It’s only taken him just under a week, but Mel Gibson has finally bit the bullet and acknowledged what was obvious to everyone in the world who read the filth he uttered during his DUI arrest–that he’s spouted offensive anti-Semitic slurs. You’ve got to know it’s serious when a serial anti-Semite actually fesses up to his hate. Gibson must see his career hanging in the balance if he does anything less. But is it sincere?
“There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark,” Gibson said in a statement.
“I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said…I am a public person, and when I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena.”
“I’m not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing,” Gibson said.
He said he has begun “an ongoing program of recovery,” but admitted “I cannot do it alone.”
“I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery,” Gibson said.
I’m troubled by the italicized remark. In it, he seems to say that his remarks were the fruit of insanity. In other words, they were not something he owned, but rather “the devil made me do it” to quote Nipsy Russell (I think). He’s got to do better than that. You said it, now own it. If you don’t, you’re repentance isn’t worth crap.
Why his original “apology” didn’t contain a specific reference to the group his tirade most offended is open to question. Perhaps he’s a denier just as his father is a Holocaust denier. He’s sworn up and down that he isn’t an anti-Semite; just like the white folks who murdered Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney in Mississippi didn’t hate Blacks.
In Jewish tradition, when someone comes to you and asks for your forgiveness for an offense they’ve committed against you you’re obligated to listen. So Jewish leaders must hear the man out. But the tradition also insists that the teshuvah must be sincere and that if it is not, then you are under no obligation to accept the apology.
If I were in such a meeting I wouldn’t let this jackass off easy. First, let’s hear him admit that he spoke anti-Semitic remarks. Ask him why he said them. Ask him what he believes about Jews. Ask him if he’s willing to take serious lessons on Jewish history from reputable rabbinic or academic sources so he knows a little more about the people he so blithely hates. Let him give tzedakah to support efforts to fight anti-Semitism. And not token gifts, but substantial ones. Let him endow a Jewish studies chair at UCLA or some other university.
If he does all this and doesn’t raise any red flags in the process, then perhaps he might be worthy of forgiveness. But given the man’s clear ability to deny his worst & most offensive behavior, including his alcoholism, I’d be very skeptical. A man who’s been raised in the mire of anti-Semitism as he must’ve been by his father doesn’t change his stripes overnight. Teshuvah for a man like this is a gradual process. Let’s see how serious he really is about doing something about it.
The NY Times interviewed Marvin Hier (someone whose views I usually detest) who said much the same thing:
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center here, also offered to meet with Mr. Gibson, but cautioned in a statement that, like substance abuse and alcoholism, anti-Semitism “cannot be cured in one day and certainly not through a press release.”
I hate to say it but Gibson’s request to meet with Jewish leadership strikes me more as a PR ploy than a sincere effort. It’s something he must do to save his career. Not something he wants to do from the bottom of his heart. It’s something his advisors have argued him into doing. But who knows, maybe the power of teshuva will work miracles on his mind and soul.