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September 5, 2016 5:04 pm

No Need to Tie Mel Gibson’s Past Antisemitism With His Upcoming WWII Film Starring Jewish Actor, Group Says

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Mel Gibson at Cannes 2016. Photo: Georges Biard via WIkimedia Commons.

Mel Gibson at Cannes 2016. Photo: Georges Biard via WIkimedia Commons.

Mel Gibson’s past antisemitic behavior is irrelevant to an upcoming World War II movie directed by the filmmaker that stars a Jewish actor, an official with a leading US-based Jewish human rights organization told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“As far as I can see, this is not an undertaking that would cross into the areas of concern that we have,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles told The Algemeiner when asked about “Hackshaw Ridge,” which has opened at the Venice Film Festival and is set to be released in US theaters in November.

In “Hacksaw Ridge,” American-British Jewish actor Andrew Garfield, best known for his roles in “The Social Network” and two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies, plays US Army medic Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist pacifist who was awarded a Medal of Honor for heroically saving dozens of soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa.

In a Showbiz411 column published on Sunday, renowned critic Roger Friedman wrote, “Are we supposed to separate the man from his art? And how does the director’s personal actions color the way we look at the movies? In the case of Gibson, that’s a tough one to call. But the real tests will come when American press come face to face with Gibson? Will be there a complete amnesia about what has gone on for the last decade?”

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In 2004, Gibson came under fire for his film “The Passion of the Christ,”  which suggested Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. And during a July 2006 DUI arrest, Gibson yelled at Jewish LA police officer James Mee, “F*** the Jews. The Jews are responsible for starting all the wars in the world.”

Also, Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, is a Holocaust denier, and Gibson has not denounced his dad’s views.

Speaking with The Algemeiner on Monday, Cooper said, “People who are concerned about Mel Gibson will be looking at every film that comes out to see if it in any way crosses the line, but just based on the reviews…[Hacksaw Ridge] doesn’t seem to have a relevancy in any way to our issues.”

Given Garfield’s Jewish background, Cooper said, “it might be worthwhile for someone to ask him if he had that much to do with the director, did those issues ever come up? But I don’t think it’s for us on the sidelines to raise an issue where there may not be one.”

However, Cooper cautioned, Gibson is working on a new film about the resurrection of Jesus and “based on his track record, we’re going to have to be looking very closely to see what the approach is going to be and if it’s going to raise a lot of the same red flags as previously.”

The UK’s Jewish News reported on Sunday on Gibson’s new project. “This is a very big subject and it needs to be looked at because we don’t want to just do a simple rendering of it,” Gibson was quoted as saying at an evangelical Christian arts festival in California.

Regarding Gibson’s past antisemitism, Cooper said , “Let’s put it this way, I don’t think it’s a closed book because it was a recurring issue…There was a lot there…There were numerous opportunities to shut the door on that and I don’t think that’s been fully vetted yet.”

In May, as reported in The Algemeiner, controversy erupted when Gibson presented an award to an anti-Israel director at the Cannes Film Festival in France. And in January, Cooper criticized the organizers of Hollywood’s Golden Globe Awards for selecting Gibson as a presenter at the 2016 ceremony despite his antisemitic history.

“We’re disappointed that the Golden Globe Awards committee, at a time of surging antisemitism, has chosen to rehabilitate a bigot,” Cooper told The Algemeiner at the time.

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