Boycott Mel's Passion
by: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach - Last updated: 2004-02-12
The Passion of the Christ
Has the real Mel Gibson been kidnapped by space aliens, leaving a Jew-hating, racist, body-double in his place?
Remember the days when Mel was running around shooting people with Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, making us all feel warm and fuzzy about an intimate, on-screen friendship between a white man and a black man? Is this the same Mel Gibson who has now staked a huge amount of his wealth and all of his Hollywood prestige on making a movie that portrays Jews as demonic God-killers? Is it the same Mel who shockingly told Peggy Noonan, when she asked him whether the Holocaust happened, "Yes of course. Atrocities happened. 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 starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century 20 million people died in the Soviet Union."
Is this famously intelligent actor really so dense as to equate horrible casualties of war with a government program of genocide that turned more than six million people into ash, soap, and lampshades?
I once greatly admired Mel Gibson not only as a quality actor but as a quality human being. He was one of the few Hollywood celebrities who seemed devoted to his wife and family, and as a father of seven I had great admiration for another father of seven who saw the blessing, rather than the burden, of having lots of kids. As a religious man, I was greatly inspired by his commitment to his Catholicism. But all that is behind me now. Because whether Mel hit his head against a rock or just decided to follow in the footsteps of his Holocaust-denying, anti-Semitic father, the Mel Gibson that first charmed us as an innocent-looking Australian soldier in Gallipoli seems gone forever.
In his place has arisen a kooky religious fundamentalist who seems intent on reversing the reforms of Vatican II, which officially absolved the Jews of deicide, and convincing the world that, indeed, the Jews did it.
If I were a high-profile person and was asked to comment on my father's statement that the "Second Vatican Council was a plot put out by the Jews" and that the Holocaust could not have happened because "there weren't even that many Jews in all of Europe," I would shout from the rooftops that I love my dad, but that doesn't excuse his being a racist.
Instead, Mel has yet to publicly distance himself from his father's Jew-hating tirades. Contrast this with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who reacted to the news of his father's Nazi past by requisitioning the Simon Wiesenthal Center to probe whether his father committed atrocities. Schwarzenegger went further and publicly denounced the Austrian far-right politician Joerg Haider, who praised Hitler's SS troops.
But all of this is small potatoes compared to the real meat of Mel's passion for his movie The Passion of Christ. Elsewhere, I have written a lengthy refutation of the New Testament's passion narratives, where I also emphasized that whether or not Mel's movie will excite anti-Semitism is beside the point, since the bigger issue is that it is based on an anti-Semitic lie, a cheap fabrication contradicted by all serious history of the time. When asked if Jews might be offended by his film, Mel said, "It's not meant to. I think it's meant to just tell the truth." But then why has Mel engaged in such profound historical revisionism?
HERE IS The New York Times describing a scene in The Passion that gives us insight into how Mel Gibson portrays Pontius Pilate: "The Roman leader Pontius Pilate is depicted as being reluctant to harm Jesus, who Pilate's wife warns is holy. Largely to mollify a restive Jewish mob outside his window, Pilate agrees to a severe lashing and scourging of Jesus, but the crowd and the high priest demand more.
"Pilate says in Latin, 'Ecce homo Behold the man' displaying the broken and bleeding Jesus to the crowd. But the high priest insists, in Aramaic, 'Crucify him.' Pilate responds, 'Isn't this enough?' The mob roars 'No,' and only then does the Roman leader agree to the Crucifixion."
What a bunch of hateful nonsense. The historical records shows that Pilate was the Saddam Hussein of his time, a murderer of unspeakable cruelty. King Agrippa I wrote a letter to the emperor Caligula about Pilate's "corruption, his acts of insolence, and his rapine and his habit of insulting people, and his continual murder of persons untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending, and gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity."
Likewise Philo wrote that Pilate was an "unbending and recklessly hard character," famous for "corruptibility, violence, robberies, ill treatment of the people, grievances, continuous executions without even the form of a trial, endless and intolerable cruelties."
So cruel was Pilate that he was eventually recalled by Rome for his sadistic actions. When a Samaritan prophet gained a large following, Pilate's method of dispersing his followers was typical: he slaughtered four thousand of them when they gathered on their holy mountain. Even the brutal Romans could not overlook this atrocity, and Pilate was recalled to Rome in 37 CE.
The Romans routinely crucified self-proclaimed messiahs and "kings of the Jews" for challenging their rule, the way Jesus did. Just a few of these include Judah of Galilee (6 CE), Theudas (44 CE), and Benjamin the Egyptian (60 CE). But none of this has stopped Mel Gibson from perpetuating the abominable lie that the Jews demanded that one of their own rabbis be killed in the most horrible manner despite the pious Pontius Pilate's objections.
BUT THERE is good news. Mel has now agreed to take out an especially offensive scene in which the Jewish high priest, Caiaphas, calls down a kind of curse on the Jewish people by declaring of the Crucifixion, "His blood be on us and on our children."
This scene is based on Matthew 27:22: "Pilate said to [the Jews], 'Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said, 'Let him be crucified.' And he said, 'Why, what evil has he done?' But they shouted all the more, 'Let him be crucified.' So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.' And all the people answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children.'"
How plausible does this scene appear to the discerning mind?
Firstly, the very same Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus was accorded an enthusiastic welcome to Jerusalem by the Jews just five days earlier. But aside from this glaring contradiction, how many people do you know who would openly call for a curse upon their children?
Yet this false Christian charge of vertical accountability has led to the massacre of millions of Jews throughout the ages. But the incident is pure invention and does not even appear in the Passion narrative of Mark, even though nearly all scholars today concur that both Luke and Matthew based their own Gospels largely on Mark. Clearly, this is a later fabrication used to justify Christian anti-Judaism, and a pathetic attempt on the part of the fledgling Christian community to suck up to the powerful Romans by portraying them as humane and innocent and the Jews as vengeful and vicious.
The simple and undeniable fact is that Jesus was condemned in a Roman court on a Roman charge, and put to death by a method of execution used only by the Romans, just as the two leading historians of the time, Josephus and Tacitus, expressly maintain.
While Mel may be prepared to do Jews the favor of deleting a single offensive scene, I believe that the Jews and every decent person who hates bigotry should go the whole nine yards and delete the entire movie by boycotting it, for the whole message is odious and offensive. Is there really a more serious charge against a people than that they killed God?
I am at a loss to explain the silence on the part of Hollywood's Jewish celebrities and media moguls regarding Mel's movie. Why aren't people like Steven Spielberg protesting the horrible message of this loathsome film? Where is Barbra Streisand so vocal in her attacks on Republicans on a movie that portrays her people as deicidal villains? Are Hollywood's Jewish celebrities afraid to criticize the movie because it's "art" even when that art brings to life a story that has been responsible for the slaughter of our people for centuries?
Calling someone an anti-Semite is about as big an insult as one can hurl, and I for one am forever careful in its usage. But if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. If a man comes along who isn't prepared to acknowledge the special crime of the Holocaust, makes a movie that portrays Jews as wicked God-killers, and is prepared to risk his illustrious career on the making of that movie, well, quack, quack, quack.