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Thread: The Simon Wiesenthal Center, in their own words

  1. #1

    Wiesenthal Center in their own words

    "As we have said many times, our disagreement is not with Christian churches, nor with the Gospels. Our disagreement is with Mel Gibson whose own personal embellishments of the Gospels stereotype and denigrate the masses of Jews who were not followers of Jesus, while at the same time whitewash Pontius Pilate, who crucified a quarter of a million Jews and who was recalled to Rome by Caesar five years later for his brutality."

    - Rabbi Marvin Hier, Wiesenthal Center Dean and Founder

    "We will...continue on the path of friendship and closeness. We will continue our strong support for the State of Israel. We will not let our Jewish friends down in their time of need. We condemn unequivocally the cancer of anti-Semitism. We reject as unchristian with all the power we can muster any assertion that Jews collectively bare exclusive responsibility for the death of Christ...We will speak out against hatred of Jews...and we will declare loud and clear that we will not allow bigotry to drive a wedge between us."

    - Pastor Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelical Christians

  2. #2
    In last June's Los Angeles Times editorial piece, Mel's Passion, Rabbi Marvin Hier wrote, "Gibson should consider the political context before bringing out his film. Globally, antisemitism is at its highest peak since the end of World War II. Synagogues and Jewish schools have been firebombed and Jews beaten on the streets of France and Belgium. According to some recent polls, 17% of Americans (up from 12% five years ago) hold to political and economic stereotypes about Jews; 37% hold Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. On the Internet as well as in print media around the world, the new demonization of Israelis as Nazi-like oppressors is fusing with the old libel of the Jews as "Christ killers." A cartoon in the Italian newspaper La Stampa (see above left) depicted an Israeli tank rolling up to a manger with little baby Jesus staring up in horror and crying out, 'Do you want to kill me once more?'"

    Since last year when senior Wiesenthal Center officials began publicly expressing their concerns and endorsed changes to the film proposed by Christian and Jewish scholars, the Wiesenthal Center received an unprecedented wave of hate mail and calls. One letter stated, "...What this tells me is that you do not want the real truth to be shown on a public setting that will remind millions of Americans that the jews [sic] were in fact totally responsible for the death of Jesus Christ ...some of these enlightened folks will go for the throat of you jews [sic] and some of your offices of hate such as the ADL main office in New York, or maybe even the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Every time I hear of a suicide bomber killing jews [sic] in Israel I think to myself YES!"

  3. #3
    Earlier this month, in an attempt to reach out to Mr. Gibson, Rabbi Hier, who has seen the film twice, expressed his concerns directly to Mr. Gibson in a letter stating, "I have spent my adult life building an institution that promotes tolerance and commemorates the Holocaust. I have been a critic of your film, "The Passion of the Christ" which I sincerely believe portrays the Jews in a very negative manner and can once again stereotype them as being collectively responsible for the death of Jesus." Rabbi Hier proposed, "We can either go our separate ways or find a path to seek a middle ground..."(letter printed, below). To date, Rabbi Hier's letter has gone unanswered.

  4. #4
    February 2, 2004

    Mr. Mel Gibson
    C/O Alan Nierob
    Rogers and Cowan
    1888 Century Park East
    5th Floor
    Los Angeles, CA

    Dear Mr. Gibson:

    As you have spent your adult life working in films, many of which I greatly admire, I have spent my adult life building an institution that promotes tolerance and commemorates the Holocaust. I have been a critic of your film; "The Passion of the Christ" which I sincerely believe portrays the Jews in a very negative manner and can once again stereotype them as being collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.

    Given the controversy stirred by your forthcoming film, I had hoped that your remarks on the Holocaust during your interview with Peggy Noonan for Readers' Digest would be an opportunity to take us in an entirely new direction. Sadly, according to the excerpt I read, I was mistaken. Rather than showing understanding for what historians regard as the most telling example of man's inhumanity to man in the history of civilization, you diminish the uniqueness of the Holocaust by marginalizing it and placing it alongside the horrors and suffering of people caught up in conflict and famine. You say in your interview, "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."

    While it true that tens of millions of people were killed in unspeakable catastrophes, most of these were as a direct consequence of the war. But it was the Jews alone who were singled out and targeted for total annihilation by a deliberate policy that the Nazis called, "The Final Solution of the Jewish Question," where for the first time it became a government's central policy to plan the murder of an entire people - men, women and children - many of them through gassing.

    Indeed Hitler's government succeeded in murdering nearly six million Jews, one third of the entire world Jewish population. That would be equivalent today to murdering 47 million Russians or 60 million Americans or 20 million British. 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 who refuse to accept the words of Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Counsel for the United States at the opening of the Nuremberg Trials for the Major Nazi War Criminals who said: "The most savage and numerous crimes planned and committed by the Nazis were those against the Jews." Or as Sir Winston Churchill said: "The Holocaust is probably the greatest and most terrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world."

    Mr. Gibson, knowing people and having friends who have tattoos is far less important than honestly acknowledging what really happened to them during the Holocaust - that they belonged to a people marked for total extinction in death camps merely because they happened to be Jews. It may interest you to know that in 1958, in Ulm, Germany, during a trial of members of an SS Einsatzkommando murder squad, the Protestant pastor of the unit was asked why he had approved the murder of Jews. He replied: "These acts were the fulfillment of the self condemnation which the Jews had brought upon themselves before the tribunal of Pontius Pilate."

    Which leads me to a final thought regarding your film. We can either go our separate ways or find a path to seek a middle ground. I realize you cannot re-shoot the film, but you can convene a joint meeting of Jewish and Christian leaders to seek some compromise. This could be in the form of a definitive statement, preferably as an addendum to the film or at the very least, a strong statement given to every moviegoer around the world condemning the false charges of deicide leveled against the Jewish people and speaking out forcefully against antisemitism.

    That is your decision to make.

    Rabbi Marvin Hier
    Founder and Dean
    Simon Wiesenthal Center
    Museum of Tolerance

  5. #5
    The controversy surrounding the film has escalated and given rise to misconceptions and distortions that threaten the status of Jewish-Christian relations and also takes away from the achievements of Vatican II's landmark 1965 document, Nostra Aetate, declaring "the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if that followed from Holy Scriptures."

    To combat this, the Center has written and distributed An Appeal to People of Faith, a document addressing the spate of misinformation regarding Jewish sentiment to the film and to reiterate the Jewish community's gratitude for decades of work on the part of the Christian community to distance itself from the religious roots of antisemitism. It also encourages the Christian community to proclaim that the Crucifixion's message is not one of violence or blame and that there is no room in Christian teaching to support the notion that today's Jews should be seen as the killers of God. An Appeal to People of Faith has already been sent to select leadership of all branches of the Christian faith. As Rabbi Hier noted, "Though we may differ over the film, our long term objectives to fighting bigotry and speaking out against antisemitism are too important to ignore." (see below).

  6. #6
    February 16, 2004


    Introduction: Interfaith Cooperation

    Not too many decades ago, the Jews were branded as Christ-killers—as deicides. Judaism was caricatured as a fossilized religion, and Jewish-Christian dialogue was virtually unknown. This has changed dramatically. Many Christians have always repudiated anti-Jewish stereotypes. Certainly, we can all learn a lesson in courage and sacrifice from righteous men and women like Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was martyred by the Nazis during World War II for trying to save Jews from Hitler’s “Final Solution.” And who among us is not inspired by such shining examples of courage and faith as Sister Alfonsja (Eugenia Wasowska), who at the age of 19 in 1939 became director of a Catholic orphanage in Przemysl, Poland, and then secretly sheltered 13 Jewish children until the end of the war?

    Both the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations have worked with Jews in recent decades to achieve hard-won progress against anti-Jewish prejudice. In this new century, we need to continue to affirm our shared heritage and work together against any possible revival of the deicide accusation and the shameful legacy it represents.

    The Flowering of Jewish-Catholic Dialogue

    The American Catholic Bishops were at the forefront of the adoption by their Church in 1965 of the landmark document, Nostra Aetate, declaring that “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if that followed from Holy Scriptures.” The declaration was issued by Pope Paul VI, but it was conceived during the papacy of Pope John XXIII who as Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey during World War II helped save thousands of Jews from the death camps. Pope Paul VI took a new initiative in 1974 by establishing the Commission for the Catholic Church's Religious Relations with the Jews. The Commission issued specific, practical suggestions for bridging the gap between the two faiths.

    In June, 1985, on the twentieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Commission accelerated its work at the urging of Pope John Paul II who had declared: “We should aim . . . that Catholic teaching at its different levels, in Catechesis to children and young people, presents Jews and Judaism, not only in an honest and objective manner, free from prejudices and without offences, but also with full awareness of the heritage common to Jews and Christians.” The U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops followed suit in 1988 by recommending new preaching guidelines, and issuing guidance on the avoidance of prejudicial media portrayals of Jews and Judaism.

    The 1990s witnessed more progress, stimulated by the example of Pope John Paul II, who himself suffered at the hands of the Nazi occupiers and witnessed the deportation of his Jewish neighbors to death camps during world War II. Having made it clear from the outset of his papacy that “no theological justification could ever be found for acts of discrimination or persecution against Jews,” the Pope acknowledged in a 1997 speech that by “blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus, certain Christian teachings had helped fuel anti-Semitism.”

    Pope John Paul II has also earned the deep respect of world Jewry for his first trip to the Auschwitz memorial (1979), his attendance at a special service in Rome’s Great Synagogue (1996), and his historic prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall during his historic pilgrimage to the Jewish state (2000). He’s expressed the Church’s sorrow over the Holocaust and has continued the process of rapprochement with the Jewish people by establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. His positive legacy for Catholic-Jewish relations is enshrined in two new Vatican declarations—We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah (1998), making “an act of repentance (teshuva)” for “erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament in the Christian world,” and Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past (1999), expressing “profound remorse” for how “hostility or diffidence of numerous Christians toward Jews” contributed to the Holocaust.

  7. #7


    The Jewish-Protestant Rapprochement

    Among Protestant denominations, there has been a parallel exploration of common ground with Jews and Judaism. This has involved repudiation of anti-Jewish prejudice, and a new commitment to the State of Israel. Here are some examples across six decades:

    •In 1948 in the Shoah’s immediate wake, the First Assembly of World Council of Churches acknowledged that: “The extermination of six million Jews” was made possible by failure “to fight with all our strength the age-old disorder of man which anti-Semitism represents. . . . The churches in the past have helped to foster an image of Jews as the sole enemies of Christ which has contributed to anti-Semitism in the secular world.”

    •In 1964, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church declared “the charge of deicide against the Jews is a tragic misunderstanding of the inner significance of the crucifixion.” Also, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention of the adopted a resolution explicitly rejecting the “Christ killer” label applied to Jews because “within the Church throughout the centuries, loveless attitudes, including the charge of deicide, have frequently resulted in the persecution of the Jewish people and a concomitant revulsion on the part of the Jewish people towards un-Christ-like witness thus made . . . .” Then in 1979, the General Convention recognized “a special urgency for Christians to listen, through study and dialogue, to ways in which Jews understand their own history, their Scriptures, their traditions, their faith and their practice, ” and recommended that its member churches observe liturgically every year, on or near Yom HaShoah, their bond with the Jewish people.

    •In 1987, the 199th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), adopted a statement, “A Theological Understanding of the Relationship Between Christians and Jews,” affirming “the gracious and irrevocable election of both” the Presbyterian church and the Jewish people. Acknowledging “the church’s long and deep complicity in the proliferation of anti-Jewish attitudes and actions through its ‘teaching of contempt’,” the Presbyterian General Assembly recognized “the continuity of God’s promise of land along with the obligations of that promise to the people of Israel.”

    •In 1989, the Willowbank Declaration of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism (LCWE) adopted a particularly strong resolution condemning anti-Jewish prejudice and supporting Israel: “[W]e are resolved to uphold the right of Jewish people to a just and peaceful existence everywhere, both in the land of Israel and in their communities throughout the world. We repudiate past persecutions of Jews by those identified as Christians, and we pledge ourselves to resist every form of anti-Semitism.”

    •In 1994, the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America committed itself to “live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people,” declaring that: “In the long history of Christianity, there exists no more tragic development than the treatment of the Jewish people on the part of Christian believers.” The Council also acknowledged “a special burden in this regard” borne by Lutherans because of Martin Luther’s “anti-Judaic diatribes and violent recommendations.” And it warned that “the New Testament . . . must not be used as justification for hostility towards present-day Jews,” and that “blame for the death of Jesus should not be attributed to Judaism or the Jewish people.”

    •Also in 1994, the Commission on Theology of the Disciples of Christ adopted a resolution that states: “We confess and repent the church’s long and deep collusion in the spread of anti-Jewish attitudes and actions through its ‘teaching of contempt’ for Jews and Judaism.”

  8. #8


    The Jewish Response

    In the late twentieth century, everywhere that American Jews looked, they saw Catholic and Protestant churches, across the spectrum, take extraordinary measures, almost unprecedented during the previous two millennia, to preach understanding and tolerance for Jews. They watched, sometimes with initial suspicion and incredulity, as Christian groups clamored to learn more about Jewish ideas and practices, while flocking to Passover Seders.

    More and more Jews have learned that Christianity should not be seen as hostile to Jews. They have learned that Christians could and did change the attitudes that had cost the Jewish people so many lives. They heard powerful voices denouncing antisemitism in the strongest terms to their flocks. They have read articles in church papers and entries in religious encyclopedias urging tolerance and respect for the people into whose midst Jesus was born, and the religion he himself observed. They have seen hands of sincere friendship offered repeatedly by Christian churches that, for example, commemorated Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. They also have discovered that the strongest support for a beleaguered Israel came from millions of Christians, some of whom saw the Jewish state as the welcome fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

    Jews saw churches addressing what they considered the single greatest sticking point in Christian/Jewish relations. Jews as a people did not have to carry the stain of deicide; that Jesus died for all people; and that the Passion itself is far more an indication of the love God has for humanity than an eternal indictment of Jews or Romans. Centuries ago, the Council of Trent (1545) anticipated this doctrinal insight. While many Christians affirmed this through the ages, many Jews heard it proclaimed loud and clear—by Catholics and Protestants—for the first time.

    Jews also became aware that for millions of good, church-going Americans, these were not really new developments, and that Christians took such enlightened beliefs for granted.

    To a significant extent, Jews got what they wanted: official recognition by Christian church bodies of the long history of pseudo-religious Jew hatred that was exploited by the racists who perpetrated the Holocaust. Rabbi James A. Rudin, long-time interreligious affairs director for the American Jewish Committee, recognized the importance of declarations like the Vatican’s We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah (1998) in providing such recognition: “50, 75, 100 years from now, there can never be any doubt that the Holocaust took place, because here is a definitive statement from the Catholic Church by a pope from Poland.”

    Yet Jews are disturbed that many Christians fail to recognize how large is the looming specter of resurgent antisemitism. Despite real progress narrowing gaps, both communities continue to misunderstand each other, and to ignore that mutual understanding is a two-way street. Too many Jews are unaware of the theme of love that permeates the understanding of the Passion by contemporary Christians; they need to put more effort into understanding Christian doctrine and respect for Christianity’s sacred Scriptures. Too many Christians seem unaware that, for hundreds of years, dramatizations of the Passion heightened ill-will against Jews; they need to understand well-founded Jewish fears that, now as in the past, portrayals of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution may be misunderstood or distorted to incite antisemitic hatred and violence, thereby falsifying authentic church teachings.

  9. #9


    Threats to Progress

    Today, new controversies are emerging that threaten hard-won common ground. Now more than ever, communities of faith need to re-unite against divisive forces of nihilism and hate.

    As the twenty-first century begins, there are troubling signs that the work of interfaith reconciliation is dangerously incomplete, and that the deicide accusation and blood libel stubbornly persist in popular culture and political discourse, and have even made new global inroads.

    Last year, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia compiled a report on antisemitism in Europe that showed such an alarming trend that the European Union, which sponsored the report, tried to suppress it. The reported concluded:

    The attacks in New York and Washington on September 11 and the conflict in the Middle East have contributed to an atmosphere in Europe, which gives latent anti-Semitism and hate and incitement a new strength and power of seduction. Even rumours that Israel was responsible for 11 September 2001, for the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and that Jews bring about a situation in their interest in order to put the blame on somebody else, found a receptive audience in some places. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are spreading over the Internet, which provides a cheap vehicle for the distribution of hate.

    Here are some examples of troubling worldwide developments:

    •In Western Europe, as the Middle East conflict spread to Bethlehem, involving the Church of the Nativity, some church leaders joined both conservative and liberal journalists in reviving anti-Jewish religious images of “the massacre of innocents” in the Nativity narratives as well as of the Crucifixion to use as a polemical weapon against Israel and its Jewish supporters. .

    •In Western Europe, a rising volume of acts of “street-level antisemitism,” including physical attacks on Jews and the desecration and destruction of cemeteries and synagogues, has been perpetrated by both young Muslims and non-Muslim youths who often commit “thrill hate crimes” against Jews “just for fun.”

    •In Durban, South Africa, at the United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism held just days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the conference degenerated into an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish circus, and a representative of the World Council of Churches unaccountably took the lead in deleting a resolution condemning antisemitism from the statement by the UN’s nongovernmental organizations.

    •In Western Europe, also increasingly common is “salon antisemitism”—manifested “in the media, university common rooms, and at dinner parties of the chattering classes.”

    •In Western and Eastern Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia, the extreme right is utilizing the Internet to link with radical Islamists, anti-globalization campaigners, and the anti-American far left around a conspiratorial ideology denying the Holocaust, demonizing Israel, and alleging a Jewish plot to dominate the world.

    •In Russia, Hizb-ut-tahrir (the Party of Islamic Liberation) operates an internet server that broadcasts messages in German, English, Danish and French inciting Muslims throughout Europe “to kill all Jews wherever you find them.”

    •In Germany, Jewish community organizations have been targeted by a massive and increasingly menacing deluge of antisemitic letters, e-mails, and phone calls.

    •In Belgium, Rabbi Albert Gigi was assaulted by a gang shouting “dirty Jew” in Arabic, the Saudi-based Salafi Movement has created “a state within a state” that functions as a recruiting agent for Islamic terrorists.

    •In Poland, after there was an order removing the Christian crosses that had been placed at Auschwitz, a bitter-end defender of the display reacted: “Our [Polish] bishops have sold the cross to the sons of Satan, in other words, the Jews.”

    •In Greece, the Orthodox Church continues to include in the liturgy ritual of Good Friday anti-Jewish references; “Christ killer” imagery pervades mainstream anti-Israel political discourse; and almost half of Greeks believe that the Israel is responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center. Leading newspapers have also carried stories claiming that Israelis were trafficking the organs of dead Palestinian fighters and performing medical experiments on Arab prisoners.

    •In Spain, where the Madrid synagogue requires 24-hour police protection, 72 percent of those polled agreed that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country,” and 63 percent agreed that “Jews have too much power in the business world.” These are the highest levels of prejudice in Europe.

    •In Italy, the web site, Holy War/Tradizione Cattolica, popularizes a message combining antisemitism with a call to return to the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church.

    •In France, between September 2000 and January 2002, 405 antisemitic incidents—one third of all those world-wide—were documented. In Montpelier, a French priest distributed at a Christmas midnight mass a few years ago a hymn reading: “He was born in Bethlehem, Palestine. He was born in Bethlehem, poor and innocent. Sharon shot him down.”

    •In the Netherlands, pro-Palestinian demonstrators regularly shout, “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas,” a slogan that has been taken up by supporters of the Feyenoord Rotterdam football (soccer) team.

    •In Portugal, Nobel Prize winning novelist José Saramago compared the Israeli presence in the West Bank to “what happened at Auschwitz.”

    •In Sweden, the daily newspaper, Aftonbladet, printed an anti-Israeli story under the headline: “The crucified Arafat.” The leftist party, Vänsterpartiet, announced itself against xenophobia, homophobia, and other forms of racism—but not antisemitism.

    •In the United Kingdom, there were 22 synagogue desecrations in the 22 months before October 2000, but 78 in the following 22 months. Physical assaults on Jews have become more common and more violent, often leading to hospitalization. In Edinburgh, a clergyman defended a mural showing a crucified Jesus flanked by Roman soldiers—and modern-day Israeli troops.

    •In the U.S. and Latin America, some fashionable “liberation theologians” are breathing new life into old defamations of Judaism and Jews. As one such theologian quoted in The Post-Modern Bible puts it, “As long as people believe in the Yahweh of deliverance, the world will not be safe from Yahweh the conqueror.”

    •In Canada, a member of the Victorian Order of Nurses recollected that, three times during her career, she was ordered to leave by patients screaming: “Christ killer! Get out of my home.”

    •Back in the United States, a Florida state employee had to sue because his superiors refuse to do anything about a coworker tormenting him with the taunt of “Christ killer.”

    The polling data from the United States—causing the Gallup Organization to conclude that “the Christ-killer charge remains pervasive”—tells part of the same troubling story:

    •In the 1960s, at the height of Christian and Jewish cooperation in the moral crusade for Civil Rights, sociologists Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark studied the attitudes of American Protestants and Catholics towards holding contemporary Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. In their words, they “were entirely unprepared to find the religious roots of anti-Semitism so widespread in modern society.”

    •A 2002 poll by International Communications Research in Pennsylvania asked respondents if they thought that “the Jews were primarily responsible for the killing of Jesus Christ.” The results: 37 percent agreed, 47 percent disagreed, and 16 percent said they did not know. Note that the poll asked about “the Jews”—not about “Jewish leaders” or Temple authorities. With anti-Jewish sentiment increasing for the first time in thirty years, the combined 53 percent who “agreed” or “didn’t know” reflect a dangerous level of hostility or ignorance that ought to be the concern of religious leaders and educators.
    Today’s political cartoons—reviving the ritual murder and “Christ killer” motifs—are yet another mirror reflecting hate:

    •On December 26, 2001, the French newspaper, Liberation, ran a cartoon by “Willem” showing Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, holding nails between his teeth and a hammer in his hand, and standing next to a cross surrounded by tanks. Under the caption—“No Christmas for Arafat”—Sharon is made to declare: “But He Is Welcome for Easter.”

    •In April, 2002, the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, ran a front-page cartoon showing the Baby Jesus hiding from an Israeli tank in a manger with the caption: “Surely they don’t want to kill me again?”

    •That same month, a poster was displayed on the San Francisco State University Campus, entitled “Made in Israel” and showing an infant labeled “Palestinian Children Meat . . . Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites under American License” by “Sharon.” Produced by Palestinian and Muslim student groups, the poster was funded by the SFSU Student Association.

    •Earlier this year, a New Jersey college campus was blanketed with 500 posters showing a Palestinian crucified on a Star of David.

    •A 2003 cartoon from the Palestinian Authority’s largest daily, Al Quds, depicted Palestinians and Iraqis as victims of a “double crucifixion.” In the cartoon, two Arab figures are nailed to a cross back to back, with one victim identified as “Brother from Iraq,” and the other as “Relative from Palestine.”

  10. #10


    Of course, not all objections to Israeli policies fuel the flames of anti-Jewish hatred. Yet we need to draw a line between harsh but acceptable criticism and unscrupulous exploitation of the hateful history of deicide and blood libels.

    We also need to remember that antisemitic scapegoating does not require real grievances against Israel or Jews. In the jungles of Central America on the eve of World War II, an anthropologist studied an isolated tribe that had never seen a Jew. Yet sometime in the past, the tribe had encountered Catholic missionaries. The result was not conversion to Christianity, but adoption of a bizarre ritual in which dancers, wearing horns and tails and identified as “Jew Kings,” were symbolically burned for having “killed God.” Unfortunately, such aberrations are not the monopoly of so-called “primitive” societies. In post-World War II Japan, a country virtually without Jews, the best-seller lists have featured books demonizing Jews as “Christ killers” as well as modern-day conspirators.

    Nor should it be forgotten that, during the twentieth century, those who foment antisemitic religious prejudice often have had a hidden agenda. Their ostensible target is Judaism and Jews, but their ultimate purpose is to delegitimize Christianity and to substitute for it a non-Christian ideology—whether that be secular fascism or communism or radical Islam. Christians have compelling reasons not to play into their hands.

    Conclusion: What Should Be Done?

    Christians educated in the ethic of interreligious dialogue and tolerance are not going to be transformed into antisemites by a film, no matter how graphic and controversial its portrayal of the Crucifixion. The greater concern is impressionable minds, shaped by mass media and secular society and often addicted to violent imagery. Medieval passion plays captured the popular imagination to the extent of igniting pogroms and expulsions of Jews. For example, during the sixteenth century crowds numbering as many as 70,000 walked in procession on Good Friday from the Santa Lucia Church, through Rome’s Jewish Quarter, to the Coliseum to perform a dramatization of the Passion notable for demonizing Jews. At the end of the play, spectators carried an actor representing the dead Christ back from the Coliseum to their churches, singing hymns and flagellating as they walked. Though Jewish residents stayed in doors so as not to provoke violence, an anti-Jewish riot broke out in 1539 that caused Pope Paul III to ban any further productions of the Passion Play in Rome.

    We in the postmodern, post-Holocaust era ought to be even more concerned about the potentially negative impact of state-of-the-art Hollywood productions dramatizing the same theme. Early in the history of Hollywood, D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille offered versions New Testament epics redolent with “Christ-killer” stereotypes. Only after the Holocaust did biblical films, such as Samuel Bronston’s King of Kings (1961) and George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), begin to take real pains not to portray the Romans as innocent dupes and Jesus’ fellow Jews as murderers collectively responsible forever for his death.

    At the time of this writing, we do not know with certainty how Mel Gibson’s film will portray Jews in its final cut, although we are profoundly disturbed by what we saw in one of the earlier versions. All mainstream Jewish organizations were shut out of the process of advising during the making of the film. We think that this was a great error, besides a wasted opportunity. We also know that self-avowed antisemites plan to exploit the film for their own ungodly purposes. As one racist web site puts it, “Imagine the Jews in power shaking in their boots at the prospect of being accurately portrayed as Christ-killers.”

    In 1988, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued guidelines and suggestions for the depiction of the Passion. We surmise that the path the Bishops charted is a reflection of good sense and judgment, and not the exclusive province of the Catholic Church. They could be useful to many church groups, some of which, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church, have already drawn up their own parallel guidelines.

    The Catholic Bishops’ document insisted, first and foremost, that: “The overall aim of any depiction of the Passion should be the unambiguous presentation of the doctrinal understanding of the event in the light of faith, that is, of the Church's traditional interpretation of the meaning of Christ's death for all humanity.” Nonetheless, the bishops found a modus vivendi. Depictions could be loyal to the text of the Gospels, without compromising Jewish safety. Specifically, they argued that “‘negative stock ideas’, unfortunately, can become vividly alive in passion dramatizations. It is all too easy in dramatic presentations to resort to artificial oppositions in order to heighten interest or provide sharp contrasts between the characters.” Suggestions included that “Jews should not be portrayed as avaricious (e.g., in Temple money-changer scenes); blood thirsty (e.g., in certain depiction's of Jesus' appearances before the Temple priesthood or before Pilate); or implacable enemies of Christ (e.g., by changing the ‘crowd’ at the governor's palace into a teeming mob).” Most important, “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God as if this followed from Sacred Scripture.”

    Reports to date indicate that Gibson’s Passion ignores several of these recommendations. The Jewish mob, according to those who have reported to us, is in fact teeming with ugly, unkempt, malicious-looking figures who deride Jesus, not only before Pilate, but on the way to the Cross. Jesus’ mother, Mary, appeals to Roman soldiers to save Jesus from the Temple police. Jesus is brutalized by the Temple police, and mistreated by the Sanhedrin, prompting a well-meaning Pilate to challenge Jewish cruelty. The High Priest looks on as Jesus is scourged. All these characterizations are either exaggerations of the Gospel accounts or inventions not in the Gospels.

    Had the guidelines concerning these matters been consulted, and responsible Jewish groups been involved in the process, we are certain that a new film based on the Gospels could have been made that would have been acceptable to Christians and Jews alike. That is all Jewish groups ever wanted. Instead, the very exclusion of Jewish mainstream input broadcast a dangerous and false message: that they could not be consulted because, if they were, the Jews would use their influence and control to quash the film, implacable enemies of Christians that they are. Instead, you are our brothers and sisters in biblical revelation—not our enemies!

    Just how little “control” Jews have should be obvious in this letter. By now, millions of Christians have been fed an ugly and destructive stereotypical view, in which the Jews would take away from Christians their right to cherish their Holy Scriptures. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    We cannot erase that stereotype alone. We can only ask you to help us set the record straight, so that we can reembark on the journey of friendship and respect that has marked the last few decades.

  11. #11
    February 16, 2004


    Pope Pius XI, 1937: “Anti-Semitism is a movement which is repulsive. It is not possible for Christians to be a part of it. Anti-Semitism is not permitted. We are spiritually Jews though Christ.”

    Pope John Paul II, 1997: “In the Christian world—I do not say on the part of the Church as such—erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability have circulated for too long, engendering feelings of hostility towards this people.”

    Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1944: “Only those who cry out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.”

    With much of the world spiraling towards ever-greater religious conflict, the United States remains the merciful exception. In so many ways, the last few decades have nudged Jews and Christians closer to the brotherhood they should share.

    Across the spectrum, Catholic and Protestant churches have taken extraordinary measures, rare in the previous two millennia, to preach understanding and tolerance for Jews. In both Catholic and Protestant publications, articles in church papers and entries in religious encyclopedias have urged the work of urging tolerance and respect for the people into whose midst Jesus was born, and the religion he himself observed.

    Among millions of good, church-going Americans, these beliefs are taken for granted. Many see them as so self-evident that they are troubled and pained by the reaction of many Jewish leaders to the forthcoming release of Mel Gibson’s dramatization of the Passion. A succession of Christian leaders from the gamut of churches and denominations has declared that the Passion is about love, and love alone. Nothing in the story or its depiction should ever incite prejudice, let alone violence, against Jews. Finally, they ask: What do Jews want?

    This letter is an explanation and a plea for understanding—and for help.

    To strengthen the growing harmony that has marked the relationship between our communities in recent decades, we would like you to understand what is true—and what is not true —about Jewish concerns. We also need your help as Christians to prevent what we see as a potential problem. It is a problem we Jews cannot solve, and so we appeal to you.

    Firstly, we want you to understand that many claims about our position are patently false. There was no Jewish plot to prevent the release of The Passion of the Christ. We recognize the centrality of the Crucifixion to Christians, and we appreciate your frustration with an entertainment industry that often trivializes or travesties religious conviction and feeling.

    Moreover, Jews do not ask Christians to strip Scripture of references to the involvement of first-century Jewish authorities in the Crucifixion, in order to protect the Jewish people from the charge of deicide. That is not a price we can ask people of faith to pay—nor is it a necessary measure to protect Jewish lives.

    We do want you to understand why we are concerned. The issue is as urgent as global antisemitism.

    We thank God that church groups, increasingly since World War II, have strongly and forcefully distanced themselves from anti-Jewish behaviors of the past. We know that adherents to Christian teaching relate to the Passion as a source of love. For many hundreds of years, however, there were those who often came away from depictions of the Passion —in both Catholic and Protestant lands—with a very different conclusion. It was not one of love, but of hatred and rapacious anti-Jewish violence. We know what lessons your followers will take from the film, but we are not so sure about others who are ignorant or ill-disposed. The world has not changed as much as we would like. Especially outside of the United States—in Latin America, in Europe, in the Middle East, in Muslim areas of Asia—antisemitism has snowballed in recent years, escalating to levels not seen since the 1930s. We want you to understand the source and seriousness of our fears

    We hope you will counsel us and cooperate with us regarding prudent action now, even if our concerns ultimately prove exaggerated.

    In earlier times, before the recent, strong statements of church groups condemning antisemitism, there was a direct, unmistakable line that could be drawn from assumptions about the Jewish role in the Crucifixion, and the way Jews were mistreated over the course of many centuries. We believe that not all of that feeling has disappeared. We can show that graphic depictions of Jewish involvement has led to mortal danger to Jews in the past, that anti-Jewish depictions are still being exploited today for political purposes, and that there is no guarantee that such violence could not happen again.

    People of faith have an obligation to see that mutual ignorance does not complicate and escalate their disagreements. This is a two-way street. For Jews, it means understanding Christian doctrine and respect for sacred scripture. For Christians, it means understanding and appreciation of the well-founded basis of Jewish fears that, now as in the past, portrayals of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution may be misunderstood or distorted to incite antisemitic hatred and violence, thereby falsifying the authentic Christian message.

    •In Slovakia in 1942, a Vatican official refused to intervene on behalf of Jewish children slated for deportation because: “There is no innocent blood of Jewish children in the world. All Jewish blood is guilty. You have to die. This is the punishment that has been awaiting you because of that sin [of deicide].”

    •In the 1960s, at the height of Christian and Jewish cooperation in the moral crusade for Civil Rights, the sociologists Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark discovered that 60 percent of American Protestants and 46 percent of American Catholics believed that “Jews are still unforgiven for the death of Jesus.” Glock and Stark “were entirely unprepared to find the religious roots of anti-Semitism so widespread in modern society.”

    •In 2004, the official web site of the government of Qatar complains that Jews have “gotten the Vatican to drop the Catholic belief that the Jews were the Christ’s killers!”

    •Visiting Syria in 2001, Pope John Paul II had to bear in silence a tirade by young President Bashir Assad against those who “try to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad.”

    •A study of current-day Hungarian text books showed that they virtually ignored the Holocaust while portraying ancient Jews as “murderers of Christ” and modern Jews as “enemies of the Germans.”

    •In April, 2002, the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, ran a front-page cartoon showing the Baby Jesus hiding from an Israeli tank in a manger with the caption: “Surely they don’t want to kill me again?”

    •Earlier this year, a New Jersey college campus was blanketed with 500 posters showing a Palestinian crucified on a Star of David.

    •Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass’s 1985 book, The Matzah of Zion, reviving the charge that Jews committed ritual murder in Damascus in 1840, may soon be made into a motion picture, touted by the producer as “the Arab answer to Schindler’s List.”

    The current controversy over Mel Gibson’s film is often treated as if it were exclusively a matter of disagreement between Christians and Jews. In fact, it is also a challenge to Christians—including supporters of Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ—to unite against the misuse of the good news of the Christian scriptures for hateful purposes. Christians share with Jews a stake not only in a general ethic of tolerance, but in faith-based values at the heart of both our religions. We owe it to each other and to God to work together so that the “Christ-killer” accusation and epithet have no place in the twenty-first century world.

    We do not have the ability to prevent what we fear may become a serious, possibly lethal problem for Jews, especially those outside the United States. We hope that you can help us counter these fearsome dangers—perhaps through effective teaching, writing, preaching, and public pronouncements. We hope that you will work with us to develop tools that will combat any threats to our community. With your help, we can turn an anticipated problem into an opportunity to reinforce Christian teaching while bringing Jews and Christians closer together, rather than drive a wedge between us.

    We are providing you with a document that gives some of the background to our concerns in greater detail. Please accept it the way it is respectfully offered – not as an accusation or demand, but an explanation of the feelings of fellow Americans outside your community . Whether or not you read this “backgrounder,” we hope that you will respond to our plea on its own merit.

    We would love to hear from you, whether with ideas and help, or just with words of encouragement.

  12. #12
    Oh Jerusalem
    Once again, I told you so.

  13. #13

    About the Simon Wiesenthal Center and contact info

    The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action. The Center confronts important contemporary issues including racism, antisemitism, terrorism and genocide and is accredited as an NGO both at the United Nations and UNESCO. With a membership of over 400,000 families, the Center is headquartered in Los Angeles and maintains offices in New York, Toronto, Miami, Jerusalem, Paris and Buenos Aires.

    Established in 1977, the Center closely interacts on an ongoing basis with a variety of public and private agencies, meeting with elected officials, the U.S. and foreign governments, diplomats and heads of state. Other issues that the Center deals with include: the prosecution of Nazi war criminals; Holocaust and tolerance education; Middle East Affairs; and extremist groups, neo-Nazism, and hate on the Internet.

    The Center is headed by Rabbi Marvin Hier, its Dean and Founder. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean and Rabbi Meyer May is the Executive Director.

    Rabbi Marvin Hier -- Dean and Founder

    Rabbi Abraham Cooper -- Associate Dean

    Rabbi Meyer May -- Executive Director

    The International headquarters are based in Los Angeles, California.
    1399 South Roxbury Drive
    Los Angeles, California 90035
    310 553.9036
    800 900.9036 (toll-free from within the U.S.)
    310 553.4521 (fax)

  14. #14
    I have asked the moderators to retitle this thread. It should read, "The Simon Wiesenthal Center, in their own words"

  15. #15
    That's some heavy duty posting Mira! V interesting, well done

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