Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The national director of the Anti-Defamation League insists Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” fuels violence against Jews, despite recent polls by two Jewish groups suggesting the film is not anti-Semitic.

“This movie has not dissuaded anybody” from anti-Semitism, Abraham Foxman said yesterday. “People still have that point of view.”

As a result of the ADL’s campaign against the movie, Mr. Foxman said his New York office has received “hundreds and hundreds” of anti-Jewish e-mails and letters, and the group’s 30 national offices have received reports of Jewish children being called “Christ killers” in school.

He declined to say how many actual complaints have been filed with the ADL, only that there are “enough to cause concern. We are still cataloguing them.”

Mr. Foxman first began raising concerns about the film last June.

He was unable to gain admittance into one of the many previews around the country for sympathetic backers, so he and his interfaith consultant, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, posed as clergy to gain admittance to a Jan. 21 preview shown to 5,000 pastors at an Orlando, Fla., church.

The next morning in an interview with The Washington Times, he said there was “no ambiguity in this film as to who is responsible.”

“There are two guilty parties: the Jews and some sadistic Romans,” he said. “Even the sadistic Roman soldiers at the end feel compassion [for Christ] and the Jews do not.”

Two months later, he has not changed his mind.

“I have always said the film may fuel anti-Semitism, but I never said it was anti-Semitic,” he said. The nature of “The Passion” is, “when you walk out, you are angry at those who set [Christ] up.”

However, according to a poll released Monday by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, only 2 percent of the 1,003 adults polled said “The Passion” is more likely to make them hold all Jews responsible.

Eighty-three percent said it did not make them blame contemporary Jews and 9 percent said the film made them less likely to do so. In a subgroup of 146 persons polled who had seen the film, 80 percent said it had no effect on their views, 5 percent said it made them hold Jews responsible and 12 percent said it made them less likely to do so.

Another recent poll of 2,500 people, 85 percent of whom are evangelical Christians, conducted by the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, showed only 1.7 percent of respondents blamed all Jews for Christ’s death.

Mr. Foxman called both polls “wishful thinking.”

“I think it’s too early to say,” he added. “I hope both polls are right, but the hate mail we have received in the last nine months is so ugly, so intense. People sign their names, talk about their faith and love of Jesus, then ask whether Jews have learned anything from the Holocaust yet.”

One in four Americans blame Jews for causing the death of Christ, he said, citing a December ADL poll of 1,200 Americans.

An ABC/Primetime poll taken around the same time showed that less than one in 10 Americans said yes when asked if Jews “today” are responsible for Christ’s death.

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