Store banned from importing books printed in Lebanon, Syria

From the archive (legacy material)

Ruth Sinai | Haaretz | 6 May 2005

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment has prohibited a Haifa bookstore from importing books printed in Lebanon and Syria, counter to a policy followed for many years that permitted such imports.
The head of the ministry’s Wood, Paper, and Print Department, Shmuel Nahmias, sent a letter this week to the Kol-Bo bookstore stating that importing products from Syria and Lebanon violates a law called the Ordinance against Trade with the enemy.
Store manager Salha Abbasi said Thursday that he has always received a permit to import books from Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries. Many books from the Arab world are printed in Lebanon, because its printing technology is considered superior to other Arab countries, Abbasi said. Abbasi imports the books via Egypt and Jordan, thereby avoiding direct trade with enemy countries. In addition to requesting a ministry permit, Abbasi must submit a list of imported books to the military censor, which usually authorizes the books despite asking to see one or two books on occasion.
The prohibition against importing books from Syria and Lebanon is “a draconian and unreasonable prohibition that was decided upon by an authority that has no connection to culture or books,” Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh wrote to Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert. “It goes against the law of freedom of occupation, and it constitutes an extreme violation of democracy, freedom of information, research and opinion. The prohibition appears patently absurd in an era of Internet accessibility and advanced information technology.”
The ministry admitted Thursday that it usually authorizes book imports from Arab countries out of an understanding of Israeli Arabs’ cultural needs.
Following Barakeh’s letter, the ministry said it would grant approval for the imports soon. “The ministry’s professional staff was instructed to re-examine its position regarding the requested book imports. The authorization will be approved in the near future.”