‘The Passion' Redux

What Are Gibson's Defenders Saying Now?

Last summer I visited Lorrach, Germany, a southern Black Forest city from which my father, his parents, and brother fled in order to escape the Nazis in 1938. I spent several hours in the City Hall one day with a helpful archivist who located documents for me, including an order that my grandfather’s medical practice be boycotted because he was Jewish. The archivist shook her head sadly as she showed me a set of haunting photographs from 1940 of the town’s remaining Jews being loaded into trucks.

During my vacation, I saw a brief news article on director/actor Mel Gibson’s arrest for drunk driving in Malibu, California, and his now-famous anti-Semitic tirade against a Jewish deputy sheriff. “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” Gibson yelled at the officer.

I expected that when I returned home I would catch up on news coverage that reopened the question of whether this resentment Gibson evidently harbors against Jews comes through in his blockbuster film The Passion of the Christ. After all, his behavior directly contradicted the image Gibson had presented to the public when he argued in 2004 that the film grew from his deep religious impulse-guided by the Holy Ghost, he said. But except for an August 5 column by Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times, I found little analysis of The Passion of the Christ in light of Gibson’s anti-Semitic outburst.

After Gibson released his new...

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About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).