keneally

Year of censoring: 1994

Censoring reason: Judaism

Content: A stunning novel based on the true story of how German war profiteer and factory director Oskar Schindler came to save more Jews from the gas chambers than any other single person during World War II. In this milestone of Holocaust literature, Thomas Keneally, author of Daughter of Mars, uses the actual testimony of the Schindlerjuden—Schindler’s Jews—to brilliantly portray the courage and cunning of a good man in the midst of unspeakable evil.

Note: The book had the ban on it lifted in 2014, to then be banned again in 2015.

33 . Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

  Author: Nabeel Qureshi

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content:  In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, now expanded with bonus content, Nabeel Qureshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way.

Providing an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi struggled with an inner turmoil that will challenge Christians, Muslims, and all those who are interested in the world’s greatest religions.

Engaging and thought-provoking, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells a powerful story of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart—and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus.

34 . The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade

Author: Andrew Feinstein

Year of censoring: 2011

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: Andrew Feinstein, former member of the African National Congress, investigates the secretive world of the global arms trade in his gripping new book The Shadow World.

Feinstein reveals the corruption and the cover-ups behind BAE’s controversial transactions in South Africa, Tanzania and eastern Europe and the revolving-door relationships that characterize the US Congressional-Military-Industrial Complex.

35 . The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948

Author: Eugene L. Rogan & Avi Shlaim

Year of censoring: 2001

Censoring reason: Politically controversial (Israel)

Content: The 1948 war led to the creation of the state of Israel, the fragmentation of Palestine, and to a conflict which has raged across the intervening sixty years. The historical debate likewise continues and these debates are encapsulated in the second edition of The War for Palestine, updated to include chapters on Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. In a preface to this edition, the editors survey the state of scholarship in this contested field. The impact of these debates goes well beyond academia. There is an important link between the state of Arab-Israeli relations and popular attitudes towards the past. A more complex and fair-minded understanding of that past is essential for preserving at least the prospect of reconciliation between Arabs and Israel in the future. The rewriting of the history of 1948 thus remains a practical as well as an academic imperative.

36 . White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa

Author: Sharon Rotbard

Year of censoring: 2015

Censoring reason: Israeli Author

Content: White City, Black City is a story of two intertwining narratives which reveals the hidden history of the region where now stands modern-day Tel Aviv. The new architectural landscape of this city, its Bauhaus-influenced modernist architecture glittering white, represents one side of the story, that of the White City, which rose from the sparse sand dunes to house a new Jewish society.

But there is a second story—that of the Black City of Jaffa, the traces of which lie on the outskirts of the region, and which are rarely mentioned.

In this book, Sharon Rotbard blows apart this palimpsest in a clear, fluent and challenging style, which promises to force the reality of what so many have praised as ‘progress’ into the mainstream discourse.

White City, Black City is, all at once, an angry uncovering of a vanished history, a book mourning the loss of an architectural heritage, a careful study in urban design and a beautifully written narrative history. It is in all senses a political book, but one that expands beyond the typical.

37 . Where is Baby’s Dreidel?

Author: Karen Katz

Year of censoring: 2015

Censoring reason: Judaism

Content: It’s Chanukah, and Baby wants to spin the dreidel—but where is it? Children can lift the flaps to find Chanukah symbols while they join Baby in this fun-filled, hide-and-seek adventure. A wonderful Chanukah treat for babies!

38 . Who Was Jesus?

Author: Kamal S. Salibi

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: This book is an extraordinary and provocative explanation of one of history’s great unsolved mysteries: who – or what – was Jesus? The Gospels provide no direct answers, and both the life of Jesus as it has been recorded for us, and the teachings and activities of the Apostles, are surrounded by extraordinary contradictions and baffling inconsistencies. No reader can fail to be carried along by the tantalizing search for clues as Salibi attempts to unravel history’s best-kept secret—the true identity of Jesus.

39 . Wonder Woman: The Deluxe Junior Novel

Author: Steve Korte

Year of censoring: 2017

Censoring reason: The cover contains a picture of the Israeli actress Gal Gadot

Content: Based on the major motion picture, this hardcover edition of Wonder Woman: The Junior Novel retells the exciting story of Diana’s journey to become one of the world’s greatest heroes and features eight pages of full-color images from the film.

40 . Wonder Woman: The Junior Novel

 Author: Steve Korte

Year of censoring: 2017

Censoring reason: The cover contains a picture of the Israeli actress Gal Gadot

Content: Based on the major motion picture, Wonder Woman: The Junior Novel retells the exciting story of Diana’s journey to become one of the world’s greatest heroes and features eight pages of full-color images from the film.

41 . Islam Dod El Islam – إسلام ضد الإسلام 

 Author: Sadek Al Nayhoum – الصادق النهيوم

Year of censoring: 1995

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial


على صفحات هذا الكتاب تجربة لتبادل الحوار حول دور (الجامع) في نظام الشورى، ويجر الحوار المؤلف إلى تفاصيل جانبية خارجة جداً عن أصل الموضوع، في شهادة واضحة، كما يقول المؤلف-على أننا-رغم لساننا الواحد-لا نتكلم دائماً لغة واحدة.
والهدف من وراء طرح هذا الموضوع هو التوصل من خلال البرهان القاطع بأن (حزب الجامع) يستطيع أن يعيد للإسلام وجهه الجميل، وينقذه من عبودية التاريخ والفلسفة، ويكسب المعركة الصعبة ضد الاقطاع والأصولية، ويمنح أمتنا الإسلامية أول تنظيم سياسي قادر على ضمان صوت المواطن شرعياً وعملياً. وهي منجزات قد تبدو أشبه بالمعجزة في ضوء الواقع الإسلامي الحرج. لكن الإسلام، وكما يقول الكاتب-قد حقق هذه المعجزة ذات مرة بين قبائل من العرب المعزولين في عتمة القرن السابع، وليس ثمة ما يعوقه عن تحقيقها مرة أخرى بين شعوب عربية متطورة، تتخاطب عبر الأقمار الصناعية على عتبة القرن الواحد والعشرين

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42 . Al Hakem Be Amer El Mal – الحاكم بأمر المال


Author: Rola Ibrahim & Ghassan Souad – رلى ابراهيم – غسان سعود

Year of censoring: 2016

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: The book states what each deputy and minister in the Lebanese government owns and what businesses and companies they have.

Note: The book was banned from the market to then be released again after having some of its pages censored by the general security. The pages that got censored are about the possessions of the major Lebanese politicians. Hence, now it is sold but with censored pages.

43 . Ketab Al Shakhseya Al Mohamadia – كتاب الشخصية المحمدية

    Author: Maarof Al Resafe – معروف الرصافي

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: The book speaks about the life of prophet Mohammad in an objective way.

Note: After the book got banned, the remaining copies in the market weren’t withdrawn. Hence, some bookshops continue to sell the book camouflaged under a different name. Some public libraries even have a copy of it.

44 . Indama Sar Isme 16 – عندما صار اسمي 16

Author: Adonis El Akra – ادونيس العكرة

Year of censoring: 2001

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: The book speaks about the period when Akra got detained in the Ministry of Defense in 2001, when the government arrested members of the opposing parties.

45 . Nesaa Raidat Men El Aalam Al Arabi – نساء رائدات من العالم العربي

Author: Imad Chahine – عماد شاهين

 Year of censoring: 2009

Censoring reason: It contains a part about the business endeavors of Wafaa Moghniye, the widow of Imad Moghniye, a previous leader in Hizbollah

Content: The book talks about the success achieved by several women from different countries in the Arab world.

46 . Mehnat Al Akel Fe Al Islam – محنة العقل في الاسلام

   Author: Mostafa Geha – مصطفى جحا

 Year of censoring: 1981

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: The book criticizes some aspects of Islam from a philosophical point of view.

47 . King Faisal of Saudi Arabia: Personality, Faith and Times – الملك فيصل

     Author: Alexei Vassiliev – الكسي فاسيليف

Year of censoring: 2013

 Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: In 1964, Faisal bin Abdul Aziz became king of a country holding a quarter of the world’s oil reserves, also home to Mecca and Medina. He was called ‘the most powerful Arab ruler in centuries’. Eleven years later, in front of television cameras, his nephew shot him at point-blank range. In this authoritative biography, Alexei Vassiliev tells the story of a pious, cautious and resolute leader who steered Saudi Arabia through a minefield of domestic problems, inter-Arab relations and the decline of Soviet influence in the Middle East. King Faisal maintained ties with both Egypt and the United States through two Arab-Israeli wars and the 1973 Arab oil embargo, which revolutionized the world energy market. Throughout, he staked high hopes on cooperation with the US, a relationship that is still vital to both countries’ interests.

Note: The book is only banned in Arabic, while it is available in English.

48 . Al Maasara – المعصرة

Author: Georges Alam – جورجس علام

Year of censoring: 2010

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: The book talks about Alam’s experience in the Ministry of Defense prison, in which he got tortured.

Books that are thought to be banned, or that were actually once banned, but are now allowed:


1 . Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Author: Anne Frank

Year of censoring: 2006

Censoring reason: Judaism (it portrays the Jews in a favorable light)

Content: In 1942, with the Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and surprisingly humorous, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

2 . Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East

Author: David Hirst

Year of censoring: 2015

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: In this magisterial history of Lebanon, from the end of Ottoman rule to the Hezbollah and Hamas wars of today, acclaimed and fiercely independent Middle East journalist and historian David Hirst charts the interplay between a uniquely complex country and the broader struggles of the modern Middle East. Lebanon is the battleground on which the region’s greater states pursue their strategic, political, and ideological conflicts—conflicts that sometimes escalate into full-scale proxy wars. Hirst warns that only serious diplomatic action from the Obama administration can prevent the next such action from engulfing the entire region.

3. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Author: Yuval Noah Harari

Year of censoring: 2017

Censoring reason: Israeli author

Content: Over the past century, humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

Note: All of Yuval Hariri books fluctuate between getting banned and then being sold again. It depends on when the government lets the rope loose and then bookshops hasten to sell them again before they get banned once more.

4 . How They Stole the Game

  Author: David Yallop

Year of censoring: 1999

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: What’s wrong with football today? In June 2011, Sepp Blatter was elected—uncontested—as president of Fifa once more. Despite attempts to halt the vote amidst allegations and accusations of corruption, the show went on. As How They Stole The Game, David Yallop’s classic expose of the dark heart behind the beautiful game, showed when it was first published, football was rotten from the top down. In the book Yallop reveals the story of João Havelenge, Fifa president from 1974 to 1998, and the Godfather of football, and how he turned a religion to millions of fans into a multi-billion dollar business, riven with suspicious deals and unexpected payments.

5 . The Invention of the Jewish People

Author: Sholomo Sand

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Israeli author

Content: A historical tour de force, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a groundbreaking account of Jewish and Israeli history. Exploding the myth that there was a forced Jewish exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand argues that most modern Jews descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In this iconoclastic work, which spent nineteen weeks on the Israeli bestseller list and won the coveted Aujourd’hui Award in France, Sand provides the intellectual foundations for a new vision of Israel’s future.

Note: The book is only banned in English, but it is available for purchasing in French.

6 . Johnny Got His Gun

Author: Dalton Trumbo

Year of censoring: 2000

Censoring reason: Violence

Content: Johnny Got His Gun is an anti-war novel written in 1938 by American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and published September 1939 by J. B. Lippincott. The novel won one of the early National Book Awards: the Most Original Book of 1939.

Joe Bonham, a young soldier serving in World War I, awakens in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell. He gradually realizes that he has lost his arms, legs, and all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue), but that his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body.
Joe attempts suicide by suffocation, but finds that he had been given a tracheotomy which he can neither remove nor control. At first Joe wishes to die, but later decides that he desires to be placed in a glass box and toured around the country in order to show others the true horrors of war. After he successfully communicates with his doctors by banging his head on his pillow in Morse code, however, he realizes that neither desire will be granted; it is implied that he will live the rest of his natural life in his condition.
As Joe drifts between reality and fantasy, he remembers his old life with his family and girlfriend, and reflects upon the myths and realities of war.
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7 . Persepolis

 Author: Marjane Satrapi

Year of censoring: 2007

Censoring reason: Offensive to Iran

Content: In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

8 . Philip Roth’s Books

Year of censoring: 1960

Censoring reason: Judaism (portrays Jews in a favorable light)

9. Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind

Author: Yuval Noah Harari

 Year of censoring: 2017

Censoring reason: Israeli author

Content: 100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical—and sometimes devastating—breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behavior from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power… and our future.

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10 . SAS 181: La Liste Hariri

  Author: Gerard De Villiers

 Year of censoring: 2010

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: The armored Cherokee was swept like a straw and thrown against a pile of containers. Malko saw through the curled windshield a wall of flames. Instinctively, he tried to open the door to escape from the vehicle that was beginning to burn. Flames began to reach the hood. He would die out of suffocation or be burnt alive.

11 . Sophie’s Choice

Author: William Styron

Year of censoring: 2009

Censoring reason: Portrays the Jews in a favorable light

Content:  Three stories are told: a young Southerner wants to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between a brilliant Jew and a beautiful Polish woman; and of an awful wound in that woman’s past—one that impels both Sophie and Nathan toward destruction.

12 . Sweet

Author: Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh

Year of censoring: Upon publishing

Censoring reason: Israeli Author

Content: A collection of over 110 recipes for sweets, baked goods, and confections from superstar chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Yotam Ottolenghi is widely beloved in the food world for his beautiful, inspirational, and award-winning cookbooks, as well as his London delis and fine dining restaurant. And while he’s known for his savory and vegetarian dishes, he actually started out his cooking career as a pastry chef. Sweet is entirely filled with delicious baked goods, desserts, and confections starring Ottolenghi’s signature flavor profiles and ingredients including fig, rose petal, saffron, orange blossom, star anise, pistachio, almond, cardamom, and cinnamon. A baker’s dream, Sweet features simple treats such as Chocolate, Banana, and Pecan cookies and Rosemary Olive Oil Orange Cake, alongside recipes for showstopping confections such as Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs and Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut, and Rosewater.

13 . Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God

Author: Armin Navabi

Year of censoring: 2017

Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: “Science can’t explain the complexity and order of life; God must have designed it to be this way”.

“God’s existence is proven by scripture”.

“There’s no evidence that God doesn’t exist”.

“God has helped me so much. How could none of it be true?”.

“Atheism has killed more people than religion, so it must be wrong!”.

How many times have you heard arguments like these for why God exists? Why There Is No God provides simple, easy-to-understand counterpoints to the most popular arguments made for the existence of God. Each chapter presents a concise explanation of the argument, followed by a response illustrating the problems and fallacies inherent in it. Whether you’re an atheist, a believer or undecided, this book offers a solid foundation for building your own inquiry about the concept of God.

14 . I Live – أنا أحيا


   Author: Layla Baalbaki – ليلى بعلبكي

  Year of censoring: 1958

  Censoring reason: Immoral

 Content: Baalbaki’s first highly acclaimed novel, Ana Ahya (I am Alive), was published in 1958, and a volume of her short stories, Safinat Hanan ila al-Qaamar (A Spaceship of Tenderness to the Moon), came out in 1963. The stories landed her in court on charges of obscenity and harming public morality. Although she was eventually acquitted, she stopped publishing works of fiction after 1964, and has since written mostly articles for newspapers.

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15 . Al Istklal  Al Thani – الاستقلال الثاني


  Author: Mounsif El Marzouki – منصف المرزوقي

Year of censoring: 1996

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

Content: Mounsif questions the validity of the independence and raises the question of whether we have really gained our independence.

16 . The Garden of the Senses – حديقة الحواس

  Author: Abdo Wazen – عبدو وازن

 Year of censoring: 1993

Censoring reason: Immoral

Content: ينتقل المؤلف في حديقة الحواس ليروي مشاهداته وإحساساته من خلال كلمات وعبارات تلتقطها الحواس. فالكتابة هي الرغبة في الكتابة، هي اللذة المفاجئة التي تعروك فيما انت تستسلم لها بهدوء. غير أن الكاتب فقد رغبة الكتابة عندما دخل رغبة الجسد

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17 . Kheyanat Al Logha Wa Al Samet – خيانات اللغة و الصمت

 Author: Faraj Bayrakdar – فرج بيرقدار

Year of censoring: 2011

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

 Content: إن السائد في سوريا هو قانون القوة لا قوة القانون. ذلك أن جميع الأنظمة التي تعاقبت على الحكم خلال الثلاثين سنة الماضية، إنما وصلت إلى سدة السلطة على أبراج الدبابات، وعبر الإنقلابات لا عبر الإنتخابات، الأمر الذي يعني أنها أنظمة غير شرعية، وأن كل ما صدر عنها من قوانين ومراسيم هو غير شرعي أيضاَ، بما في ذلك محكمة امن الدولة التي أقف أمامها الآن كمتهم.
أيها السادة، ليس ما تسمعونه أو تقرؤونه الآن تقريراً صحفياً معداً للإستهلاك، وليس بيانات كاذبة تروجها أجهزة مأجورة أو مشبوهة، بل هو ما تبقى من أنقاض روحي، وأنقاض مئات المعتقلين السياسيين الشرفاء.

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18 . Al Rehan Al Akbar – الرهان الاكبر

 Author: Habib Harb – حبيب حرب

Year of censoring: 1992

Censoring reason: Politically controversial

 Content: The book talks about the Lebanese civil war.

19 . The Perfumed Garden – الروض العاطر في نزهة الخاطر

 Author: Cheikh Al Nafzawi – محمد بن محمد النفزاوي

Year of censoring: 1940

 Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

Content: The Perfumed Garden is an Islamic sex manual, similar to the Hindu Kama Sutra. The full title of the book is The Perfurmed Garden of Sensual Delight. It is believed to have been written between 1410 and 1434.

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20 . Hanan’s Voyage to the Moon – سفينة حنان الى القمر

    Author: Layla Baalbaki – ليلى بعلبكي

   Year of censoring: 1963

  Censoring reason: Immoral


إن كتاب سفينة حنان إلى القمر هو ثورة على الجهل والخوف والعبودية، حيث أحدثت قضية ليلى بعلبكي استنكاراً في كل البلاد

العربية من البحر الأبيض المتوسط إلى البحر الأحمر.

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21 . The Critique of Religious Thought – نقد الفكر الديني

   Author: Sadek Jalal Al Azm – صادق جلال العظم

  Year of censoring: 1969

  Censoring reason: Religiously controversial

 Content: يضم الكتاب مجموعة أبحاث تتصدى بالنقد العلمي والمناقشة العلمانية والمراجعة العصرية لبعض نواحي الفكر الديني السائد والذي يسيطر إلى حد بعيد على الحياة العقلية والشعورية للإنسان العربي، إن كان ذلك بصورة صريحة وجلية أو بصورة ضمنية لا واعية. بمحاولة تهدف إلى شرح مضمون الايديولوجية الدينية ونقلها من حالتها الضمنية العفوية اللاشعورية إلى حالة تتشبه بالعرض والتنظيم الفكري والوعي المنطقي واستبدال الفكر الديني بالفكر العلمي التحليلي للنقد الايديولوجية الغيبية السائدة على كافة المستويات

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Note: Most of the books synopses are taken from, unless otherwise stated.

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An English literature and translation graduate, teacher, translator and a librarian who dreams of a better secular world.