ADL Screens Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ" ; Says Film's Portrayal of Jews "Painful to Watch"
New York, NY, January 22, 2004 … After two of its representatives attended a screening of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of The Christ" at a religious gathering in Florida, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today renewed its concerns about the film's potential to promote anti-Semitism through its "painful portrayal of Jews" as being responsible for the death of Jesus. The film is scheduled for national release on Ash Wednesday, February 25.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who attended the screening at the Beyond All Limits Conference in Orlando along with Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, ADL Interfaith Consultant, issued the following statement:
We were saddened and pained to find that "The Passion of the Christ" continues its unambiguous portrayal of Jews as being responsible for the death of Jesus. There is no question in this film about who is responsible. At every single opportunity, Gibson's film reinforces the notion that the Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob are the ones ultimately responsible for the Crucifixion.
It is shocking that Mel Gibson has not fulfilled his promise to remove the most troublesome aspects of this film and has ignored the warnings of Jewish and Catholic interfaith scholars about the explosive nature of the traditional Passion Play narrative. Despite Gibson's repeated statements that the film was "a work in progress" and that he was continuing to make changes, the promised changes do not appear in the film. In the film, the Jews and a group of sadistic Roman soldiers are the only ones portrayed as evil. The Jews make blood-thirsty calls for Jesus' death on a continuous basis, and by the end, the group of Roman soldiers feels compassion, whereas the Jews never feel compassion for Jesus and his suffering.
Will the film trigger pogroms against Jews? Our answer is probably not. Our concern is that "The Passion of The Christ" could fuel latent anti-Semitism that exists in the hearts of those people who hold Jews responsible for the death of Jesus, which has always been the source of Western anti-Semitism. Its portrayal of Jews is painful to watch.
Mel Gibson has every right to say that this is his personal religious vision. But when he says it is historically accurate, that gives us concern, as the film runs contrary to Biblical scholarship and the teachings of Vatican II, which absolved the Jewish people of guilt in the death of Jesus. We are especially concerned that this telling of the Crucifixion narrative is being hawked as a commercial crusade to the church community.
It's sad that we could not see this film at the invitation of Mel Gibson, but instead by finding an opportunity to be part of an audience.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.