Mel Gibson's "Passion of The Christ" stirred a storm of controversy months before it was released. Riding the crest of the storm stood Jewish organizations, headed by the vociferous Anti-Defamation League, who submerged Mel Gibson with a deluge of criticism, stamping his faith-based labor of love with the dreaded scourge of our politically correct times: the "anti-Semitic" label.
Falling in line behind their masters and commanders of the print and visual mediums, many critics and editorial writers panned the movie for fear of being nailed along with Gibson to the crucifix of anti-Semitism. Their verbal tirades were broad and diverse. Hence "The Passion" was termed pornographically violent, exploitative, masochistic, openly anti-Semitic, etc.
What is worth noting here is the fact that, days after the release of "The Passion," Steven Spielberg announced the DVD release of his 1993 Academy Award winner and Holocaust drama "Schindler's List." Coming eleven years after the movie was made, the release of the DVD version is, to borrow a cinematic term, "too on the nose."
Spielberg's not-too-subtle knee-jerk reaction seems more like a grim reminder to the gentiles than a commercial ploy. It is almost as if Spielberg wanted to say, "make no mistake, anti-Semitism cost six million Jewish lives and the Christian West is responsible. Let's not forget who is the victim here! Hasn't the Holocaust taught you, gentiles, anything? Hollywood has been hitting you on the head for decades with brain-washing Holocaust flicks masquerading as entertainment to teach you that any criticism of Jews, no matter how accurate, justified, merely a projection of the New Testament and the faith of almost two billion Christians, is anti-Semitic and therefore unacceptable."
The question that is begging to be posed is this, "is 'The Passion' really anti-Semitic?"
Casting its religious mantra aside, "The Passion" is Mel Gibson's best film to date. The movie is undeniably a masterpiece of cinematic bravado. The fact that it was shot in Aramaic and Latin, two dead languages, added so much authenticity to its characters and gave enormous power to its central theme.
"The Passion" is a very brutal portrayal of human madness and sadism. Its message is simple: unrelenting forgiveness and love in the face of intolerance and cruelty. Jesus, according to Christian belief, went to his untimely death willingly to teach humanity that love is the most powerful expression of good. A transcendent message so timely and pertinent to our nihilistic and barbarous world.
"The Passion's" graphic violence was inevitable and thoroughly realistic. The unfair lashing from mainly popcorn critics who live and die by the sword of their corporate sponsors, that the movie was bordering on sado-masochism is utterly ludicrous. One doesn't have to look far to realize that we are bombarded with bloody murder on a daily basis. Steeped in blood around the clock so much that we've become as much sensitized to violence as a pack of Hyenas feasting on carrion meat.
Not long ago, all humanity watched helplessly at the most powerful military on earth pummeled a helpless third world country to ruins on live television. The spin masters of lie and deceit talked the majority of peace-loving people into a futile bloody war that has thus far killed hundreds of thousands of innocents for what amounts to a heap of unsubstantiated hogwash. And while we're on the subject, let's stretch our imagination a couple of countries west of Babylon; to the only Middle Eastern country that benefited from this shameful war: Israel.
The one-eyed Goliath with a two-hundred nuclear warheads arsenal mobilized its foot-soldiers in the Pentagon and White House to set afoot operation "Eliminate Israel's Foes." Chief architect Paul Wolfowitz and his staunch pro-Israel acolytes and co-religionists Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, successfully hoodwinked a naive and cartoonish president and lead him headlong into one of the biggest blunders of recent history: a brutal war that never made sense when it was hatched nor as it continues to degenerate into daily mayhem and chaos in what used to be a stable country.
But since Spielberg and his tribal chiefs want us to believe that Jews can do no wrong, we have to shoot both our conscience and reason dead and believe that the triumvirate architects of evil are in fact three wise men on a mission from God to rid the world of miscreants.
The notion that there is no such thing as "bad Jews" is absurd. While watching the movie, one cannot help but realize the fact that apart from the Romans, all supporters and detractors of Jesus were "Jewish." Suffices that Jesus himself was a "Jew." So where's the anti-Semitism? American Jewish leaders argue that it lies in the scenes where Jewish Scribes and Pharisees demand the crucifixion of Jesus. These scenes, they argue, will foment hatred of Jews. But isn't this portrayal found in the New Testament? Haven't Christians believed in this premise for two thousand years now? Reason mandates that if there was anyone or anything that should bear the brunt of Jewish anger, it should be the New Testament, with all its four Gospels, and not Mel Gibson's movie. Perhaps Jewish leaders would want to revise Christian Scripture and rid it of anything that displeases them.
Let's not blame "The Passion" for anti-Semitism but rather point the finger to the true culprit, to the very monument to anti-Semitism and cause of all anti-Jewish hatred: Israel and its more than fifty-years history of systematic repression of the Palestinians. Its current wall of shame that is turning the West Bank into one big concentration camp is where Jewish leaders should look for answers to the world's growing anti-Semitism.
Israel's dehumanization of a people who were unfortunate enough to have been born on the land of secular Zionist Biblical fantasies and Israel's history, replete with extreme injustice and cruelty, is eluding Jewish leaders. The suffering of Palestinians on the one hand and Israel's perfidious inequities on the other have never registered on their moral compass. Palestinians are summarily dismissed as Jew-hating terrorists, while their pain is ignored and their humanity all but obfuscated.
Spielberg and Jewish leaders will not cease to protest and brain-wash gentiles, reminding them with each Holocaust movie or vociferous press release, that only Jews suffer; only Jews are entitled to multi-billion dollar compensations; only Jews are above criticism. Their suffering has earned them immunity against any wrongdoing. That's why Holocaust movies will continue to be made and propelled into public view to serve as eternal reminders, as monumental testaments to Jewish suffering. "Criticize us and we will smack you with the anti-Semitic label" seems to be the motto of most American Jewish organizations; "Any criticism of Israel, right or wrong, also qualifies as anti-Semitic," screams another motto. That's why the American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) is the most powerful lobby in Washington, in business to insure that U.S. foreign policy is strictly kosher and that all Congressman, Senators and U.S. presidents are circumcised according to Jewish law.
There was a man once who sacrificed himself to teach arrogant and self-righteous powers that love conquers all; that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword; that he who uses mercy is superior to he who used punishment and cruelty; that he who dies for a just cause meets his Maker with a clear conscience and he who is iniquitous and ruthless, for him there will be a Day of Reckoning.
Audiences worldwide responded to Mel Gibson's grand themes by rewarding "The Passion" at the box office with $150 Million in just ten days after its release. Whether Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic or not, will remain a contentious issue. But one thing is sure, the box office bonanza his movie has reaped worldwide is a testament to Gibson's intentions. No good deed will go un-rewarded.
Salaam Abdul Khaliq is a free-lance write living in Los Angeles.
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