With aliens poised to extinguish mankind in the film "Independence Day," the president of the United States declares the Earth "united in our common interest" to survive. "We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore," actor Bill Pullman says in the movie's climactic speech.

Evidently he is not much acquainted with the Middle East. Here in Lebanon the American science fiction hit has been censored, censored a second time and now faces demands for a complete ban because the character who saves the planet -- computer scientist David Levinson, played by Jeff Goldblum -- is a Jew.

Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim political movement and militia with strong ties to Iran, has been the loudest voice denouncing the film, which plays here with subtitles in Arabic and French. A few days ago Hezbollah issued a statement calling Roland Emmerich's thriller "propaganda for the so-called genius of the Jews and their concern for humanity," with a sprinkling of American hegemony blended in.

Even at East Beirut's upscale Empire theater, where a more Westernized crowd of mostly Christian viewers is flocking to see the film, many moviegoers are coming away annoyed. In a country that fought a 17-year civil war among Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Maronite and Orthodox Christians, and Druze, not to mention Palestinians, nearly everyone seems to note at once that the Jew and the black man, a Marine pilot played by Will Smith, are the heroes, while white and presumably Gentile men play a drunken crop-duster and a bad-guy defense secretary with important subsidiary roles.

"Artistically it was a very good film," said Marwan Slim, a sharply dressed 31-year-old entrepreneur. "But it's an insult to the American people, the idea that the salvation of America is a Jew, and the traitor to America is a white man. It's this Jewish notion of God's chosen people."

"We all know that Hollywood is very pro-Jewish," said Joe Takla, 29, who raises honeybees. "They didn't give {Steven} Spielberg the Oscar until he did Schindler's List.' "

That film, as it happens, never played in Lebanon or anywhere in the Arab world. Governments and audiences here are not much interested in themes of Jewish victimhood in World War II.

In "Independence Day" as shown in Beirut, attention to detail is necessary to discover that Goldblum's character is a Jew. True, his name is Levinson, and his father, played by Judd Hirsch, tosses off Yiddish terms such as schlemiel. But Lebanese censors removed a good deal before the Interior Ministry's Public Security Department approved it for distribution.

Gone is the scene in which Hirsch dons a skullcap and leads a group of White House aides and soldiers in a Hebrew prayer for mercy. Gone, too, is the fleeting footage -- a few seconds at most -- of Israeli troops working side by side with Arabs in a desert redoubt.

"Of course it has been cut," said Khalil Khoury, the Empire's manager. "They had to cut all the Jewish pictures."

After the film began showing, in fact, someone noticed that the skullcap was still on Hirsch's head when he embraced Goldblum in the final scene. Khoury said an official from the censor's office was dispatched to each theater several weeks ago to examine each print of the film and cut that scene.

Film censorship is nothing new here, nor is it limited to things Jewish. "Striptease," also playing at the Empire, is shown without most of Demi Moore's marquee attractions. Even on-screen kisses that last too long are sometimes known to disappear.

"Independence Day" is also full of small insults to the sensibilities of viewers in this part of the world. Primitive-looking Bedouins are shown running in fear when the alien spacecraft arrive, with none of the can-do resistance displayed by Americans who dominate the film.

Pullman's U.S. president speaks nostalgically of the Persian Gulf War, a "simple" time when "we knew what we had to do." Arab street opinion ran strongly against that war, and even those who disliked Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not watch his country's bombardment with anything like unmixed approval.

Nor are Arabs the only ones to single out the religion of Goldblum's hero, an environmentally sensitive sort who recycles aluminum cans between flashes of insight that eventually lead to the aliens' defeat. Ephraim Buchwald, writing in the Philadelphia-based Jewish Exponent, said the film had exposed more people "to a positive message about Judaism than at any time since The Ten Commandments.' "

That is more or less exactly what Hezbollah is complaining about, though it also takes the idiosyncratic view that the film somehow "hints that the source of danger to mankind emanates from certain parts of the Third World, particularly from the Arab and Islamic world."

"Our blood is still damp, even from the April aggression, and we are having Jewish propaganda," said Ibrahim Musawi, foreign press liaison for Hezbollah in Beirut, referring to Israel's bombardment of southern Lebanon last spring.

"What do you think the Hezbollah would say about this film? We are making the connection that this film, playing in Lebanese cinemas, is polishing and presenting the Jews as a very humane people. You are releasing mistaken images about them."

On the other hand, there is little danger that Hezbollah's followers, or even most of its leaders, will be corrupted by the film. "I have never watched this movie," Musawi said. "One of my colleagues, he watched it and he wrote a full report." CAPTION: Jeff Goldblum's character in "Independence Day" is raising some hackles in Beirut. CAPTION: Margaret Colin, Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch in "Independence Day," which some Lebanese critics want banned.