Thursday, February 26, 2004

Mel's woes: No Holocaust denier-- but close  

Published February 26, 2004, in issue #0308 of The Hook


ESSAY- Mel's woes: No Holocaust denier-- but close

Mel Gibson's new film The Passion of the Christ-- hailed by some as a powerful account of the last hours of Jesus' life, decried by others as an inflammatory screed with anti-Semitic overtones-- has become a lightning rod in the culture wars.

The film's conservative defenders have charged that the criticism is driven by liberal fears of religion's growing influence on society. The critics charge that conservatives are using the issue to whip up a hysteria about alleged persecution of religion.

Recently, the debate shifted to another inflammatory issue: Holocaust denial and comparisons between the Holocaust and other atrocities.

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."

Does this answer exonerate Gibson, or does he damn himself with his own words? Obviously, he doesn't deny that the concentration camps existed or that Jews were killed in them. But George Mason University law professor David Bernstein points out on the Volokh Conspiracy weblog that 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.

A more controversial aspect of Gibson's comments is the question of whether the Holocaust merits unique status in the annals of 20th century crimes against humanity.

The double standard applied to Nazi and communist crimes has long been a sore point among critics of the Western left, and it's a legitimate charge-- made, among others, by British writer Martin Amis in the 2002 book about Stalin's reign of terror, Koba the Dread.

Gulag revisionism is not stigmatized the way Holocaust revisionism is. Historian Robert Thurston's 1996 book, Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia, which argued that bad things happened but there was no systematic deliberate terror, was published by Yale University Press and received blurbs from respected scholars hailing it as "thought-provoking" and "original." Meanwhile, The Black Book of Communism, a 1999 book documenting communism's bloody record, was widely criticized as sensationalist and biased.

So yes, there is a double standard because communism is seen as having "progressive" goals. And yes, the Soviet regime engaged in mass murder on a Nazi-like scale. But that hardly justifies Gibson's comments.

Given an opportunity to state clearly that the Holocaust happened and that it was a horrific crime, Gibson, instead, chose to hedge-- to give a "yes, but" answer, to gloss over the Nazi extermination of the Jews and quickly move on to other victims of other regimes. This may not signify anti-Semitism, but it certainly signifies a frightening moral obtuseness.

Politically correct witch-hunts do happen. But Gibson is not the victim of such a witch-hunt; the backlash he faces is of his own making.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and a columnist at the Boston Globe, where this essay first appeared.

Israeli Chief Rabbi Metzger urges Pope to say Jews not to blame for crucifixion 

From Haaretz Thu., February 26, 2004 Adar 4, 5764
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/398764.htmlBy The Associated Press

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger on Thursday urged the pope to reiterate in public that Jews are not to blame for the death of Jesus, saying he fears Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" could revive such beliefs.

Metzger said he is sending a letter to Pope John Paul II with the request. Metzger said he wants the pope to reiterate a key church decision from the 1960s that reversed the centuries-old doctrine that Jews were behind the crucifixion.

"The Vatican and the Pope must explain today ... that the Jewish nation, the Jewish people didn't kill Jesus," Metzger told The Associated Press in an interview.

Gibson's film, a bloody depiction of Christ's final 12 hours and his death, opened in American movie theaters on Wednesday. Jewish leaders have criticized the movie, saying it will fuel anti-Semitism through an unfair portrayal of Jews as being the main force behind Jesus' death.

Gibson, who directed, funded and co-scripted the film, has denied those charges.

Earlier this month, the Anti-Defamation League also asked the Vatican to restate its view on the crucifixion, but a Vatican official at the time said no such statement was planned.

In a landmark 1965 document called "Nostra Aetate," Latin for "In Our Time," the Vatican deplored anti-Semitism in every form and repudiated the "deicide" charge that blamed Jews as a people for Christ's death. The idea of Jewish guilt had fueled anti-Semitism for centuries.

The document was issued during the Second Vatican Council and has been credited with helping improve relations between Christians and Jews.

Gibson is a member of a movement known as traditionalist Catholicism, which rejects the modernizing reforms made at the council, a series of meetings held from 1962-65 that dramatically changed the Catholic Church.

An Israeli lawmaker on Wednesday called for Gibson's movie to be banned from Israeli cinemas. But it's unlikely the Israeli film board, which has rarely banned movies in the past, would bar "The Passion."

Media reports over the past months said the pope approved of the film after a screening in his apartment in early December and said, "It is as it was." But John Paul's secretary later denied he ever endorsed the film.

Rabbi Metzger, who first met the pope at the Vatican in January, said he fears the movie could be a setback for efforts to build stronger ties between the two faiths.

"All of us, we are the sons of the same God, the sons of the same father, Abraham," Metzger said.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Dangers of Militant Islam: Daniel Pipes at U.C. Berkeley wages battle for TRUTH 

Raucous crowd lays into Mideast pundit Pipes at U.C. Berkeley speech

Friday February 13, 2004

Raucous crowd lays into Mideast pundit Pipes (of http://www.meforum.org/ and http://www.campus-watch.org/) at U.C. Berkeley speech

by joe eskenazi staff writer Jewishsf.com
Five seconds.

That's all the time it took for controversial Mideast pundit Daniel Pipes (http://www.meforum.org/) to be interrupted at the onset of a contentious speech Tuesday night, Feb. 12, on the U.C. Berkeley campus.

"Mr. Pipes, Mr. Pipes, I'm on your Campus Watch (http://www.campus-watch.org/) ," said graduate student instructor and pro-Palestinian activist Snehal Shingavi, leaping out of the third row and making reference to Pipes' Web site, which lists "anti-Israel" college instructors.

A cavalcade of jeers and nearly as many cheers followed as U.C. police led Shingavi, screaming, out of the immense Pimentel lecture hall, which was packed to the rafters with at least 600 in attendance. And Shingavi would not be the last to be dragged out of the building while shouting slogans.

It was that way all night for Pipes, who tore into militant Islam, Palestinian nationalism and the state of Middle Eastern studies on North American campuses between loud and frequent interruptions and a bevy of ejections.

The director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum http://www.meforum.org/ and recent presidential appointee to the U.S. Institute of Peace compared Islamism to he totalitarian philosophies of Nazism and communism, and called for "a war on militant Islam."

"Militant Islam is derived from Islam, but it is [a] misanthropic, misogynist, millenarian, anti-modern, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, terroristic and suicidal version of it," he said. The extremely tall and owlish Pipes spoke softly and often tossed out long and complex lists like the above, making him an easy mark for disruption by campus pro-Palestinians and members of Bay Area anti-Zionist groups.

Cries and chants of "racist", "Zionism will be defeated and "leave Cal" ignited the politically polarized crowd, and led to frequent outbursts. Pipes did not respond to the first few interruptions, but he began to toss out barbs such as "I guess your totalitarian impulse is just too strong" as they mounted up, to the delight of the rankled pro-Israel audience members.

In his Hillel- and Jewish Student Union-sponsored speech, he derided the Oslo accords as a fiasco, doomed because the Palestinians never dropped their "foul ambitions to destroy their neighbor."

Until the Palestinians accept Israel's permanence, the only option for the Jewish state is to "relegate diplomacy to the trash." Israeli concessions, he believes, will be taken as signs of weakness, and only encourage more and more Arab violence. The two sides can start talking when "Jews who live in Hebron have no more need for security than Arabs who live in Nazareth."

Pipes said he supported the war in Iraq --"as any civilized person must"-- but was displeased by the war's aftermath.

Iraq is unlike Germany and Japan, he said, because the inhabitants of those nations had been thoroughly defeated in a long war, while the Iraqis survived a short war and emerged "liberated."

After being showered with boos following that statement, he replied: "I'm sorry, I stand corrected. They were much better off under Saddam Hussein."

As a "liberated" people and not a "conquered" one, the Iraqis are less receptive to the rule of outsiders, he said.

Pipes said he would like to see a vastly scaled-back American presence in Iraq, but he also wished the United States would have the patience to foster democracy in the former dictatorial state, which he believes will take 20 years or more to emerge.

He closed by lambasting the field of Middle Eastern studies as a corrupt and inept collection of apologists for terror who have been cowed by a glut of Arab money, and he defended his critiques on http://www.campus-watch.org/ , which accusers described as "McCarthyite.'

As he finished his speech, large numbers of pro-Palestinians stood and chanted "racist" and entire rows were expelled from the auditorium. A crowd of ejected audience members continued chanting outside, causing students taking night courses nearby to complain that their classes had been disrupted. The demonstrators also mobbed pro-Israel attendees leaving the speech, pointing fingers and shouting "racist, racist." Pipes said after the speech that the audience reaction was "about the worst I ever had," and many audience members were displeased as well.

"My night was ruined; I was sitting right in front of that whole row that was kicked out. They weren't really even listening. I was angry, I kept telling them to shut up," said Alex Gutman, a San Francisco State student in attendance.

"They should have kicked out all those people from the get-go."

Original Report: http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/21526/format/html/displaystory.html

Thursday, February 12, 2004

U.S. envoy: Anti-Semitism in Europe nearly as bad as in 1930s 

By Reuters


The U.S. envoy to the European Union said on Thursday that anti-Semitism in Europe was nearly as bad as it was in the 1930s, a decade which saw the rise of German Nazism and led to the extermination of six millions Jews.

The remarks by Ambassador Rockwell Schnabel are likely to rekindle controversy over charges that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, which prompted the European Union's executive to schedule a major seminar on the issue next week.

Speaking at a dinner given by the American Jewish Committee to launch a Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, Schnabel said relations between Europe and the United States had improved since last year's acrimony over the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"There is one issue that we can work on together," he said. "It is to overcome the issue of anti-Semitism which...is indeed - as I understand it and read - getting to a point where it is as bad as it was in the 30s."

He did not elaborate.

Some six million Jews were killed in Europe in the Holocaust that emerged from Nazi Germany's efforts to exterminate European Jewry during the 1939-45 World War Two.

Many Jewish groups are now concerned about what they call a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Synagogues and Jewish schools in France have been attacked repeatedly in recent years, violence authorities link to poor Muslim youths enraged by Israel's tough policies against Palestinian unrest. The country is home to both the largest Jewish and largest Muslim minorities in western Europe.

Charges of anti-Semitism were fuelled last year when a controversial survey carried out by the European Commission found that a majority of the bloc's citizens see Israel as a threat to world peace.

The EU's anti-racism agency also withheld a report blaming Muslim immigrants for a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe but finally released it under pressure from European parliamentarians and major Jewish groups.

The Commission reacted with fury last month when two leading Jewish groups - referring to the opinion poll and the withholding of the report - accused it of anti-Semitism through both "action and inaction".

Some EU officials are, however, concerned at what they see as a tendency to stigmatize legitimate criticism of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians as anti-Semitic.

"Recent acts and expressions of anti-Semitism in Europe are outrageous," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the 400 dinner guests. "The burning of synagogues, the physical and verbal abuse of Jews in the street are absolutely unacceptable."

"But let us not confuse two very different things," he added. "Acts and expressions of anti-Semitism within the European Union are not acts of anti-Semitism by the European Union. The policies of the European Union are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israeli."


Rabbi Berel Wein

Date: Feb 13 2004
Topic: Jerusalem Post


The State of Israel and not so indirectly the Jewish people and Judaism itself are on trial again in front of a self-appointed non-Jewish court of justice that chooses its defendants very selectively.

Fifty-six Islamic nations have signed up to speak against the defensive fence that Israel is building to attempt to keep the murderous Islamists out of our busses, restaurants and lives.

But the not so subtle sub theme of the trial is the right of the State of Israel to exist at all.

For what other country in the world has been hauled before the court in The Hague for daring to protect its citizens against murder and violence?

The trial is so bizarre that it defies logic but when it comes to dealing with Jews much of the world loses any sense of logic, justice or fairness. We in Jewish history have vast experience with such trials. Judaism and the Jewish people have been on trial for thousands of years in the courts of the non-Jewish world. We rarely win the trial but we somehow survive to be put on trial another time and in another place. This will probably be the outcome in The Hague as well where our chances for technical success are minimal, but the court will have suffered such a mortal blow in terms of history for even countenancing the acceptance of such a case for trial. But just as Jews tragically learn little from history, so do our non-Jewish opponents as well.

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) and the Talmud were put on trial by the Catholic Church in front of King James I of Aragon in 1263.

The leading prosecutor was an apostate Jew, Friar Paul (Pablo Christiani) and the indictment stated that it was only the obstinacy of the Jews that kept them from converting to Christianity, since the Talmud itself admitted that Christianity was the true religion! The Ramban naturally demolished this preposterous theory during the trial. Ramban was allowed freedom of speech by the king in defending Judaism from the charge and thus was able to show clearly the ignorance, malice and lack of Biblical and Talmudic scholarship of Christiani. Even the Catholic king had to admit that the charges brought were ludicrous. His rueful comment was, "Never have I heard such a wrong cause defended so ably." Though Ramban won that trial, he eventually had to flee Spain because of Church persecution and settled in Jerusalem where he founded a synagogue that exists on his name till this very day. Not many people still remember James I of Aragon or Pablo Christiani.

In the 1400's, Judaism was again put on trial by the Church in Tortossa, Spain.

This time the Church did not repeat the mistake of allowing freedom of speech to the rabbis defending Judaism. The Jews were found guilty and within half a century they were either forcibly baptized or expelled from Spain. This shameful deed helped Spain, within a century, fall into the backwater of European history and life. The results of sham trials do not in the long run affect Judaism's eternity or vitality. But they eventually do great harm to those who produce these twisted declarations of seeming justice.

In the 1890's the Dreyfus trial rocked France and the Western world.

Poor Alfred Dreyfus, framed by the French General Staff and the army that he served so loyally, was found guilty of treason. He was publicly humiliated and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island, a certain form of slow death. When the frame-up was finally exposed and the issue split the French society into Dreyfusards and anti-Dryefusards, Dreyfus was returned to France to stand trial again. Naturally, he was again found guilty but eventually the French president pardoned him and he was restored to his army post and rank. He fought in the French army in World War I. The public anti-Semitism that accompanied the Dreyfus trial shocked a Vienna based journalist, Theodore Herzl, and started him on the way to Zionism. He saw it correctly as being not a trial of a Jew but of Judaism and the Jewish people as a whole. It is fair to say that French society has not gotten over the effects of the Dreyfus trial - even until today, more than a century later.

The Beilis blood libel trial in Russia just before World War I is another example of Judaism on trial.

Again, the prosecutors working for the Czar were aware that the case had no substance. But they persisted in pursuing it even against the outcry of much of the Western world of those times. Beilis was eventually acquitted but the Jews and Judaism were never innocent in Russian eyes. The Czar fell soon thereafter, just as his bloody successors fell in our recent time as well. Russia is still searching for its soul. The false trials against the Russian Jewish dissidents of the 1970's only hastened the demise of the evil empire.

Trials against the Jewish people and Judaism usually end up finding the trial court discredited and guilty, at least in the scales of justice that history wields.

Berel Wein

This article comes from RabbiWein.com

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Mel Gibson cuts scene but Jewish groups are still angry 

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
05 February 2004

Mel Gibson cuts scene but Jewish groups are still angry

Mel Gibson has cut a line from his new film The Passion of Christ, in an apparent concession to Jewish lobby groups who have accused him of stoking anti-Semitism and reviving the old accusation that Jews bear collective responsibility for killing the Son of God.

A friend of the actor-director said the final version will not include a line from St Matthew's gospel in which the Jewish high priest Caiaphas says of the crucifixion: "His blood be on us and on our children."

Groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre have been criticising Gibson ever since it emerged his retelling of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ was based on at least some discredited and overtly anti-Semitic sources.

The excised line from Caiaphas may be an indication Gibson is listening. It is said simply the scene in question "didn't work" in test screenings.

Gibson has apparently inflicted further damage with an interview in Reader's Digest, in which he was challenged to acknowledge the Holocaust happened. 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. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives."

Gibson's choice of words has incensed Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who wrote in a letter to the actor-director: "To describe Jewish suffering during the Holocaust as 'some of them were Jews in concentration camps' is an afterthought that feeds into the hands of Holocaust deniers and revisionists."

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Anti-Semitism Audio-Visual Presentation: The Pipeline of Hatred 

Creators: UDI AND MAL OHANA, Kfar Saba, Israel.
Anti-Semitism Audio-Visual Presentation: The (Islamic) Pipeline of Hatred

"We created this web site to provide visual information about the history of the Middle East conflict, and to help supporters of Israel fight the biased world media.
This web site and our presentations are freely accessible to all. We are not financially supported by the Israeli government or by any of the big Jewish organizations...Conceptwizard is not an anonymous organization. Udi and I are a married couple, living in central Israel, with two grown-up children. We spend many hours creating our presentations and info page, and answering as many of your letters as possible. We do this voluntarily, after our regular bread-and-butter jobs ...Our goal is to provide quickly viewed educational tools to help people better understand and explain the roots of the Mid-East conflict..."

"January 14, 2004

So why shouldn’t we REALLY treat the Palestinians in a more humane way?

This is a question that we are often asked in the letters people write us after seeing our presentations – especially the last one on anti-Semitism.

Here is a scenario that is not at all hypothetical –

A young woman, a mother of two young infants living in the Gaza Strip, arrives at the Israeli army checkpoint terminal. Each day this terminal crossing regulates the entry of 15-20,000 Palestinians into Israel. As this woman passes through the magnetic gate the alarm goes off. At this point the soldiers at the gate are instructed to do one of two things:
1) Not allow her to go through the gate, or
2) Take any precautionary measures necessary (including the use of firearms) in the event that they suspect this person is a suicide bomber.

In this scenario, the “person” is a woman. Women are treated differently (you can’t ask them to lift their shirts up). The woman at the magnetic gate starts crying – saying that she needs to get to the hospital urgently for treatment. She explains that the reason the metal detector in the gate sounded the alarm is because she has metal plates in her leg.

Now, here is the dilemma. There is a woman at the magnetic gate. She has triggered the alarm. We know that in past months there have been a number of suicide bombings carried out by women. So what would YOU do in this situation? What would YOU do if you were the one who has to take this decision? What action would you take?

Here are your options:

1) Send her away – and prevent her from receiving the treatment she claims she needs – and, by so doing, eliminate the possibility that she can activate the bomb in Israel.

2) Accept her explanation, and accept responsibility for letting her through the checkpoint despite the fact that she has triggered the alarm, and ask her to accompany you to a special room where a female officer can make sure that she isn’t carrying explosives (don’t forget that the metal detector went off as she passed through).

So what would you do if you were the person in charge of the checkpoint?

The scenario continues. The person in charge, under instructions to make life easier for the Palestinians needing to pass through the checkpoint, and especially faced by a woman who claims she needs urgent medical attention (a mother of two infants, don’t forget), decides to let her through and accompanies her to a room to be searched by a female officer. The woman falls over as she enters the room and, as people rush to help her up, the woman presses the button and activates the 5 kilos of explosives that she’d been carrying on her body. She blows herself up, murdering 4 Israelis and wounding a dozen others in the process.

Now, here is the REAL dilemma. What should the soldiers at that terminal crossing do tomorrow morning? Should they deny entry to the thousands of Palestinians seeking work in Israel in order to provide for their families? Based on their experience of the previous day, should they deny entry to Israel to any person claiming that s/he needs medical attention? These people, with their crutches, wheelchairs, pacemakers, etc., are the ones most likely to trigger the alarm on the metal detector.

Or – should they put this incident behind them, and carry on risking their lives just because the rest of the world (which isn’t present at this checkpoint) condemns them for not treating these people in a more humane way.

We would really like to hear your opinion on this matter (Email
udiohana@inter.net.il )
And please spare us the platitude that we shouldn’t be there in the first place. If we weren’t there, the suicide bombers would have absolutely free passage."

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