To paraphrase Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “Lord I know we are your chosen people, but once in a while, can’t you have Mel Gibson choose someone else?”
Gibson’s career reads like a Shakespearian Tragedy. After becoming arguably the biggest star in Hollywood he began displaying his hubris, spewing hatred against different ethnic groups, much of it against the Jews (or as he has called them “oven dodgers”). Gibson’s hatred nearly destroyed his career turning him into at best a b-player. But announced last week, Gibson successfully wrangled funding for a big Hollywood project withy Warner Brothers. He will be producing and possibly directing and starring in a movie based on Jewish history, the story of Judah Maccabee.
This is not the first time Gibson has tackled Jewish History, just the first time he’s attempted it in film. In 2004, Gibson was interviewed by Peggy Noonan for Readers Digest. Noonan asked Gibson if he believed the Holocaust happened. He answered by questioning the number of Jews slaughtered by the Nazi’s and seemed to downplay the Holocaust as a Jewish experience.
“I mean when the war was over they said it was 12 million. Then it was six. Now it’s four. I mean it’s that kind of numbers game. I mean war is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million people starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century 20 million people died in the Soviet Union. Okay? It’s horrible.”
These are just a few of many anti-Jewish acts made by Gibson, the most famous of which occurred during a drunk driving arrest in 2006 when he kept screaming “f***ing Jews” and later stated that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”
So should Gibson’s Antisemitism prevent him from making a movie about the Maccabees? Well that’s kind of a hypothetical question because it was Gibson who brought the picture to Warner Brothers. It won’t be made without him. But is it the right thing for Warners to do, and once it is made should Jews consider seeing the movie?
Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder and dean of Los Angeles’s Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, voiced his displeasure in statements to The Hollywood Reporter and predicted that Jews should stay home.
“Warner Bros. is making a terrible mistake,” Hier says, adding, “most of the people that are going to come to a film about Judah Maccabee are the Jewish community. Surely they know the Jewish communities are not going to come to this film.”
I am not as sure as Rabbi Hier. As a people, Jews are quick to forgive. Israel considers Palestinian Authority President Abbas a moderate despite the fact that he was one of the people responsible for the Sbarro bombing, American Jews still support Barack Obama despite his anti-Israel policies. In the end, the good Rabbi is likely to be disappointed to learn how many Jews see the movie.
More than his anti-Semitic history, I am not sure that Gibson has the background to appreciate the real story of the Maccabees. Gibson is a passionate member of the Catholic Traditionalist movement, a minority Catholic sect that rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in 1964-65 — in particular the abolition of the Latin Mass. Part of the traditional Latin Mass that Gibson so fiercely believes in is about the conversion of the Jews. The prayer reads: “Let us pray also for the Jews, that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.” It also refers to their “blindness” and prays for them to be “delivered from their darkness.”
This is a direct conflict with the story of the Maccabees who fought against conversion. Only part of the Hanukah story was the Maccabees fight for getting the Greeks out of Israel, and the cleansing and dedication of the Temple. The Maccabees fought a civil war against other Jews. Judah and the boys were fighting Jews who had turned away from their faith by combining it with Greek/Hellenistic practices (or in some cases abandoning the Jewish faith totally). The resulting assimilation caused a loss of Jewish faith and tradition, and finally laws against practicing Jewish ritual.
Sadly, in many way’s this story about a war against assimilation of the Jewish people has become the most assimilated of Jewish holidays. Too many treat this holiday as a “Jewish Christmas,” the exact opposite of what the Maccabee story is all about.
The reason I don’t believe Gibson is qualified to produce, direct and possibly star in a movie about Judah Maccabee is not his love or hatred for the Jewish people, but the fact that his view of the Catholic faith argues Jews should be cured so they can accept Christ — and that is the exact opposite of the Maccabee story.
Mel Gibson is entitled to his religious belief, that’s not the issue. The real question is: based on his religious beliefs could Mel Gibson do the story of the Maccabees justice? Personally, I do not see how a man who prays that Jews convert can do a movie about a civil war waged to prevent Jews from losing their faith.