I have no particular preconceptions going into the frenzy over Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ film. I think he has been great in any number of movies and I do not minimize his talents as a director. I also have no problem with his depicting Jews as culpable in the death of Jesus, although I see Romans as no less so - for both camps it was a matter of power and politics. I'll let you know what I think about the movie after I see the movie.
Because of the controversy surrounding Gibson's depiction of Jews in the film, questions have arisen regarding his personal attitude towards Jews, and in particular, his view of the Holocaust.
The problem I have now is reconciling what Gibson told Peggy Noonan in an interview for Reader's Digest with what he told Diane Sawyer for ABC's Primetime.
Cathy Young relates what he told Noonan:
- Holocaust denial is relevant here because of Gibson's father, Hutton Gibson. A prominent member of the "traditionalist" Catholic movement which split off from the Catholic Church over the 1965 reforms of the Second Vatican Council (which, among other things, rejected the doctrine that the Jews were guilty of "deicide") is also known as a Holocaust denier. Of course Gibson shouldn't be blamed for the sins of his father; but in an interview with Peggy Noonan, forthcoming in the March issue of Reader's Digest, he says, "My dad taught me my faith, and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life."
It was in the same interview that Noonan, who has defended Gibson in the controversy over "The Passion," offered him a chance to end any speculation about his views on the Holocaust: "You're going to have to go on record. The Holocaust happened, right?"
Gibson's reply: "I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century, 20 million people died in the Soviet Union."
....Holocaust "revisionists" typically do not deny that Jews were killed; they simply minimize the killing, portraying it as another part of the overall death toll of World War II rather than the systematic extermination campaign that it was. In Bernstein's opinion, "Gibson is skirting pretty close" to this kind of minimization.