- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

Dis-‘Passion’

No boycotts or protests outside movies are planned for the Feb. 25 release ofMel Gibson’s hotly anticipated “The Passion of the Christ.”

However, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee will sponsor lectures, interfaith talks and other programs to prevent an anti-Semitic backlash they fear the movie will incite.

“Do I think there will be pogroms as a result of this movie? No,” Rabbi David Elcott, the AJC’s interfaith director, told the Associated Press.

“It’s part of something larger, which is a hardening of religious conversation. It is such an absolutist movie. It undermines the progress that we’ve made in this country toward mutual respect and religious pluralism.”

The AP notes that evangelical supporters who’ve seen the film don’t believe that it implies Jews are collectively responsible for Christ’s death. Across the country, they plan sermons and lectures in tandem with “The Passion of the Christ,” and have produced special Bibles that contain images from the film.

• • •

Meanwhile, Mr. Gibson may not be doing himself any favors.

In an interview with Peggy Noonan to be published in the March edition of Reader’s Digest, the actor-director was asked, for the record, if he believed the Holocaust occurred.

His discursive response, originally excerpted in the New York Post, included a “Yes, of course”; but there were also hints that Mr. Gibson doesn’t think the Holocaust was all that special.

Just listen: “Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps.”

Hmmm. Did World War II really cause those atrocities? Or did those atrocities and the expansionism of their perpetrators cause World War II?

ADL President Abraham Foxman read the except and said of Mr. Gibson, “He doesn’t get it.”

“There are wars, and people die in wars, and it is tragic,” Mr. Foxman said via phone. But the Holocast was unique: “People died because of who they were,” he said.

“Nowhere in this quote, if it’s complete, is there a recognition that he understands what [the Holocaust] was all about,” he added. “I wouldn’t put it in the Holocaust denial category. At best, it’s insensitive; at worst, it’s ignorant.”

Reached by phone, Miss Noonan said of Mr. Gibson’s response, “I simply took it at face value.”

She noted the topic of the Holocaust came up in the context of a question about Mr. Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson. “It was clearly a sensitive issue; his voice changed,” she recalls of Mr. Gibson. “Mel felt his father was unfairly brought into this whole controversy.”

Over the limit

Let “American Idol’s” Paula Abdul be the judge.

On a day of, so to speak, Monday-morning quarterbacking, Miss Abdul had this to say about Janet Jackson’s stunt at the Super Bowl halftime show.

“I’ve always pushed, gone to the limit [with my performing career], but I’ve always done it tongue in cheek,” she told The Washington Times. “You gotta stretch your creativity as an artist, but to me there’s a fine line.

“To me, I wouldn’t have done that, but that’s the kind of artist I am.”

‘Hey,’ actor

Andre 3000, one half of the hip-hop duo OutKast, showed he had ambitions beyond mere rap on last year’s double-CD “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” Witness the megapopular, Grammy nominated half-rock, half-rap song “Hey Ya.”

Now, Andre (non-numerical last name: Benjamin) is ready to tackle the movies.

The Hollywood Reporter says he’s been cast in “Be Cool,” the forthcoming sequel to “Get Shorty.” In a role written specifically for him, Andre will be acting alongside John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Danny DeVito.

Stress factor

Lawyers have given Barry Manilow more than a normal case of heartburn.

Mr. Manilow remains in a Palm Springs, Calif., hospital as of yesterday, recovering from a heart attack scare that his publicist attributed to a bout of legal wrangling (over control of his stage production “Harmony”) in New York.

The singer, said publicist Jerry J. Sharell, had “endured two of the most grueling days of arbitration,” necessitating a trip to the emergency room.

Compiled by Scott Galupo from staff, wire and Web reports.

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