Gibson's Company Blasts Jews Who Saw 'Passion' Film 'in Stealth Mode'
By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Services
(RNS) Officials from Mel Gibson's Icon Productions film company blasted Jewish critics who used a fake church name to sneak into an advance screening of "The Passion of the Christ."
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he viewed the film "in stealth mode" at an evangelical pastors' conference in Orlando, Fla., last Wednesday. Foxman and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, the ADL's interfaith consultant, registered as pastors with the fictitious "Church of Truth" in Brooklyn, N.Y. After the film, Foxman said the film's portrayal of Jews was "painful to watch."
Foxman has warned that the film threatens to stir up anti-Semitism by blaming Jews for the death of Jesus. Gibson, who has hosted invitation-only screenings around the country, has refused to show the film to Foxman.
A statement from Gibson's company accused the two men of "deceit." John Maxwell, chairman of the Global Pastors Network that sponsored the convention, said, "I am disappointed they lied to get in."
Before seeing the film, participants were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement that stipulated they could speak only positively of the movie. Foxman did not sign the statement.
Foxman said he had no choice but to lie. "I am sorry we had to engage in stealth tactics, but only because he (Gibson) forced us to," he told the Orlando Sentinel. Foxman told The New York Times he initially felt bad about sneaking in, but then changed his mind.
"I decided yesterday, `Why am I uncomfortable? Let him (Gibson) be uncomfortable.' For him to say, `You can only see it if you love it'? I felt it was my moral duty to see it," he said.
Other Jewish leaders who saw the film last week said they went in openly. David Elcott, interfaith director for the American Jewish Committee, saw the film in Chicago and said he was "completely upfront" about his affiliation and was welcomed warmly.
Rabbi A. James Rudin, the AJC's senior interreligious affairs adviser, saw the film at the Orlando screening by paying the $195 registration fee. Rudin, who accurately listed his affiliation as a visiting professor at Saint Leo University, also did not sign the confidentiality agreement.
Born in Poland in 1940, Mr. Foxman was saved from the Holocaust as an infant by his Polish Catholic nursemaid who baptized and raised him as a Catholic during the war years. His parents survived the war, but 14 members of his family were lost. He arrived in America in 1950 with his parents after a lengthy custody battle with the former nursemaid.
Mr. Foxman is a difficult man to ignore. But it's probably worth the effort.