It is beginning to appear that the concerns about Mel Gibson's film The Passion were far from groundless:
After watching the subtitled drama last week, Rabbi Eugene Korn, director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, warned that the anti-Jewish concepts he believes are in the film will feed anti-Semitism by promoting the 2,000-year-old charge of "Christ killers" against Jews.
"The tragic dimension to this movie is the way it portrays Jews in the worst way as the sinister enemies of God," Rabbi Korn told The Jewish Week.
He viewed the violent, nearly two-hour film, which Gibson scripted and directed, with about 30 other Jewish community members, as well as another 50 Evangelical and traditional Catholic leaders. The morning screening on Aug. 8 was hosted by Gibson at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
ADL national director Abraham Foxman, who was not at the screening, said: "The film unambiguously portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob as the ones responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus," a charge that led to the persecution and murder of Jews throughout the world over two millennia.
"If released in its present form," Foxman said, the film will fuel hatred by reinforcing the notion of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus "that many responsible churches have worked so hard to repudiate."
Outlining the worst offenses, Rabbi Korn said Gibson’s film:
-- Reinforces the ancient Christ-killer charge by portraying "Jewish authorities and the Jewish 'mob' as forcing the decision to torture and execute Jesus, thus assuming responsibility for the execution."
-- "Relies on sinister medieval stereotypes, portraying Jews as blood-thirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of God who lack compassion and humanity."
-- "Relies on historical errors, chief among them its depiction of the Jewish high priest controlling Pontius Pilate."
-- "Portrays Jews who adhere to their Jewish faith as enemies of God and the locus of evil."
Rabbi Korn and Gibson had an acrimonious exchange during a question-and-answer period after the screening.
"I appealed to him as a man of faith and on the basis of moral responsibility," Rabbi Korn said. "He said, 'this is the truth as he knows it,' " referring to the film. "He said he understands Jesus because he is being persecuted. He seems to be callous to the fear and concerns of the critics."
"I came away with the feeling he’s playing off the conservative Christians against the liberal Christians, and the Jews against the Christian community in general," Rabbi Korn charged. "He said in so many words, he considers the teachings of the Catholic Church to be illegitimate revisionism."
Given the level of anti-Semitism that apparently pervades the film, the time has come for a reporter to ask Gibson whether he agrees with his father's views on the Holocaust as well.
And it is time for all those pundits who have endorsed the film to explain themselves.