Mel Gibson is set to delete a scene from his film The Passion of the Christ.
A reporter for The New York Times wrote yesterday about the movie:
Mel Gibson, responding to focus groups as much as to protests by Jewish critics, has decided to delete a controversial scene about Jews from his film, "The Passion of the Christ," a close associate said today.
A scene in the film, in which the Jewish high priest Caiaphas calls down a kind of curse on the Jewish people by declaring of the Crucifixion, "His blood be on us and on our children," will not be in the movie's final version, said the Gibson associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
This reporter was shown a two-hour version of the R-rated movie this week. The film features agonizing passages as Jesus, played by Jim Caviezel, is mercilessly beaten by Jewish and then Roman guards, and jeered and hounded by a Jewish mob on his way to his Crucifixion. It is unclear how close this version is to Mr. Gibson's final film.
In this version, the Roman leader Pontius Pilate is depicted as being reluctant to harm Jesus, who Pilate's wife warns is holy. Largely to mollify a restive Jewish mob outside his window, Pilate agrees to a severe lashing and scourging of Jesus, but the crowd and the high priest demand more.
Pilate says in Latin: "Ecce homo" — "Behold the man" — displaying the broken and bleeding Jesus to the crowd. But the high priest insists, in Aramaic, "Crucify him." Pilate responds, "Isn't this enough?" The mob roars, "No," and only then does the Roman leader agree to the Crucifixion.
Because passion plays historically preceded outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence in Europe, the film passage is a particularly sensitive matter with Jewish groups at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Jewish groups remain concerned about the film. Gibson, who's father has denied the Holocaust took place, would not in a recent interview at first answer the question of whether or not he thought the Holocaust happened. His final answer was unclear.
...Mr. Gibson further raised hackles among Jewish leaders in an exclusive interview by the writer Peggy Noonan published in the March issue of Reader's Digest.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, accused Mr. Gibson of insensitivity when he compared Jewish suffering in the Holocaust to that of millions of others who died in the war.
Ms. Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, asked Mr. Gibson about his father, a conservative Catholic who was quoted in a New York Times Magazine article last March as denying that Holocaust took place. Mr. Gibson answered that he loved his father. Ms. Noonan insisted: "You're going to have to go on record. The Holocaust happened, right?"
Mr. Gibson responded: "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."
In a letter to Mr. Gibson, Rabbi Hier wrote: "We are not engaging in competitive martyrdom, but in historical truth. To describe Jewish suffering during the Holocaust as `some of them were Jews in concentration camps' is an afterthought that feeds right into the hands of Holocaust deniers and revisionists."
Meanwhile, conservatives like the Southern Babtist Convention, who believe that Jews should be converted, are defending the film.