WEBCommentary Contributor

Author: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  August 1, 2006

Topic category:  Other/General

Abe Foxman Is Encouraging Anti-Semitism, NOT Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson's masterpiece, "The Passion of the Christ," should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year 2004. That moving movie (which Mr. Gibson personally financed) won the hearts and minds of good people around the world, but not a plurality of those who vote on that award. (In fact, it wasn't even nominated.) The film made $370 million at the domestic box office and ranks No. 10 on the all-time box office list.

Mel Gibson's masterpiece, "The Passion of the Christ," should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year 2004.  That moving movie (which Mr. Gibson personally financed) won the hearts and minds of good people around the world, but not a plurality of those who vote on that award.  (In fact, it wasn't even nominated.) The film made $370 million at the domestic box office and ranks No. 10 on the all-time box office list.

Mr. Gibson is human, not divine, of course.  Even though his masterpiece is not in the least anti-Semitic, Mr. Gibson himself allegedly made some anti-Semitic reports after being stopped in Los Angeles on suspicion of driving while intoxicated on Friday, July 28, 2006.

It's probably safe to delete "allegedly," since In a statement released Saturday through his publicist, Mr. Gibson expressed remorse for his actions in general terms.

Mr. Gibson's full statement:

"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed.

"I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person.

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone who I have offended.

"Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself.

"I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry.

"I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

It was reported that Mr. Gibson said, "F------ Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and asked a deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

I don't know exactly what Mr. Gibson said and whether press reports embellished or underreported, but the key points do not depend on the details: (1) anti-Semitism is a sin and thus to be avoided, not indulged in, and (2) Mr. Gibson, an alcoholic who admittedly suffered a relapse, does NOT encourage anti-Semitism when he is sober and, as a vile ranting of a drunken man, any anti-Semitic remark he made are not to be taken as divine revelation conveyed through Mr. Gibson.

Mr. Gibson presumably is genuinely remorseful, and God presumably has forgiven Mr. Gibson.   BUT, Abraham H.  Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, has NOT.  Instead of taking the high road and accepting the apology, Mr. Foxman took the low road (and he was sober!).  He not only reviled Mr. Gibson and his apology, but proceeded to give much more encouragement to anti-Semitism that Mr. Gibson might have last Friday while inebriated, by using the unfortunate incident to disrespect "The Passion of the Christ."

Mr. Foxman's statement:

"Mel Gibson's apology is unremorseful and insufficient.  It's not a proper apology because it does not go to the essence of his bigotry and his anti-Semitism.

"His tirade finally reveals his true self and shows that his protestations during the debate over his film 'The Passion of the Christ,' that he is such a tolerant, loving person, were a sham.  It may well be that the bigotry has been passed from the father to the son.  It is unfortunate that it took an excess of booze and an encounter with a police officer to reveal what was really in his heart and mind.

"We would hope that Hollywood now would realize the bigot in their midst and that they will distance themselves from this anti-Semite."

Mr. Foxman, sober, seems much more hateful than Mr. Gibson. drunk.

Founded in 1913, the Anti-Defamation League is supposed to combat anti-Semitism through "programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry."

Rethink your approach, Mr. Foxman.

Under Mr. Foxman, the ADL  railed against "The Passion of the Christ."

Herewith the ADL's posted questions and answers about it:

Q. What is the basis for ADL's concerns about Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"?
A.We first learned about Mr. Gibson's plans to make a film based on the final hours of Jesus' life in a New York Times Magazine article that appeared in February 2003. An early version of the script was shared with us. In August 2003, an ADL representative saw a rough cut in Houston. On January 21, we saw a version of the film at a screening in Orlando, Florida. We had hoped to see the film at Mr. Gibson's invitation, but we have had our requests denied, so we viewed it at a pastors' convention, at which Mr. Gibson was present.

Q. What was your impression of the film?
A.This film, which was theatrically released in the U.S. on Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2004, contains the same problematic aspects as earlier versions. We were saddened and pained to find that "The Passion of the Christ" continues its unambiguous portrayal of Jews as being responsible for the death of Jesus. There is no question in this film about who is responsible. At every single opportunity, Mr. Gibson's film reinforces the notion that the Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob are the ones ultimately responsible for the Crucifixion.

Q. ADL has said the film could fuel anti-Semitism. How so?
A.We fear the consequences of this film. There will be many people who are not so familiar with the Gospel narratives and might believe that everything they see on the film derives directly from the New Testament. Much of what is on the screen is Mr. Gibson's artistic vision and finds its genesis in extra-Biblical sources. We are also concerned about those who already are disposed unfavorably toward Jews and will use this to fan the flames of hatred.

Q. Mel Gibson has stated that many people are calling him an anti-Semite. What is ADL's position?
A.ADL and its representatives have never accused Mr. Gibson of being an anti-Semite. We do not know what is in his heart. We only know what he has put on the movie screen. The images there show Romans who behave with compassion toward Jesus. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, constantly expresses his reticence to harm Jesus. The Jews, on the other hand, are depicted as blood-thirsty. The Jewish High Priest, Caiaphas, is shown as bullying Pilate, and the hundreds and hundreds of amassed Jews demanding Jesus' death.

Q. Is the film faithful to the Bible and accepted Christian teachings?
A.The script is based upon the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and John. But in order to weave together the story, these different texts must be harmonized and holes in the story must be filled in. The Biblical text tries to project a story of faith, but some of the narratives also reflect the growing schism between the Church and the Jewish people. Modern scholars have taught that the Gospel narratives must be taught responsibly. Since the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960's the Catholic Church has taught that the Jews of Jesus' time, as well as the Jews of today cannot be held responsible for the death of Jesus.

Q. Are Jewish fears about the film exaggerated? After all, it is only a movie.
A.It has been said that Mr. Gibson's film represents the greatest tool for evangelization that has ever existed. Indeed, more people will see this film than all the Passion Plays from the Middle Ages to today. It is not just the film in movie theatres that has raised our concern, but the market for DVD copies (no doubt with additional footage and deleted scenes). These will be shown in youth gatherings, religious schools and other places without regard to modern scholarship and teachings. Further, we are concerned about the film's impact in Europe, South America and the Middle East, places where anti-Semitism already exists.

As anti-Semitism increases around the globe, many are using the age-old decide charge to legitimize and foment hatred against Jews. Our concerns have already become an excuse for an outpouring of anti-Semitism. Since going public with our concerns about the film, ADL and other Jewish organizations have been flooded with hate-filled e-mails, letters and phone calls.

Q. Have you tried to discuss this with Mel Gibson?
A.We have repeatedly tried to reach out to discuss this with Mr. Gibson and Icon Productions, without success.

Q. Who else shares ADL's objections?
A.The concerns are shared by responsible Catholic, Protestant and Jewish theologians, clergy and citizens. A committee of nine Jewish and Catholic scholars studied an early screenplay and unanimously found it to be historically inaccurate, unfaithful to the gospel narratives and to project a uniformly negative picture of Jews. Mr. Gibson and his Icon Productions were aware of and approved of the script study until they received its conclusions.

Q. Did ADL try to censor Mel Gibson?
A.ADL never tried to "censor" the movie. We had requested a process similar to successful projects on the Oberammergau Passion Play and other sensitive artistic productions. ADL urged Mr. Gibson and Icon Productions to consult with interfaith professionals and New Testament experts to ensure a historically accurate and theologically responsible depiction of the crucifixion that is devoid of anti-Semitic dimensions. We asked Mr. Gibson to assume sensitivity and moral responsibility, which are obligations of all good people, and particularly artists who influence many around the world.

Q. Would you ever consider an organized boycott of the the film?
A.ADL does not engage in, nor does it support, boycotts under any circumstances. This policy is informed by the use of boycotts throughout history against the Jewish people and Israel. ADL believes that it can best promote change and raise awareness through making our voice heard.

Q. Is ADL trying to prevent Christians from telling the central story of Christianity?
A.Not at all. The story of the Passion can be told without disparaging the Jewish people. Such an account is mandated by the Catholic Church as a result of the Second Vatican Council, which in 1965 repudiated both the decide charge and all forms of anti-Semitism in its document, Nostra Aetate. Most Protestant churches followed suit, and since 1965 Christians have worked cooperatively with Jews to correct anti-Semitic interpretations within Christian theology. Aside from theological considerations, artists have a moral and social responsibility to avoid promoting material that may foster hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism.

Q. What can people do to counter the dangerous effects of anti-Semitic interpretations of passion stories?
A.In light of the controversy that the movie has raised, an effective way to counter its toxic effect is for Jews and Christians in communities around the country to cooperate by educating each other on the biblical history and interpretations accepted by the Catholic and Protestant churches that are free of any anti-Semitic elements.

Q. Is the controversy over the film part of the ideological culture war going on in America?
A.The issues raised by the movie should not pit Jews vs. Christians, liberals vs. conservatives, or secularists vs. religious people. The core issues are whether the movie inaccurately and unjustly portrays Jews as evil, responsible for the crucifixion, and whether such a depiction will re-stimulate old anti-Semitic stereotypes and hatred. The division is between those who want to prevent possible anti-Semitism and prejudice from occurring and those who seem callous to the dangers that the movie may cause.

Mr. Foxman's concern was understandable, but the movie proved him wrong and Mr. Foxman could not resist the temptation to pretend that he was right after all and is trying to use an unfortunate incident for the purpose.

William Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, got it just right in commenting on the excitement over Mr. Gibson's remarks:

"What Mel Gibson apparently said is indefensible.  The remark attributed to him, ‘The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,’ is anti-Semitic and irresponsible.  Fortunately, he has apologized for his bigoted outburst.  Unfortunately, his apology is being rejected by some who should know better.  To wit: Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, has branded Gibson’s apology ‘unremorseful and insufficient.’  Moreover, Foxman concludes that it shows what a ‘sham’ it is for Gibson to portray himself as the ‘tolerant, loving person’ who made ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ 

“We have quite a file on Ted Turner at the Catholic League.  Unlike Foxman, I have accepted every apology Turner has ever made for his anti-Catholic outbursts, all of which were made while he was sober.  Indeed, I even went so far as to say that ‘no one in his right mind’ would ever put Ted Turner ‘in the same camp with a Klansman or an inveterate bigot.’  More recently, when radio shock-jocks Opie and Anthony apologized for their orchestrated anti-Catholic stunt in St. Patrick’s Cathedral a few years back, I not only accepted their apology, I was the first guest on their new CBS radio show and welcomed their return. 

“But Mel’s enemies will never cut him a break.  Their real goal is to discredit ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ and that is why their propaganda machine is in full gear.  Never mind that Mel has said that ‘Anti-Semitism is not only contrary to my personal beliefs, it is also contrary to the core message of my movie.’  How ironic it is to note that the core message of his film—forgiveness—is sorely lacking in his critics.

"In 2003, Roman Polanski, the convicted child rapist, received a standing ovation when he won an Oscar for ‘The Pianist.’  Nice to know what really offends Hollywood.”

Shame on Mr. Foxman.

May he repent (like Mr. Gibson) and apologize.  (General terms will suffice.)

Michael J. Gaynor

Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.

Copyright © 2006 by Michael J. Gaynor
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