2 thoughts on “Gibson’s The Passion: Why are Jews Distressed? – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I agree with everything you said. As far as I’m concerned, Mel Gibson is a product of his father who as we all know is a virulent anti-semite. If anything, he is a narrow minded, un-evolved individual who would like us all to go back to the middle ages. As a Jew, I will not see this movie. Just seeing all the trailers on TV is more than enough for me. He will not get a penny from me or anyone in my family. May Mel’s insensitivity to the extreme pain and suffering this subject has caused to Jewish people for centuries and what his Passion movie could very conceivably cause to Jews today, especially in Europe, give him many many sleepless nights. May our future suffering and blood be on Mel Gibson’s head.


    Jacqueline C.
    Jacqueline Champana

  2. Thanks for posting this, Richard. I too decline to give Mel Gibson my $10 to go and see his remake of a mediaeval passion play. IMHO, there is so much wrong with this movie, on so many levels, that I find it difficult to know where to start – so I’m glad you did.

    The first thing that struck me is what a marketing genius Mel Gibson has turned out to be. Six months ago, “The Passion” was an esoteric pet project, financed with his own money, which nobody was interested in and which was probably going to cost him a huge loss. Now, after a little Holocaust minimization, and whipping up of evangelical Christian frenzy, he’s got a winner. What a cynical manipulation of all sorts of dangerous passions. I can’t see any good coming out of this, only dissension and hostility and controversy which, bearing in mind Gibson’s own reported religious beliefs, might sadly be perfectly fine with him.

    WADR, I wouldn’t really share Jacqueline C’s concern that this is going to cause problems particularly for Jews in Europe. It seems to me that the current anti-Semitism in Europe – primarily in France – arises out of an unassimiliated underclass of overwhelmingly young first- and second-generation immigrants from North Africa, whose hostility to “the Jews” comes from seeing them not through in the historical European perspective of “Christ killers” but through the prism of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I don’t think they are likely to be particularly inflamed one way or another by Gibson’s resurrecting the “the Jews killed Jesus” canard.

    (A lot of the rest of what we in the US call European “anti-semitism” is, in my experience not classic anti-Semitism at all, but criticism of the political policies of the Israeli (Sharon) government vis-à-vis the Palestinians. The “criticism of Israel = anti-Semitism” argument simply doesn’t cut much ice over there, and the result is that mainstream debate on Israel/Palestine is of a depth and a vigor that is unheard of here, unless you make a point of seeking out serious debate on Israel.)

    The rest of “Christian” Europe is in many ways a post-religious society, in which religion is a personal, private affair, and which finds it truly odd and more than a little scary that the most powerful nation on earth is led by a born-again believer who thinks God talks to him. So I think that many Europeans are going to look upon “The Passion” as just another odd example of the fundamentalist, evangelical nuttiness that seems to have so many American Christians in its grip right now. I think a society like post-war Europe – that has begun to think of it religious heritage in mythological rather than literal terms – is not for the most part likely to look at this movie as history and think “the Jews killed Jesus”.

    I think if there are repercussions for the Jewish community (and sadly I fear that there might be) it is going to be primarily right here at home, from the fundamentalist Protestants that Gibson has cynically aimed his movie at. (Which in itself is an extreme irony, bearing in mind that Gibson is a traditionalist, pre-Vatican II, Catholic, who believes that fundamentalist Protestants are going to burn in Hell. How cynical can you get, just to make a buck?).

    The problem in marketing a bloodfest like “The Passion” to US Christian fundamentalists is that, well, they’re fundamentalists! They read their scriptures literally – or at least the parts that suit them (I notice that they’re much more interested in literal readings of verses against homosexuality than the ones against divorce, for example) – and many of them think they are reading actual history. Which they are not. The Christian Gospels arise out of a specific context, when the early Christians were engaged in a bitter polemic against those Jews who, unlike themselves, did not believe that Jesus was moshiach. They come from a time when Christianity was breaking with a Judaism which didn’t accept its belief about who Jesus was, and was turning instead to the Gentile world for converts. Hence a Gospel portrayal that maximizes Jewish “guilt” and minimizes Roman responsibility (which historically, bearing in mind the comparative power of the Roman procurator and the occupied Jews, is surely getting it backwards).

    I think the Gospels probably say more about the state of the debate between the Early Church and the Judaism it was breaking away from than they do about the historical events that surrounded the death of Jesus a generation before. To take the scriptural narrative out of the context that gave rise to it, and market it to an audience that believes it is watching real history about “the Jews” is, I think, a horribly dangerous thing to do. You don’t have to be a historian to know why, and I can’t ascribe to Mel Gibson any charitable motives for doing it.

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