To the overwhelming majority of American Jews the news that actor/director Mel Gibson spewed anti-Semitic invective at police after being pulled over last week for speeding and drunken driving was not exactly a revelation.
Gibson earned infamy — as well as millions of dollars and fans — for his 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ." Christians flocked to it for the depiction of what the director believed to be the truth of sacred narrative. Jews were appalled by its anti-Jewish themes.
While the film did not lead to more anti-Semitism, it did create a divisive debate among faith communities. Gibson could have evaded this with minimal gestures, such as simply meeting with Jewish leaders. Instead, he profited from fanning the controversy, while he and his defenders played dumb.
And it's in this light that we should view his recent vicious remarks about Jews, as well as his insincere apologies. No matter that Gibson harbors ugly beliefs or battles alcohol problems; the star's personal demons are of little interest to us.
What this story should do is to place "The Passion" — and the prospect of him producing a television mini-series about the Holocaust (a project laudably spiked by ABC after Gibson's arrest was made public) — in context. Now that Gibson's real feelings toward the Jews are out in the open, those who spoke up for the movie and for this biased film director need to reassess their own views of its content and impact.
More than the rehabbing of Gibson, who, of course, is now eager for a meeting with the ADL, it is those who defended the man and his movie who owe us an apology.