Mel Gibson film about Jewish hero draws criticism

2011-09-10 08:36

Los Angeles – A film about a Jewish hero being produced by Mel Gibson, the actor who went on a public anti-Semitic tirade in 2006, drew sharp criticism from Jewish leaders who felt it was a slap in their faces.

Gibson’s company, Icon Productions, is developing the movie about Judah Maccabee in collaboration with the Time Warner Inc-owned Warner Bros studio, but his involvement could include directing as plans move forward.

But participation by Gibson in the film that is expected to bring to life the warrior who is associated with the celebration of Hanukkah is a problem for some Jewish leaders.

“As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better,’’ Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said.

Rabbi Marvin Hier of Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center called Gibson’s involvement, “simply an insult to Jews.’’

A Warner Bros spokesperson said the film was still in early stages and a script had not been completed. No decision had been made about who would star in the film, he said.

The studio spokesperson declined to comment on the criticism, and a representative for Gibson did not comment beyond confirming the Hollywood star’s participation.

Maccabee was the son of a Jewish priest who in the 2nd century BC led a guerrilla revolt in Judea against armies of the Seleucid Empire.

The historical figure, whose last name in Hebrew translates as “The Hammer”, is revered by many Jews. Hanukkah commemorates his triumphs.

In the past, the Anti-Defamation League also accused Gibson of evoking age-old stereotypes about Jews in his 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, which made more than $600 million (about R4.4 billion) at worldwide box offices and was celebrated by many Christians.

Gibson was arrested for drunk driving in Malibu in 2006, and he ranted at the officer: “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,’’ among other comments.

His arrest and tirade made headlines around the world. He later publicly apologised and attended self-help meetings.

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