Mel Gibson's Judah Maccabee movie project draws ire of Jewish group

mel-gibson-aug-2011-gi.jpgThe news that Mel Gibson and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas are teaming up to develop a movie about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee has drawn protest from a Jewish activist group.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement Friday (Sept. 9) protesting Gibson's involvement, saying he "has no respect and sensitivity for other people's religious views."

The ADL points to Gibson's "outward antagonism" toward Jews -- he made anti-Semitic comments following a 2006 DUI arrest -- and says his 2004 movie "The Passion of the Christ" was "marred" by stereotypical depictions of Jews.

Eszterhas is writing a screenplay based on the life of Judah Maccabee, who is most renowned for driving the Seleucid empire from Jerusalem and reconsecrating the Temple of Jerusalem -- the basis for the celebration of Hanukkah today. Gibson will produce the film and may work on the script with Eszterhas, and he also has the first option to direct the film, which is set up at Warner Bros.

Here's the full statement from ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman:

"We would have hoped that Warner Bros. could have found someone better than Mel Gibson to direct or perhaps even star in a film on the life of the Jewish historical icon Judah Maccabee. As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better. It would be a travesty to have the story of the Maccabees told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people's religious views.

"Not only has Mel Gibson shown outward antagonism toward Jews and Judaism in his public statements and actions, but his previous attempt to bring biblical history to life on the screen was marred by anti-Semitism. Rather than listen to respected religious leaders, both Christian and Jewish, who voiced concerns then about the insensitive elements of his depiction of the last hours and crucifixion of Jesus, Gibson showed contempt for those voices and refused to make changes that might have helped turn his passion of hate into a passion of love.

"While we do not argue with Mel Gibson's right to make this film, we still strongly believe that Warner Bros. should reconsider Gibson's involvement in this project."
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images
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