As of last week, we're up to two non-Jewish celebrities who have come
forward to defend Mel Gibson as a non-anti-Semite Jodie Foster and Patrick
Swayze. And at least three Jewish ones have defended him publicly as well,
including comedian Jackie Mason, producer Dean Devlin, who considers Gibson
one of his best friends in Hollywood, and intellectual David Horowitz all of
whom say he is a very decent man who treats everyone well.
These defenses make sense, considering that the man isn't any more anti-Semitic than the
average person. The average person being one who is suggestible for
example, by the popular mythology that Jews made the Iraq War happen, that
it's being waged more for Israel's interests than for America's, or that
Israel is "occupying" Palestinian lands. These have become mainstream views
and even common wisdom.
What Mel Gibson gave voice to in his not-so-drunken eruption last week
wasn't very different from what a sizeable chunk of the country has been
saying about recent wars. The only difference is that Mel slipped and
actually used the word "Jews" instead of code words like neocons, Zionists
or the Jewish/Israeli lobby. (Recall the Harvard report which said
essentially that the U.S. is being led around by the nose by the Israeli
lobby and friends of Israel against our own national interests.) So the
"truth serum" that everyone is talking about exposed a lot of people, who
were then as you might imagine all too eager to slam Gibson, as a way of
distinguishing their anti-Semitism from his. This includes Jews who also
rail against "the neocons."
Most anti-Semites are not consciously such. That's how it became possible to
wipe out one-third of the Jewish population worldwide. It's not just the
small number of out-and-proud anti-Semites who make such a feat possible.
(Of course, this number isn't so small today amid 1.5 billion Muslims who
almost uniformly dislike Jews, to say the least.) But it takes the duping,
and then the complicity, of those who can't recognize the driving force
behind the perceptions being peddled, and who don't know that they are
themselves open to discriminating against what they perceive to be a
powerful, privileged, successful and wealthy group.
While forgiveness is right and fair and natural, the eagerness to forgive
Gibson as was on display from at least two late-night TV audiences the very
week that the incident surfaced may have as much to do with people being
annoyed by Jews as with their sympathy for Mel. Of all the minorities, for
some reason Jews tend to have the shortest window of grievance opportunity
before sentiment turns against them for taking offense (frequently called
whining), eyes start rolling and the Jews start apologizing for complaining
("Sorry, uh-no, there's nothing wrong with blaming Jews. Why, some of my
best friends are anti-Semites!")
To illustrate, let's imagine an equivalent scenario, in which Gibson goes on
an anti-black tirade in his drunkenness, yelling something to the effect of
"The blacks are ruining this country!" Would black people come out to defend
him, saying that he's just an alcoholic and his words in no way reflect the
way he really feels about black people? Add to the mix a father who has said
that the problem of slavery was overblown, and the son telling everyone to
back off his dad, who "taught me everything I know." What black person would
come to this man's defense? What white person would?
Gibson himself has been more forthcoming than those who are defending him,
writing in his statement that he wants to work with the Jewish community to
find out "where these feelings are coming from." That's not exactly blaming
the alcohol, as others have been doing for him and as we know, the first
step is admitting you have a problem. For that, he may be the most honest
man in America.
As they work together to get to the bottom of Gibson's anti-Jewish
sentiments, one place that he and the Jewish community should look is the
new church he's building near his Malibu home. As People Magazine reports,
The Holy Family church "will house a so-called 'traditionalist' Catholic
congregation, where Mass is said in Latin and parishioners subscribe to
pre-Vatican II beliefs." As we know, one of the most significant points of
departure of Vatican II was the lifting of culpability from Jews for
Christ's death and warning against passion plays. One certainly wonders why
some Catholics are more fixated on whether Jews killed a Jew two thousand
years ago than on the countless Muslims killing Christians today.
In a way, Gibson's arrest and the non-event that the public wants it to
hurry up and become are a metaphor for the world's relapse into
anti-Semitism, which is frequently called by other names.
In the early history of anti-Semitism, Jews were persecuted for their
religion. Next, it was Jewish blood that was the problem. Today the virus
has mutated into targeting "Israeli policies," "Zionism" or the
"disproportionate influence" of the Jews. The incident with the decent Mel
Gibson belies the disconnect that the "non-anti-Semites" indulge in between
these "valid criticisms" and anti-Semitism. Perhaps we're all just reluctant
to admit that we're looking down the dark barrel of what we've only read
about in the history books.