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 Thursday, February 26, 2004

  Charley Reese: "U.S. Policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to support Israel and to never offend the Israeli lobby. This is NO way for a great power to act."

" The effect of this enormous act of political cowardice on the American people is that we will have to live with the terrorism it has already spawned and will continue to spawn for generations and generations to come.

The price of American political cowardice is the blood of innocent people."

- Charley Reese
Other Breaking News
  • Mel Gibson Film " 5th-Largest Opening in History " Read here for more
  • Mel Gibson speaks out on Jay Leno's show: "For a year, it's been nothing but nasty editorials and name-calling," he said. Read here for more
  • Hollywood is Crucifying Mel Gibson: Hollywood Studio chiefs have pledged to black-ban Mel Gibson for his film The Passion of The Christ. The chairmen of two Hollywood studios said they would avoid working with Gibson because of the film. Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, the co-heads of the studio DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg, have also privately expressed anger over the film. One of the studio chairmen, who asked for anonymity, told the newspaper: " I will do something. I won't hire him. I won't support anything he's part of. Personally that's all I can do." Read here for more.

  • A Cynical Manipulation of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    by Charley Reese
    February 25, 2004

    U.S. policy toward the most destabilizing factor in the Middle East — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — is to support Israel and to never offend the Israeli lobby.

    U.S. politicians use a number of rhetorical devices to disguise this policy, since it guarantees not only a continuation of the conflict, but a continuing supply of terrorists and an increasing hostility toward American foreign policy in the region. They use rhetoric to pretend to be interested in a solution.

    For example, they do not call things by their correct names. East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are not "disputed territories," nor are they Judea and Samaria. They are occupied territories. They were occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. There is a long-standing United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to return those territories to the Palestinians.

    The proper name for Jewish settlements in the occupied territory is "illegal" settlements. The Geneva Accords, to which Israel is a signatory, forbid the settlement of occupied territory, as well as the expulsion of the native population.

    The proper name for Israeli tactics, such as the demolition of homes, the destruction of agricultural property, the confiscation of property, the imposition of curfews, the assassination of political opponents and the blocking of roads, is "collective punishment," which in most parts of the world is a considered a war crime.

    No civilized country punishes innocent people for the misdeeds of an individual. No civilized country condones murder.

    Another rhetorical device American politicians — without a doubt the most cowardly in the world — hide behind is the proposition that the "parties involved must reach a settlement." This is the equivalent of a cop showing up at the door of a family whose 6-year-old daughter has been raped and saying, "Your daughter and her rapist will have to work this out between themselves."

    There is such an enormous disparity in power — Israel has all of it, and the Palestinians have none — that to put the burden on Palestinians to negotiate with their oppressors is obscenely unrealistic. It is exactly the same as if President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill had said to Poland, after it was invaded and conquered by the Nazis, "You'll have to negotiate a settlement with the Third Reich."

    It is even more obscenely unrealistic to tell the Palestinians that they are responsible for the security of Israel. The Palestinians, of course, have no state, no army, no air force and no nothing, while Israel is ranked by many as being among the top 10 of military powers in the world.

    It is Israel, under international law, as the occupier that has the responsibility to provide security for the Palestinians. That, of course, is a laugh. For 37 years Israel has ruled the Palestinians in the occupied territories as a conquered people with essentially no rights at all.

    Finally, one of the things that most infuriates people in the Arab world is the habit of American politicians taking note of every Israeli death while ignoring the far more numerous deaths of Palestinians.

    The death of any human being is a cause for grief, but the American habit of ignoring Palestinian suffering leaves the impression that Americans consider Jewish lives far more valuable than Palestinian lives. And the truth is, many Americans do.

    You will note that all of the Democratic candidates avoid talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or if they can't avoid it, they make the ritualistic pledge of undying support for Israel.

    This is no way for a great power to act. The effect of this enormous act of political cowardice on the American people is that we will have to live with the terrorism it has already spawned and will continue to spawn for generations and generations to come. The price of American political cowardice is the blood of innocent people.

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     Wednesday, February 25, 2004

      The Passion of Christ Movie: " A Monumental Achievement On Many Levels"

    Other Breaking News
  • The Passion of Christ opened on 4,643 screens in 3,006 cinemas across the United States and Canada. It was estimated that it will net 15 million to 20 million US dollars in the first day of release, the highest number for a movie with a religious theme. Dozens of Jewish protesters wearing concentration camp uniforms protested outside one Upper West Side theater in New York where the film was shown. Read here for more.
  • Paul Vitello: "Why did we need a movie like this now? Is the world missing a certain religious tension? Does any religious Christian need to be told again what happens at the end of each of the four Gospels -- and to be told it by a man who denounces the modern church and all the reconciling spirit it stands for? " Read here for more
  • Mel Gibson’s Australian compatriots turned out in encouraging numbers for the first day of the director’s controversial film “The Passion of the Christ” on Wednesday. Most Australian critics appeared united in their acknowledgment of the film’s power to move, if not in their estimation of its artistic achievement. Read here for more
  • Once the film started, there was no talking or even rustling of popcorn. When it finished more than two hours later - two hours in which Christ had been shown tortured and killed in graphic scenes of almost unprecedented cinematic violence - there was no noise until the end of the final credit.By the time the audience had stepped outside half were crying. A number held each other and a few could be seen praying.One man said that his guest, a born-again Jew, had felt so sick at what "her people" had done that she had been forced to leave and sit in the cinema's lavatory. "She could still hear the sounds through the walls of what they were doing to Him and it was terrible for her," he said. Read here for more
  • AN Israeli politician today called for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ movie to be banned from Israeli cinemas, calling it a blood libel. Read here for more
  • "Mel Gibson's true genius is that he has infused these horrific images with incredible, searing humanity... Even to suggest the film is meant to be anti-Semitic is as foolish as it is cruel. This story never has been a condemnation of a race of people, but of power-hungry religious and political officials. "
    Louis B. Hobson
    'A powerful vision'

    Louis B. Hobson,
    London Free Press
    February, 25 th 2004

    According to the Bible, Christ suffered an ignominious death which began with a relentless beating and ended with being nailed to a cross and left to endure an agonizing death.

    No film detailing such events could be anything but emotionally wrenching.

    It is a story that has been told before on film, but never so graphically.

    It is Gibson's intent to detail just how much Christ suffered and he does this by showing how barbaric whipping, scourging, being forced to carry the cross, then being nailed to it and left to hang for hours suffocating under the weight of one's body must have been like.

    No one who sees Gibson's The Passion of the Christ will ever be able to hear or read these passages from The Bible in the same way again.

    Gibson has made the words visual in the most excruciating, devastating way.

    His true genius is that he has infused these horrific images with incredible, searing humanity.

    Through carefully placed flashbacks, he gives us a glimpse of what Christ was like as a child, young man, teacher and prophet. These images make his death and suffering all the more tragic.

    There is a moment that practically defines the film.

    As Christ falls the third time under the weight of the cross and the malicious beatings of the Roman soldiers, he sees his mother, Mary, looking at him.

    The film flashes to a scene in which Mary watches Christ as a child trip and fall and rushes to comfort him as any parent would.

    At the moment he needs her comfort most, she is denied access to him. You can see the simultaneous hurt and love in mother and son's eyes.

    It is one of the finest and most powerful moments you could wish for in a movie.

    It is the genius of Jim Caviezel, as Christ, and Maia Morgenstern, as Mary, that they have immersed themselves so completely in their characters that their eyes speak what words could never possibly convey.

    This is acting of the highest calibre to match Gibson's brilliant writing and directing.

    Gibson has inspired similarly astonishing performances from Monica Belluci, as the reformed prostitute Mary Magdalen, and Hristo Shopov as Pilate.

    This continues through the minor roles of the Roman guards, villagers and Jewish priests.

    It was a inspired move on Gibson's part to have the dialogue in ancient languages so the viewer is forced to concentrate on the actors' facial and body language, which say much more than the subtitles.

    That Gibson never intended The Passion of the Christ to be seen as a documentary is made abundantly clear in his use of a Satanic presence (Rosalinda Celentano) that follows Christ through his journey of pain and humiliation.

    The Passion of the Christ is a monumental achievement on so many levels.

    Even to suggest the film is meant to be anti-Semitic is as foolish as it is cruel. This story never has been a condemnation of a race of people, but of power-hungry religious and political officials.

    The Passion of the Christ rightfully will be considered a landmark achievement.


    What: Drama directed by Mel Gibson

    Starring: James Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Rosalinda Celentano, Sergio Rubini, Mattia Sbragia

    Classification: 18A

    Where: SilverCity, Masonville Place (673-4125); Wellington 8, 983 Wellington Rd. (673-4125)


    Liz Braun, Toronto Sun * (out of five)

    "Those who already know how the story goes might want to skip The Passion Of The Christ, Mel Gibson's entirely bloody and lugubrious account of the last hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Despite all the carefully orchestrated controversy around the film, The Passion of The Christ is just more of the same, only more so. Even a cursory knowledge of the scriptures upon which the film is based means a viewer is in the sad position of knowing exactly what happens next, a problem this film tries to solve by bullying scenes of violence and bloodshed. It's just bad storytelling."

    Christy Lemire, Associated Press * * (out of four)

    "And the film is frightening -- not for its dogma, but for the relentlessness of its brutality. Gibson . . . is fetishistic in his depiction of the pain Jesus suffered during the last 12 hours of his life. The beating and whipping and ripping of skin become so repetitive, they'll leave the audience emotionally drained and stunned . . . Despite its gruesome content, The Passion is beautifully photographed -- and it's a huge, meticulously detailed film."

    Jack Garner, Gannett News Service * * * * (out of four)

    "From his arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane to his final breath on the cross at Golgotha, The Passion interprets the story with a fresh reality -- and a raw brutality -- unlike anything ever seen before. It is an intense, relentlessly gripping interpretation of the ancient saga. The film's violence is ruthless and unrelenting. The scourging of Jesus seems endless -- with every stroke of the whips detailed. (At one point, the jagged end of a cat-o'-nine-tails sticks in Jesus's skin, and the guard has to rip it out.) Equally brutal is the carrying of the cross, with Christ's repeated falls and whippings, and the placement of him on the cross, with the nailing of his hands and feet."

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     Tuesday, February 24, 2004

      THE PASSION OF CHRIST MOVIE: "Judge not, and ye will not be judged."

    Judge ye not Gibson's film until you've actually seen it

    Chicago SUN-TIMES

    February 24, 2004

    Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is not an anti-Semitic film. It does not preach that all Jews -- past, present and future -- must bear sole responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ.

    It does not say his blood is on their hands.

    It is not a work of hate.

    It is a powerful and important film, helmed by a man with a sincere heart and a warrior's sense of justice. It is a story filled with searing images and ultimately a message of redemption and hope.

    That said, this movie will not change your life. It's a movie. You can eat popcorn and drink Coca-Cola while you watch it. You can buy promotional tie-in products, like a "crucifixion nail" to wear around your neck or a candle with the film's logo, and I'm not kidding. You might be moved to tears or repulsed by the violence onscreen, but it will not turn you into a hate-monger, nor will it cause you to renounce your materialistic ways and devote your remaining days to a life of poverty and sacrifice.

    "The Passion" is the story of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ. As filtered through Gibson's lens and influenced by his core beliefs, it is a work of power and impact -- a blood-soaked depiction of the unspeakable suffering that one man endured for all humankind.

    It also might just be the greatest cinematic version of the greatest story ever told.

    The passion of the people

    You've already read and heard some very different reactions to the film -- from individuals who have seen rough cuts of the movie, and from people who didn't feel the need to actually see the film before condemning it, and isn't it something that they don't see the irony in such prejudicial behavior?

    Now, finally, "The Passion of the Christ" arrives in theaters. We're getting the reviews from film critics, theologians and paying customers. Some will concur with my assessment of the film and will celebrate its message, and others will express anguish and outrage over the anti-Semitism they feel should be clear to anyone. And not only will they call the film anti-Semitic, they'll call me anti-Semitic for daring to defend the film in this column.

    I will be told that for centuries, passion plays were staged with the express purpose of fostering anti-Semitism. I will be reminded about the horrible injustices endured by Jews through the ages. I will be told I'm ignorant and that I need to read this text or that article or these books. I will be lectured about Gibson's beliefs and behavior, and the views of his dad.

    It won't matter that I've never denied the existence and the purpose of passion plays, and that I wouldn't even think about minimizing the unconscionable treatment of Jews through history, and that I've never downplayed the very real and unforgivable anti-Semitism that riddles our world like a cancer.

    It won't matter that I'm talking about this movie and what I believe it's about. I'll still be told that I just don't get it.

    Fine. I only ask that before you voice your anguish and anger, you actually see the movie for yourself, with open mind and open heart.

    One man's vision

    It is true that in "The Passion of the Christ," Pontius Pilate is portrayed as a more conflicted figure than the actual Roman leader who crucified hundreds of Jews, while Caiaphas and the other temple leaders are shown to have perhaps greater influence than is historically accurate. But in the movie, as in the Gospels, it is Pilate who washes his hands of Jesus' fate and condemns him, and it's the Roman soldiers who sadistically torture Christ and nail him to that cross. In scene after bloody scene, we see these soldiers howling with glee as they rip pieces of his flesh from his skin, pummel him, kick him, whip him and turn nearly every inch of his face and body into an open wound.

    (Memo to church leaders and parents: This movie has earned its hard R rating.)

    Yes, some Jews in this movie are villains. Others, starting of course with Jesus, are heroes and saints. From Mary, the mother of Jesus; to Mary Magdalene, who remains fiercely loyal to Jesus; to John, who comforts Mary and Mary Magdalene; to Simon, a family man who is forced by the Romans to carry Jesus' cross but comes to respect and worship him, we see Jews who are brave and admirable and loving.

    Also, we must keep in mind that Jews and Romans alike were simply fulfilling their roles in God's plan for Jesus, who was put on this Earth to die. The Jews didn't kill Christ; humankind did.

    Still, is it possible that someone will see this film and then go out and commit a hate crime? Of course -- and if that happens, the responsibility for that crime will lie with the offender, not the movie. Whether we're talking about "Natural Born Killers," hard-core rap, violent video games or a controversial film about Jesus Christ, it's up to the individual who consumes this art to control himself and to abide by the laws of the land, and the laws of decency.

    And no matter what your beliefs, they should be strong enough to withstand a movie. Any movie.

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     Tuesday, February 17, 2004

      President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary criticised NewsWeek Editor Jon Meacham's article on Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" movie

    Newsweek Takes on the New Testament


    Albert Mohler
    President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

    Newsweek magazine has launched a frontal attack upon Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ," but the real target of the magazine's article is the truthfulness of the Bible itself.

    In "Who Really Killed Jesus?: What History Teaches Us," Newsweek's February 16 cover story, writer Jon Meacham labels Gibson's movie "controversial," "powerful," and "troubling." More seriously, he blasts the movie as anti-Semitic and potentially dangerous.

    Newsweek raises the specter of a new wave of anti-Semitism spreading across the world, directly due to the influence of "The Passion of the Christ."

    The movie is to be released February 25, Ash Wednesday. According to Meacham, the movie, "is already provoking a pitched battle between those who think the film unfairly blames the Jewish people for Jesus' death and those who are instead focused on Gibson's emotional depiction of Jesus' torment." Meacham conceives that Gibson "obviously reveres the Christ of faith" and then criticizes Gibson for "a literal-minded rendering of the most dramatic passages scattered throughout the four Gospels."

    Why would Meacham be surprised that Gibson turned to the Bible as the historical source for his movie?

    According to Newsweek, the Bible is simply not to be trusted. Mincing no words, Meacham describes the Bible as "a problematic source."

    In his words: "Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing at particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance."

    Making this argument, Meacham reflects the trend of liberal biblical scholarship over the last half century. In the wake of the Holocaust and with the rise of modern sensitivities, liberal biblical critics have sought to distance themselves from the clear teachings of the Gospels. Furthermore, they have increasingly lambasted the Gospels as unreliable, anti-Semitic, and largely fictional accounts intended to justify the early church's separation from Judaism.

    Beyond this, such scholars argue that the Gospels have themselves fueled anti-Semitism throughout European history, and that a literal presentation of the biblical material is inherently dangerous.

    In the magazine's opening pages, editor Mark Whitaker justifies the cover story by claiming that "The Passion of the Christ" raises "disturbing questions" about who killed Christ. Pressing his point, Whitaker argues that Gibson blames the Jews of Jerusalem, rather than the Roman leadership, for the death of Christ. In Whitaker's words, "we thought it was worth a clear-eyed review of the evidence."

    Unfortunately, Newsweek offered anything but a "clear-eyed review of the evidence." Instead, the magazine took the opportunity to continue the slander of anti-Semitism against the Gospels and to fuel the very passions the magazine condemned.

    Whitaker remarked that he had chosen managing editor Meacham to write this article because he is "an observant Episcopalian" who studied biblical history at the University of the South in Sewanee and "has remained a close follower of religious scholarship."

    Meacham may be a follower of religious scholarship, but his interest seems directed only at scholarship of a liberal bent. Whitaker stated that Meacham "dusted off his old textbooks and spoke to Christian and Jewish leaders and experts" in the development of his story.

    It is too bad he did not consult more conservative sources.

    Leaving no room for doubt, Whitaker judges Gibson and the Gospels guilty of anti-Semitism. In his words, "Gibson based his highly emotional and violent account on literal readings of New Testament passages that have been most often used to imply Jewish culpability."

    In the actual cover story, Meacham blames the "errors" of Gibson's movie on the filmmaker's reliance on the Gospel materials. According to Meacham, "the roots of Christian anti-Semitism lie in overly literal readings--which are, in fact, misreadings--of many New Testament texts."

    Of course, Meacham presumes not only to judge the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts, but also to be an expert in what would be a legitimate reading or misreading of the biblical text. In so doing, he advances the liberal argument that the only way to "read" the biblical text is to subvert its apparent meaning.

    Without doubt, Gibson has based his movie on the New Testament accounts. He drew his narrative largely from the Gospels of John and Mark, though passages from Matthew and Luke also appear. The movie is a graphic account of the crucifixion and suffering of Christ, and the violence of the movie--true to the biblical accounts--has earned the film an R-rating.

    Nevertheless, Meacham judges that Gibson's literal reading of the Gospel accounts will "give most audiences a misleading picture of what probably happened in those epochal hours so long ago." Nevertheless, in order to make this judgment, Meacham must assume that historical sources apart from the Bible--sparse as they are--are more reliable than the Bible itself. Actually, Meacham bases most of his argument on speculative readings of the biblical texts and efforts by modern liberal historians to reconstruct the historical and religious context of first-century Judaism--not even on actual historical texts.

    Just in case we might misunderstand his view of the Bible, Meacham offers an extended explanation of his view of biblical inspiration.

    According to Meacham, "The Bible did not descend from heaven fully formed and edged in gilt. The writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shaped their narratives several decades after Jesus' death to attract converts and make their young religion--understood by many Christians to be a faction of Judaism--attractive to as broad an audience as possible."

    Of course, no one believes that the Bible descended from heaven complete with leather covers, but Christians have historically believed that the actual words of the Bible were directly inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.

    Meacham sees a political agenda behind the biblical text. Biblical Christians understand the Bible to be the very Word of God, and thus our responsibility in interpretation is to understand the text--not to correct it.

    Given his view of the Bible, Meacham's view of Gibson's movie is quite understandable. He acknowledges the power of Gibson's film, even as he condescendingly explains that "in the New Testament, the implication is that the world is in the grip of evil, and Jesus has come to deliver us from the powers of darkness through his death and resurrection--an upheaval of the very order of things."

    What about Christ? Meacham asserts that the titles "Son of God" and "Son of Man" were commonly used in the first century of religious leaders. This contentious point misses the larger truth that the New Testament Gospels reveal Jesus claiming these titles for Himself, combining in His life and ministry the messianic expectation of the Old Testament and His identity as the very Son of God in human flesh.

    Meacham does make some important historical arguments, but he weaves back and forth between criticism of the biblical text and an unsubstantiated argument from secular historical sources.

    One controversial scene in the movie, in which a Jewish mob cries out, "His blood be on us and on our children!," ultimately cut from the film, prompted Meacham to allege that the source of the dialogue (the Gospel of Matthew) was "a partisan Gospel writer."

    As Meacham continued, "The Gospels were composed to present Jesus in the best possible light to potential converts in the Roman Empire--and to put the Temple leadership in the worst possible light."

    Further, Meacham claims that "many scholars believe that the author of Matthew, which is the only Gospel to include the 'His blood be on us' line, was writing after the destruction of the Temple in [AD] 70 and inserted the words to help explain why such misery had come upon the people of Jerusalem. According to this argument, blood had already fallen on them and on their children."

    Here Meacham's subversion of the biblical text is most apparent. He projects the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew at least a generation after the crucifixion itself and attributes the shape and substance of the Gospel to an anonymous author's intention to push a political agenda and to explain the destruction of the Temple.

    Gibson is a traditionalist Roman Catholic, and Meacham chides him for failing to take his filmmaking instructions from the Vatican. In the aftermath of Vatican II, the Catholic Church adopted guidelines that suggest how the passion narrative should be presented in any dramatic format. According to the Vatican's guidelines, "to attempt to utilize the four passion narratives literally by picking one passage from one Gospel and the next from another Gospel, and so forth, is to risk violating the integrity of the text themselves." The guidelines also suggest avoiding the use of large Jewish crowds and any depiction of a Sanhedrin trial.

    This is an example of political correctness infecting the Roman curia. As represented by these guidelines, the Gospels must be sanitized in order to be presented safely. The Sanhedrin trial, for example, is crucial to the passion narrative.

    At the bottom of all of this lies antipathy towards the Christian gospel, the four New Testament Gospels, and the "scandal of particularity" that lies at the core of the Christian faith. The New Testament is very clear in presenting the death of Christ, not as a tragedy of world history, but rather as the accomplishment of God's saving purpose.

    The question, "who killed Jesus?," should direct us to the historical reality, clearly presented in the Gospels, that complicity between the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities led to Christ's crucifixion.

    But the larger point--and the essential theological point--is that Christ died for our sins. Thus, the correct answer to the question, "Who killed Jesus?," is--we did. Christ died for sinners. That is the central theme of the New Testament gospel and it is the essential answer Christians must give, not only in the face of this controversy, but as the essence of our Christian witness.

    The death of Christ was not a tragedy that befell Him. As Christ declared, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" [John 10:11]. Further, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down at my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father" [John 10:18].

    The cross does not represent defeat, but victory.

    Jesus Christ did not have his life taken from Him--He gave it willingly for sinners. His death was not the end of his ministry, but its fulfillment. Christ willingly suffered and died in the place of sinners--and God raised him from the dead as the vindication of his earthly ministry.

    Regrettably, Newsweek decided to use this release of "The Passion of the Christ" to level its attack upon the New Testament. The controversy over the movie will produce many opportunities for truth-telling in the midst of the confusion.

    It's up to us to tell the rest of the story

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     Wednesday, February 04, 2004

      Mel Gibson's Film "The Passion Of Christ": Controversy and Opposition from Jewish Groups Rage On !

    " It will be my pleasure to use whatever facilities we have available at The Christian Broadcasting Network to help you publicize this outstanding work. Without question, this is the finest work that has ever been done on this subject. More than anything your portrayal of the suffering of Jesus is with a few exceptions in total accord with the biblical narrative. It is therefore wonderfully authentic. "
    Pat Robertson, Chairman and CEO , Christian Broadcasting Network
    Other Breaking News
  • Three US Senate office buildings were closed Tuesday after a suspicious white powder was found in the Senate majority leader's office. Read here for more..
  • Tony Blair called an inquiry on banned Iraqi weapons but a key opposition party refused to take part. Read here for more
  • A deadly strain of bird flu killed a seven-year-old boy in Thailand. The flu has spread to Indonesia. The potentially lethal H5N1 strain had been detected in poultry in China's Guangdong province. Read here for more

  • Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of Christ", will open on February 25,2004 , to about 2,000 theatres across the US.

    Click here about the film and Here and HERE

    It is generally accepted that Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" is faithful to and based primarily on the four Gospels. The movie focuses on the last twelve hours of Jesus' life from the garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.

    Full Name: Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson.

    Born January 3, 1956.


    Jewish groups claimed that Mel Gibson's "Passion of Christ" may incite anti-semitism.

    Many Christian right wing fundamentalists disagreed. In fact, majority of Christian groups are supporting Mel Gibson against the Jewish groups' campaign to discredit "The Passion of Christ" film.

    It is an interesting development of sorts. On one hand, many of the Christian fundamentalists, referred at times as Zionist Christians, are strong supporters of Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They stood side by side with Jewish groups in the propaganda war against the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims.

    On Gibson's film, the Christian fundamentalists stood on the opposite side of the fence with the Jewish/Zionist groups. Many Christian groups see the film as a vehicle and an opportunity to market their faith. Read here TV Evangelists Jerry Falwell's and Pat Roberson's comments and others, after seeing tbe film.

    Websites supporting the film have sprung up. Read Here and Here

    The controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's film only confirms and exposes the centuries-old fault line separating Christian beliefs and Judaism. The outcry from the American Jewish groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) only makes the matter worse. Latent religious feelings are brought out into the open, especially on the internet chat rooms.

    The hypocrisy of Hollywood and the studios are exposed, as media commentators and Christian groups compared the different reception given to the 1988 move "The Last Temptation of Christ" and Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ". Mel Gibson admitted he may not find work in Hollywood again after this film.

    Read Here comments by those who saw the screening of the film

    Following are articles on the controversy.

  • MUST READ ARTICLE !! Here David Klinghoffer's article " Mel Gibson's 'The Passion' follows the Scripture"
    It's a controversy that will continue to affect relations between Christians and Jews unless some way to cool it can be found. The Anti-Defamation League charges that this recklessly stirs anti-Jewish hatred and demands that the film be edited to eliminate any suggestion of Jewish deicide.

    One possible cooling agent is an honest look at how ancient Jewish sources portrayed the Crucifixion.

    According to people who have seen a rough cut, Gibson's film depicts the death of Christ as occurring at the hands of the Romans but at the instigation of Jewish leaders, the priests of the Jerusalem Temple.

    But like the Christian Gospels that form the basis of Gibson's screenplay, Jewish tradition acknowledges that (Jewish) leaders in first-century Palestine played a role in Jesus' execution.

    If Gibson is an anti-Semite, so is the Talmud and so is the greatest Jewish sage of the past 1,000 years, Maimonides.

    The Talmud was compiled in about the year 500, drawing on rabbinic material that had been transmitted orally for centuries. From the 16th century on, the text was censored and passages about Jesus and his execution were erased to evade Christian wrath. But the full text was preserved in older manuscripts, and today the censored parts can be found in minuscule type, as an appendix at the back of some Talmud editions.

    Read here "The Talmud -The Secret Rabbinical Teachings "

    A relevant example comes from the Talmudic division known as Sanhedrin, which deals with procedures of the Jewish high court:
    "On the eve of Passover they hung Jesus of Nazareth. And the herald went out before him for 40 days saying, 'Jesus goes forth to be stoned, because he has practiced magic, enticed and led astray Israel. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and declare concerning him.' And they found nothing in his favor."
    The passage indicates that Jesus' fate was entirely in the hands of the Jewish court. The last two of the three items on Jesus' rap sheet, that he "enticed and led astray" fellow Jews, are terms from Jewish biblical law for an individual who influenced others to serve false gods, a crime punishable by being stoned, then hung on a wooden gallows.

    In the Mishnah, the rabbinic work on which the Talmud is based, compiled about the year 200, Rabbi Eliezer explains that anyone who was stoned to death would then be hung by his hands from two pieces of wood shaped like a capital letter T -- in other words, a cross (Sanhedrin 6:4).

    These texts convey religious beliefs, not necessarily historical facts. The Talmud elsewhere agrees with the Gospel of John that Jews at the time of the Crucifixion did not have the power to carry out the death penalty.

    Also, other Talmudic passages place Jesus 100 years before or after his actual lifetime. Some Jewish apologists argue that these must therefore deal with a different Jesus of Nazareth. But this is not how the most authoritative rabbinic interpreters, medieval sages including Nachmanides, Rashi and the Tosaphists, saw the matter.

    Maimonides, writing in 12th century Egypt, made clear that the Talmud's Jesus is the one who founded Christianity. In his great summation of Jewish law and belief, the Mishneh Torah, he wrote of "Jesus of Nazareth, who imagined that he was the Messiah, but was put to death by the court."

    Maimonides states that "Jesus of Nazareth . . . interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him."

    It's unfair of Jewish critics to defame Gibson for saying what the Talmud and Maimonides say, and what many historians say. Oddly, one of the scholars who has denounced Gibson most vigorously -- Paula Fredriksen, a professor of religious studies at Boston University - is the author of a meticulously researched book, "Jesus of Nazareth," that suggests it was the high priests who informed on Jesus to the Roman authorities.

    The best option now is to acknowledge that other sources besides the Gospels confirm the involvement of Jewish leaders in Jesus' death and clear the anger from the air.

    Considering that Gibson's portrayal coincides closely with traditional Jewish belief, it seems that leaving him alone is the decent as well as the Jewish thing to do"
  • Controversial TV talker Bill Maher attacked religious conservatives in an early morning interview on Wednesday, claiming that movie star Mel Gibson and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay were "anti-Semitic." "I do think Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic," Maher told radio host Don Imus. "So, by the way, is Tom DeLay. So, by the way, are all these Christian right people who pretend to be friends of Israel." Read Here for more

  • Officials from Mel Gibson's Icon Productions film company blasted Jewish critics who used a fake church name to sneak into an advance screening of "The Passion of the Christ." Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he viewed the film "in stealth mode" at an evangelical pastors' conference in Orlando, Fla., last Wednesday. Foxman and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, the ADL's interfaith consultant, registered as pastors with the fictitious "Church of Truth" in Brooklyn, N.Y. Read Here for more

  • Abraham Foxman, national director of the Jewish rights group Anti-Defamation League, who has accused Gibson of holding anti-Semitic views, saw the film for the first time Wednesday night in Florida. He said it is an "unambiguous portrayal of Jews as being responsible for the death of Jesus." Gibson, who directed, funded and co-scripted the film, has repeatedly denied that his movie maligns Jews. Read Here for more

  • The Reverend Billy Graham has given his backing to Mel Gibson's controversial film about the last hours of Jesus. However, US evangelist Graham, 85, defended the film. He said he was "moved to tears". "The film is faithful to the Bible's teaching", he said. Read here for more

  • Read Here Rabbi Tovia Singer's personal attack on Mel Gibson's family "Mel's father, Hutton Gibson, who is a traditionalist Catholic as well, is an outspoken Holocaust denier who has little affection for Jews. ...Gibson could save the world much unneeded misery by visiting Poland, the world's largest Jewish cemetery, before releasing his film. "

  • The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today voiced concerns that the film, if released in its present form, "could fuel hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism" by reinforcing the notion of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus. ADL's concerns include: (i) The film portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish "mob" as forcing the decision to torture and execute Jesus, thus assuming responsibility for the crucifixion. (ii) The film relies on sinister medieval stereotypes, portraying Jews as blood-thirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of God who lack compassion and humanity. (iii)The film relies on historical errors, chief among them its depiction of the Jewish high priest controlling Pontius Pilate . The film uses an anti-Jewish account of a 19th century mystical anti-Semitic nun, distorts New Testament interpretation by selectively citing passages to weave a narrative that oversimplifies history, and is hostile to Jews and Judaism. and (iv) The film portrays Jews who adhere to their Jewish faith as enemies of God and the locus of evil. Read here for more

  • Robert Novak: " 'The Passion' depicts in two hours the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. To watch him beaten, scourged and crucified so graphically is a shattering experience for believing Christians and surely for many non-Christians as well. It makes previous movie versions of the crucifixion look like Hollywood fluff. Foxman and other critics complain that the Jewish high priest Caiphas and a Jewish mob are demanding Christ's execution, but that is straight from the Gospels. Father C. John McCloskey, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, told me: "If you find the Scriptures anti-Semitic, you'll find this film anti-Semitic." Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who heads the Congregation for the Clergy, called the film "a triumph of art and faith," adding: "Mel Gibson not only closely follows the narrative of the Gospels, giving the viewer a new appreciation for those biblical passages, but his artistic choices also make the film faithful to the meaning of the Gospels." At the heart of the dispute over "The Passion" is freedom of expression. Liberals who defended the right to exhibit Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ," which deeply offended orthodox Christians, now demand censorship of "The Passion of Christ." As a result, Abe Foxman and his allies have risked stirring religious tensions over a work of art. Read here for more

  • Read Here Editorial in Cornell Review : " Mel Gibson supposedly said he would have a difficult time finding work in Hollywood after this film. Well, if you are going to destroy your career, you might as well destroy it doing something you love. The Last Temptation of Christ was critically praised throughout Hollywood and Martin Scorsese received an Oscar nomination for his directing. ..... If Scorsese can create his vision of Christ, and if Serrano's Piss Christ is to be considered art, then certainly the same should be said for The Passion. Of course, the anti-Catholic Hollywood establishment will ignore this fact and the concept of fairness. Society, in the larger context, will also do the same, led by a media that is equally anti-Catholic. Except for a few brave souls, such as Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, most ignore the redeeming value of the Catholic faith and its positive effect on millions upon millions of individuals across the globe. Honestly, when was the last time a pro-Catholic article was published in the New York Times or Washington Post or another major paper? The hypocrisy of Hollywood and the media should not be surprising. Indeed, that is a general characteristic of both institutions.

  • Read Here article by Michael S. Rose "Pre-emptive war on The Passion": The Last Temptation of Christ was critically acclaimed as a broad-minded cinematic portrayal of Christ's life, passion and death, precisely because of its overtly manifest infidelity to the Gospel. There was no wailing from the Anti-Defamation League here; no gnashing of teeth from liberal Catholic scholars and progressive religious pundits. In fact, the orthodox Christians who voiced objections to the film were piously lectured to be "tolerant" of Scorcese's artistic bastardization of the Gospel.

  • The major studios, including 20th Century Fox which has first refusal on all Gibson's movies, were scared off distributing The Passion. First round to The Times. Gibson turned to an independent distributor, Newmarket Films. Newmarket enlisted the support of hundreds of Christian organisations - a regrettably sectarian but possibly live-or-die solution - and has exceeded 2000 bookings for The Passion, more than the count for many big studio pictures. The Gibson organisation also harvested favourable comment with the uncomplicated strategy of staging previews from which known enemies, such as The New York Times, were rigorously excluded. The most eminent supporter appears to be Pope John Paul II, who saw the movie on video. On December 16 and 17 several media services, quoting different Vatican sources, reported that the Pope had called the movie "incredible" and in a resonating phrase declared: "It is as it was." Read here for more

  • POPE JOHN PAUL II has been given a personal screening of MEL GIBSON controversial new movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. It was revealed Catholic heads had approved the epic - which tells the tale of JESUS's last 12 hours - but now VATICAN sources are claiming the Pontiff himself was shown a rough cut. A church insider tells American newspaper THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, "The Pope definitely saw the film." An audience from three different Vatican congregations gave the film their blessing. REVEREND AUGUSTINE DI NOIA, one of the officials who saw it last week, said, "There is absolutely nothing anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish about Mel Gibson's film."

  • Read Here article by Skipp Porteous, claiming anti-semitism prevalent within the Christian right.

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     Monday, February 02, 2004

      Katharine Gun Could be Jailed for Exposing US "Dirty Tricks" on UN Security Council Members

    Other Breaking News
  • Latest !! AUSTRALIA: Fears of a new terror campaign against Asian Australians living in Perth have been ignited by the fire bombing of three Chinese restaurants. Read Here for more...
  • 244 Muslim Pilgrims Die in Hajj Stampede.. Read here for more
  • Two suicide bombers struck the offices of both U.S.-backed Kurdish parties in near-simultaneous attacks Sunday as hundreds of Iraqis gathered to celebrate a Muslim holiday. At least 56 people were killed and more than 235 were wounded. Read here for more

  • Read Here for more on Katharine Gun's case

    Ms Katharine Gun is a 29 year old junior employee working as a translator in UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham.

    In March 2003, she was arrested under UK's Official Secrets Act on charges of breaching the Official Secrets Act. Ms Gun admitted to leaking a secret memo to the British newspaper, The Observer, about US-UK government surveillance of the United Nations before the war in Iraq.

    She blew the whistle and the Blair Government did not like it.

    After a court appearance on November 27, 2003, she made the following statement:
    " I have today indicated to the court that I intend to plead not guilty to the charge that I face under the Official Secrets Act.

    I will defend the charge against me on the basis that my actions were necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed. No one has suggested (nor could they) that I sought or received any payment.

    I have only ever followed my conscience. I have been heartened by the many messages of support and encouragement that I have received from Britain and around the world."
    She was granted bail and asked to present herself at Bow Street Magistrate Court on January 19, 2004.

    The Leaked Memo

    The leaked memo was an email from U.S. National Security Agency asking its British counterparts to eavesdrop on six UN Security Council countries about to vote on action in Iraq. The memo was dated 31 January 2003, from Frank Koza, chief of staff of the NSA's Regional Targets section, requested British intelligence help to discover the voting intentions of the key 'swing six' nations at the UN. Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Chile, Mexico and Pakistan were under intense pressure to vote for a second resolution authorising war in Iraq.

    On March 2, 2003, The Observer headlined an article " Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war"
    "The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

    Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

    The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'.

    Dated 31 January 2003, the memo was circulated four days after the UN's chief weapons inspector Hans Blix produced his interim report on Iraqi compliance with UN resolution 1441.

    It was sent by Frank Koza, chief of staff in the 'Regional Targets' section of the NSA, which spies on countries that are viewed as strategically important for United States interests.

    Koza specifies that the information will be used for the US's 'QRC' - Quick Response Capability - 'against' the key delegations. "
    Read Here the full TEXT of the leaked memo

    Read Here Daniel Ellsberg's article "Leak against this war. " Daniel Ellsberg was the celebrated whistleblower who leaked papers , the "Pentagon Papers", containing devastating details of the US involvement in Vietnam in 1971.
    " I can only admire the more timely, courageous action of Katherine Gun, the GCHQ translator who risked her career and freedom to expose an illegal plan to win official and public support for an illegal war, before that war had started.
    Her revelation of a classified document urging British intelligence to help the US bug the phones of all the members of the UN security council to manipulate their votes on the war may have been critical in denying the invasion a false cloak of legitimacy.

    That did not prevent the aggression, but it was reasonable for her to hope that her country would not choose to act as an outlaw, thereby saving lives. She did what she could, in time for it to make a difference, as indeed others should have done, and still can. "
    Read Here article by BOB HERBERT in New York Times "A Single Conscience V. the State"

    Read Here article by Norman Solomon "FOR TELLING THE TRUTH" in Baltimore Sun

    Click Here "Support Katharine Gun " Home Page by human-rights group website Liberty

    Click Here to LINKS on the Katharine Gun's case

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