Monday, July 07, 2003

Jewish and Catholic groups are taking divergent stances on a report by an interfaith group of scholars warning that a forthcoming film by Mel Gibson, about the final hours of Jesus' life, could promote antisemitism.

Although Gibson insisted last month that "neither I nor my film are anti-Semitic," the Anti-Defamation League said last week that it has "serious concerns" about Gibson's forthcoming movie, "The Passion." In its June 24 statement, the ADL praised an 18-page report prepared by an ad hoc group of nine Catholic and Jewish scholars who, the ADL said, "unanimously agreed that the screenplay reviewed was replete with objectionable elements that would promote anti-Semitism."

This has the makings of a serious spat. I'm wary of making any serious statements on this, mainly because no one has actually seen the film. I think the main story here may be not that Mel Gibson has made an anti-semitic film, but rather that he has made an eccentric and bizarre oddity that no one is going to go see (a la Battlefield Earth). I also think that the ADL is wasting its time sweating about a movie that it hasn't seen yet while huge swaths of the American intelligensia are calling for the genocide of Israel. Again, its that old left/right double standard.

However, if the film does contain anti-semitic content than I am 100% in favor of hitting Gibson with everything we've got. There is a strong strain of anti-semitism running through most traditional narratives of Jesus's death and there is at least a 50/50 chance that the film reproduces them. I just think we ought to reserve judgment on a film that no one has seen yet and start dealing with the anti-semites on the left who've been getting a free ride for thirty years.


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