Mel Gibson has announced that he will be involved in a movie about the revolt led by Judah Maccabee against the Greeks in 160 BC—the basis for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Patrick Goldstein in the LATimes (“Mel’s miracle: doing right by Maccabee” 9/10/11; apparently not available online) says that “Gibson is back in good standing in Hollywood, at least at Warner Bros., arguably the industry’s leading studio.” (On the other hand, Jim Caviezel says that his career has been damaged because he played Jesus in Gibson’s Passion which was widely detested by Jewish activists.)
Jewish activist organizations have expressed their displeasure with Gibson’s current venture. Abe Foxman called it a “travesty,” and the Simon Wiesenthal’s Marvin Hier said, among other things, that it would be like having “a White supremacist trying to play Martin Luther King Jr. [!] It’s simply an insult to the Jews.” No surprise there.
Goldstein thinks it’s just fine for Gibson to be involved, noting the parallels of the Maccabee story with Gibson’s signature movie role in Braveheart: An embattled warrior fighting for his people. He expects that Gibson will produce a properly heroic depiction because he “must surely realize that a film from him that in any way undercuts the heroism of Maccabee would be a career killer of the highest order. But it would be almost as bad if he were doing the film as an act of penance for his sins, since dutiful acts of penance rarely lend themselves to great artistry.”
If Gibson is doing this as penance, it would represent groveling taken to a new low.
Jeffrey Goldberg seems a bit skeptical. He calls Gibson “Hollywood’s leading anti-Semite” but also notes his long fascination with the Maccabee story. Goldberg clearly doesn’t buy Gibson’s excuse for his anti-Jewish rant when he was arrested for DUI:
He answered me directly: “I was loaded, and some stupid shit can come out of your mouth when you’re loaded.”
But from what dark corner of his soul did this terrible accusation—that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world—emanate? He said, “That day they were marching into Lebanon. It was one of those things. It was on the news.”
The “they” in question is the Israel Defense Forces. I found this answer to be proof, of course, of Gibson’s anti-Semitic tendencies. Most drunk people, when stopped by the police, don’t launch into tirades against Jews. He was obviously preoccupied with the putative sins of Jewish people. …
I’d have to agree with Goldberg in the sense that his rant probably does indicate a problem with Jews released by the alcohol. An unbuttoned Abe Foxman arrested for DUI would probably rant about Hitler, Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as causing all the world’s problems.
Gibson’s negative views of Jews likely stem from his traditional Catholic theology, much apparent in his Passion (and the reason Gibson was forced to endure a deluge of hostility from Jews for making it). The fact is that the idea that Jews are responsible for wars is part of the ancient loyalty theme of anti-Semitism (see here, p. 60 ff)—that Jews have interests as Jews that are not always the same as those of the country they happen to live in, so they have at times pushed for wars that haven’t necessarily been in the national interest. There is a great deal more than a grain of truth to it. For example, Charles Lindbergh’s accusation that the Jews were an important group pushing for US entry into WWII was quite correct, and you are just not paying attention if you are unaware that Jewish neoconservatives with close ties to the U.S. government, the media, and the organized Jewish community—not to mention close family ties and close personal relationships to the political and military elites that run Israel—were the main force responsible for getting the US to invade Iraq. The image of Israel as a peaceful but beleaguered power in the Middle East conjured up by Goldberg’s mention of the Israeli Defense Force is the stuff of Zionist propaganda and self-delusion. And now the same forces are preparing the US for a war with Iran.
Gibson seems to see Judah Maccabee as a hero—the kind of person who, as Goldberg says, is “like the heroes of every Mel Gibson movie.” Gibson relates his childhood fascination with Maccabee:
“I just read [the Book of Maccabees] when I was teenager, and it’s amazing. It’s almost like” — here, he grabbed my digital recorder, held it to his mouth, and spoke in a portentous movie-announcer voice — “They profaned his Temple. They killed his father. They… all kinds of stuff. In the face of great odds for something he believed in” — here he switched out of movie-announcer voice — “Oh, my God, the odds they faced. The armies they faced had elephants! How cinematic is this! Even Judah’s dad — what’s his name? Mattathias? — you kind of get this guy who more or less is trying to avoid the whole thing, but he just gets to a place where had enough, and he just snapped!”
I think some us had a vague hope that Gibson was a closeted White patriot and that he could be a White savior—someone with enough money and popularity to really make a difference. We thought that he really identified as William Wallace battling for his people and that he would perhaps try to be a leader in the battle against White dispossession. I have been involved in several conversations with strongly identified Whites where Gibson was mentioned this way.
But making a movie about a Jewish hero doesn’t seem consistent with that. If things go as Goldstein predicts, Maccabee would be presented in a very positive light. The movie could be expected to increase philo-Semitism in general, especially among strongly religious Christians who deeply admire Gibson, depicting Jews as valiantly fighting for religious freedom and the noblest of ideals. The movie would of course ignore the fact that the organized Jewish community and the great majority of Jews are an influential force opposing the interests of Whites to identify as Whites who have an interest in controlling lands they have settled, in some cases, for millennia while nevertheless strongly supporting their own ethnic homeland in Israel.
I suppose Gibson could still self-identify as a White hero who admires the Jewish hero for the same traits he admires in William Wallace. But on the face of it, it seems odd that someone with what seem to be quite negative attitudes about Jews just below the surface would get involved in such a project.
In the Goldberg interview, Gibson seems far more motivated by religion than ethno-nationalism. He vehemently disagrees with Christopher Hitchens’ idea that it would have been great if Maccabee had failed because then there would be no Christianity—the idea being that the success of the Maccabees prevented the complete submergence of Judaism in Greek culture and thus was a necessary condition for the rise of Christianity.
Incidentally, the Maccabean revolt is a paradigmatic example of how the more committed, extreme members of the Jewish community have repeatedly won the day over the assimilationists and have constituted the vanguard of the Jewish community over the centuries. In the contemporary world the same phenomenon is occurring with the dominance of the extreme religious/ethnonationalist right in Israel as the vanguard, pulling along the more assimilated Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
In the end, despite a few objectors like the folks at Mondoweiss, the Diaspora will support the fanatics. It seems misguided to further legitimize that mindset with a positive portrayal of Judah Maccabee, particularly given the very destabilizing effect that the radicals are having in the Middle East and the enormous burden in blood and treasure this creates for Israel’s client state (now presumably preparing to veto the Palestinian statehood initiative in the UN Security Council).
In the end, Gibson says it’s all up to God: “God can do what he damn well pleases! No matter what the Greeks did!”
This sort of religious fatalism is not exactly what one expects from someone who thinks that heroic human action can change the world. Maybe Gibson thinks that ultimately God is on the side of Whites in reclaiming their homelands, but I wouldn’t bank on it. And as for God, as saying goes, God helps those who help themselves. That’s certainly what William Wallace and Judah Maccabee thought.