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Cora Fraser: Is Mel Gibson Pro-Middle Eastern?

Is Mel Gibson Pro-Middle Eastern?


by Genevieve Cora Fraser

For those who inhabit Tinseltown and its environs as Mel Gibson does, there’s one site that is as famous to locals as Hollywood and Vine is to tourists - the Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills.

Located at the Wilshire Theater at 8440 Wilshire Blvd, the congregation led by Rabbi David Barron, though claiming solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Israel, has been treated to a variety of speakers, including luminaries such as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the mayor of Haifa was invited to speak at the Temple of the Arts along with Walid Shoebat, a Palestinian Muslim and former member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization who wrote a book titled "Why I Left Jihad.” Rosh Hashanah which is celebrated for 10 days concludes with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Judaism’s holiest day. Perhaps hoping the word atonement might strike a cord with Mel, Rabbi Barron also invited Gibson to speak at the Temple, but his efforts were in vain.

“One person who will not be appearing at the congregation's High Holy Day services will be actor-director Mel Gibson,” Rabbi Barron announced prior to Rosh Hashanah. The invitation was proffered in response to Gibson's offer to speak at synagogues to repent for anti-Semitic remarks made during a drunken driving arrest. But Gibson's representatives declined the offer, though the invitation is still open. Yes, Braveheart Gibson was otherwise engaged, based on press statements released days later. He was busy publicly viewing rough cuts of his latest movie, Apocalypto, due to be released in December 2006.

Though reported to be a Right Wing Republican, Mel Gibson’s most recent remarks (aside from the anti-Semitic slurs) are sounding more like Left Wing Democrat. And his latest movie making sidekick, Farhad Safinia, a former Production Assistant for the now defunct CBS series Completely Savage which Mel directed, has a name that sounds distinctly Middle Eastern.

The biblical sounding Apocalypto, which he co-scripted with Safinia, is an ancient parable for modern times. The title for the work translates from the Greek as "a new beginning" and was inspired by their work on the Mirador Basin Project, an effort to preserve a large swath of the Guatemalan rain forest and its Maya ruins.

Apocalypto takes place about 1400 years ago in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala and depicts the ancient Mayan civilization on the brink of collapse, when ecological abuse and war-mongering characterized their decline. "The parallels between the environmental imbalance and corruption of values that doomed the Maya and what's happening to our own civilization are eerie," Mel’s co-scriptwriter Safinia told the magazine.

Gibson’s comments were even more pointed and turned political. "The fear-mongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys."

Gibson noted that “the precursors to a civilization that's going under are the same, time and time again." The Maya, one of the hemisphere's first great civilizations, also practiced human sacrifice. "What's human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?" Gibson asked.

Speaking of human sacrifice brings us back to the Gibson blockbuster that initially sparked cries of anti-Semitism against our hero. "The Passion of the Christ," which Gibson also directed broke box office records across the Middle East as well as wherever it was not banned for depicting the prophet Christ - in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain – or for so-called anti-Semitism (and potentially inciting anti-Semitism) in places such as Israel.

The Passion of the Christ is the story of the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus Christ, a Palestinian – not a pretty picture. Some draw parallels between the gospel story a.k.a. New Testament, which Gibson chose to render cinematically in all its gory details, with the fate of the present day Palestinians. Indeed, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was quoted by an aide after he viewed the film as stating, "The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion." Other critics raked up ancient nasty treatment of the Jews at the hands of medieval Catholic popes and Christian rulers to justify declaring Gibson an anti-Semite (something the present Pope should consider before declaring Islam violent.)

In my opinion, neither set of criticisms was justification for declaring Gibson anti-Semitic. The Gospel is the Gospel is the Gospel. Gibson dramatized it in Aramaic, a pre-cursor to Arabic, and bits of Hebraic. (Jesus was not a Polish Ashkenazi Jew. Today he would be referred to as an Arab.) What Gibson does do and does it well is exhibit awareness through his art of subjugation, dehumanization and degrading and violent treatment rendered by one group over another or over targeted individuals. It’s a theme that is classic Gibson.

In yesteryears the English had a field day with the Scots which Gibson depicts as both actor and director in Braveheart. He is also aware of the hidden scope of the power elite and their agents (and agencies) in effecting mind control over a population or targeted individuals whether that control is promulgated by the media, the CIA or FBI or other unnamed entities. Check out Gibson’s portrayal of the would-be assassin, Jerry the Taxi Driver in the wacky suspense thriller, “Conspiracy Theory.” Heck, it’s not paranoia if they’re really after you. Today America, England, parts of Europe and Israel are having a field day with the Arabs. Forgive him, if he notices.

Give the guy a break. He was born Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson in New York to Irish Catholic parents and named after Irish Catholic saints. A saint he is not. He’s a two-fisted, opinionated American Irishman who drinks a bit, but adores his wife, parents and large brood of kids. (Now I’ve done it. The Irish Anti-defamation League will be after me, for sure.) He’s also a brilliant and talented artist – with an artistic temperament.

We are all entitled to our private opinions – no matter how wacky or deplorable. However, when they become public as was the case in Mel’s drunken bar scene and police chase, that’s another matter. Even if Gibson wasn’t a movie star, the appalling episode called for an apology. I suspected at the time of the incident in July, during the height of the Israeli attack on Lebanon where internationally prohibited white phosphorous and millions of cluster bomblets were dropped on the civilian population, Mel’s statement though overblown and anti-Semitic was in reaction to the carnage. Gibson's Friday, October 13th interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" with Diane Sawyer confirmed this.

"Now, maybe it was just that very day that Lebanon and Israel were at it, you know," Gibson said of that night.

It was the 17th day of the raging war in Lebanon. A lot of people were worrying that the crisis was escalating out of control. "

"Since I was a kid in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and now in the new millennium, you can read of an ever-escalating kind of conflagration over there in the Middle East that … I remember thinking when I was 20, man, that place is going to drag us all into the black hole, you know, just the … the difficulty over there," he said. "You start thinking will I ever see my grandchildren grow up? … What's going to become of the world? What's going to press the button?"

"But there's a difference between saying that place is a tinderbox and the constellation of things happening there could take us all down, and saying the Jews are responsible for all the wars," Sawyer said.

"Well, I did," he said of his comment to the officer that night.

"The Jews are responsible?" Sawyer said.

"Well. … Strictly speaking, that's … that's not true because it takes two to tango," he said. "What are they responsible for? I think that they're not blameless in the conflict. There's been aggression, and retaliation and aggression. It's just part of being in conflict, and being at war. So, they're not blameless."

Though the Jews are surely not responsible for all the wars in the world, and many are among the finest humanitarians and philanthropists and are pro-peace, it’s time that those who support Israel take a long hard look at the non-stop military assault and blockade on Palestine and the long-term impact of the recent violence against Lebanon.

But, no, the Jews are hardly alone in these violent endeavors, the Bush administration, Congress and America’s allies across the globe have a lot to atone for too – including the fiasco in Iraq . When the administration, media, our allies and even the Pope demonizes an entire population as Islamo-fascists as their resources are plundered, isn’t that a far greater offence than Mel’s tirade?

But Gibson’s not off the hook. He needs to atone for his sin by sobering up and clearly articulating his concerns fairly, by placing the blame appropriately where blame is due.

ENDS

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