Little of Haaretz's "Culture and Literature" section is translated into English. That is a pity because an article appeared in that supplement entitled, "They are trying to dictate to us what to read." Read it in Hebrew here.
According to the article by Gish Amit, the Israeli government, since August 2008, has clamped down on the importing of all Arabic books from Syria and Lebanon. They based this new practice on a pre-state, 1939 mandatory regulation that forbade the importing of books from enemy states. (Presumably, that meant Nazi Germany.)
This mandatory regulation has never been enforced in Israel's existence – until last year.
Israeli Palestinian booksellers who import large number of books for Israel's Palestinian citizens saw their books confiscated; in some cases, through proteksia and maneuvering, they were able to get a temporary waiver. But that is now over.
How important are these books? According to the Haaretz article, 80% of the books needed for Israeli Palestinians, including children's literature, dictionaries, etc., are printed in Beirut and Damascus. Of course, there are many books published in Cairo, such as the Harry Potter series, and these are ok. But why prevent children from reading Bambi and Tigger, printed in Lebanon
Or more importantly, getting the needed Arabic books and dictionaries at affordable prices.
Now what's the government's case? It doesn't want to support the publishing industry of countries with which Israel is at war.
That would be reasonable if there were an alternative place to get the books, and if the regulation had been enforced at any time in Israeli history.
But this just seems a measure intended to hassle Israeli Palestinian book importers, whose livelihood is at stake, and to control the material read by Israeli Palestinians.
Thanks are due to Gish Amit and Haaretz, for bringing this item to the public's attention during Hebrew Book Week, the national celebration of Hebrew publishing.