New York, NY, August 11, 2003 … After having attended a private screening of Mel Gibson's new film, "The Passion," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today voiced concerns that the film, if released in its present form, "could fuel hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism" by reinforcing the notion of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus. An ADL representative was present at a private screening of "The Passion" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.
"The film unambiguously portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob as the ones responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "We are deeply concerned that the film, if released in its present form, could fuel the hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism that many responsible churches have worked hard to repudiate."
The version of Gibson's film, as previewed by Rabbi Eugene Korn, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs, contained a number of troubling themes and images, all raising the specter of "deicide," or Jewish complicity in the death of Jesus.
"Sadly, the film contains many of the dangerous teachings that Christians and Jews have worked for so many years to counter," said Rabbi Korn. "This is not a disagreement between the Jews and Mr. Gibson. Many theologically informed Catholics and Protestants have expressed the same concerns regarding anti-Semitism, and that this film may undermine Christian-Jewish dialogue and could turn back the clock on decades of positive progress in interfaith relations."
"We hope that Mr. Gibson and Icon Productions will consider modifying 'The Passion,' so that the film will be one that is historically accurate, theologically sound and free of any anti-Semitic message," said Mr. Foxman.
ADL's concerns include:
- The film portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish "mob" as forcing the decision to torture and execute Jesus, thus assuming responsibility for the crucifixion.
- The film relies on sinister medieval stereotypes, portraying Jews as blood-thirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of God who lack compassion and humanity.
- The film relies on historical errors, chief among them its depiction of the Jewish high priest controlling Pontius Pilate
- The film uses an anti-Jewish account of a 19th century mystical anti-Semitic nun, distorts New Testament interpretation by selectively citing passages to weave a narrative that oversimplifies history, and is hostile to Jews and Judaism.
- The film portrays Jews who adhere to their Jewish faith as enemies of God and the locus of evil.
• ADL OpEd: Gibson's Passion -- Why ADL is Concerned
(New York Sun - 8/4/03)
• ADL Responds to Michael Medved, (7/22/03)
• ADL Statement,(6/24/03)
• ADL Letter to Mel Gibson, (3/24/03)
• Passion Plays in History and Theology
• The Oberammergau Passion Play