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Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Spielberg banned in Middle East after Israel war donation'

Films made by veteran Hollywood director Steven Spielberg were banned by 14 Middle East countries after the 'Jurassic Park' filmmaker donated $1 million to Israel during the 2006 war with Lebanon, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

A leaked dispatch from the US embassy in Damascus, Syria says 14 countries voted to ban the director's films in response to his donation to Israel.

Israel and Lebanon were involved in a 34-day conflict that started in July 2006, which led to the death of over 1,300 people.

Spielberg was blacklisted by the Arab League's Central Boycott Office after a meeting of the group in April 2007.

Diplomats or representatives from 14 Arab states -- Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen -- had agreed to ban all films and other products related to Spielberg or his Righteous Persons Foundation, according to the leaked cable posted in the Guardian.

Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia were also present at the meeting and voted in favour of the boycott.

At the same meeting, cosmetics company Estee Lauder was added to the blacklist while financial services company Merrill Lynch was placed on a 'watchlist'.

The only Arab countries which did not attend the meeting were those who signed separate peace accords with Israel, namely Egypt, Mauritania and Jordan.

Marvin Levy, spokesman for Steven Spielberg, said: 'While we can't comment on a leaked cable, we know that the films and DVDs have been sold globally in the normal distribution through all this time.'

Steven Spielberg set up the Righteous Persons Foundation in 1994. Using his personal profits from the film 'Schindler's List' and, later, 'Munich', the foundation is dedicated to helping create a strong Jewish community in the US.

Over a week ago, Wikileaks released on the web a cable from the US Embassy in Riyadh that described how American films and television shows, such as the Late Show with David Letterman, Friends and Desperate Housewives have helped persuade Saudi youth to reject extremism.

The cable, which was sent in May 2009 from Riyadh and titled "Ideological and Ownership Trends in the Saudi Media," featured a section called "David Letterman, Agent of Influence."

It seems as far as the Arab world - or Saudi Arabia at the very least - is concerned, US comedian David Letterman gets the royal thumbs ups, while Spielberg isn't on the admittance list.