Bigotry pins blame on Jews

What was Mel Gibson’s catch-all solution to his woes? `Jews are bad.’

By David Mamet
Published August 6, 2006

Many Jews are upset with Mel Gibson because they believe in something called “the public relations war.”Israel, these co-religionists think, is endangered because the Arabs, sworn to the annihilation of the Jewish state, are, somehow, putting a better spin on their case.

Israel is a sovereign nation, founded under the United Nations charter in 1948. Since then, she has been chronically and acutely under attack. Since 1948, Israel has staved off those invaders dedicated to killing the Jews and each time, after each war, Israel has given back to those invaders the land acquired in Israel’s defense.

Israel wants peace, the Arabs want Israel gone (in 2000 Yasser Arafat, on the eve of ending a territorial dispute that would have given him 98 percent of the land he desired, withdrew and went to war). Yet most of the Western press, European and American, picture Israel as, somehow, the aggressor, and the Israelis as somehow inhuman, and delighting in blood.

There is no “cycle of violence.” Israel wants peace behind the 1949 armistice borders, with some relatively minor variation. There is no indictable “disparity of force.” Israeli civilians are being bombed. Hezbollah knows where the Israeli military bases are, but chooses to bomb civilians. Hezbollah puts its armaments exclusively in the midst of civilians. The Israeli aim is not to invade Lebanon (Israel left Lebanon) but to force Hezbollah to stop killing the Jews.

That the Western press consistently characterizes the Israeli actions as immoral is anti-Semitism. What state does not have the right to defend itself–it is the central tenet of statehood.

The Jews are not the victims of bad PR. They are the victims of anti-Semitism.

Europe has always been devoted to the destruction of the Jews. At times it is acute; it is always chronic. The Inquisition, the Russian pogroms, the mass murders of Jews by crusaders “going to save Jerusalem,” and the Shoah (the Hebrew term for the Holocaust) are only the more notable examples of a civilization happy to designate a different group the helpless-stateless “other,” and rape, steal and murder them at will.

The supposed “cause” of this hatred changes. “Jews spread the plague, they kill Christian babies, they are money-grubbing, greasy, unpatriotic, as a state they are psychotic murderers, they are capitalist bankers, they are the Communists.” In short, Jews are inhuman.

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a spurious 19th Century libel of the Jewish people. It purports to reveal that the Jews kill Christian children for their blood, which they use for ceremonial purposes. (The document is widely disseminated today in the Arab world.) A modern, Western person might read “Protocols” with wonder at the naivete of anyone who would credit it. But the current Western bias against Israel is the blood libel; it is, quite simply, the “Protocols,” shifting shape.

No, we are told, it is not that Jews, somehow, need Christian blood for their nefarious ceremonies, they need Arab blood, and, for some reason, delight in murder. And much of the liberal West, thrilled to have a victim to worship, nods along.

To ask “must there not be a cause for this anti-Semitism?” is an outrage, similar to asking the rape victim “how short a skirt were you wearing?” The question cannot be posited without, at least, the implication of the victim “having, somehow, at least in part, `brought it on yourself.'”

The question cannot be asked of Jews, any more than a European-American could ask an African-American “Why did your people stay in slavery so long?” But one might ask the question of a non-Jew. And here is one answer:

Twelve hundred years of European anti-Semitism, murder, rape and theft, may be laid in large part, at the foot of the Gospel of John. (“He would not go about in the temple, because the Jews sought to kill him,” John 7:1 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires,” John 8:44, etc., New Oxford Annotated Bible.)

Now, any and every religion has some portion of its foundation text that is morally and ethically repugnant: Jewish morning prayers, where the man “thanks God that he was not created a woman,” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) “the rebellious child must be taken outside the camp and stoned to death.”

The gospels did not cause anti-Semitism, but they licensed it, to Christian Europe.

Beginning with Pope Benedict VI in “Nostra Aetate” published in 1965, down through Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, the issue of Christian anti-Semitism has been addressed, and enlightened Christians around the world, many, people of good faith, having done so independently, are now facing and redressing the issue of anti-Semitism and the Gospels in an organized manner.

But those things learned in childhood, before we recognize that we are learning them, persist. This is the operative notion of psychoanalysis–that in order to forget we must remember.

I was raised in a time of separate washrooms and water fountains for African-Americans. White Americans of my age and experience had and have to confront those racial prejudices imbibed as a matter of course, before we knew we were imbibing them. Mel Gibson was raised as a Catholic, and studied the Gospels. Indeed, he made a film of them (I haven’t seen the film).

It is not impossible that Mr. Gibson, at a time of great stress, reverted to a catch-all solution learned as a child–that he, in effect, “regressed.”

What was the catch-all solution? “Jews are bad.”

This might seem to be a rather tenuous connection, “I was stopped for drunken driving–therefore the Jews are bad.” But consider: This is exactly how the Western world acted in the 1930s–the Jews are bad, “they are bringing the world to the brink of war.” Germany is going to imprison, deport, kill, in short, relieve you, Europe, of them.

Q. What is the cause of unrest in 1930s Europe?

A. The Jews.

Absurd, one might say, how did “the Jews” cause Hitler to kidnap Europe? But see the same mechanism today. Israel (read “the Jews”) we are told, has somehow so inflamed the Arabs that they (Israel/the Jews) will bring the world to the brink of destruction. Arab jihadists bomb the West and the West blames “the Jews.”

But Israel’s Jews are no more the cause of Arab fundamentalist rage than they were the cause of European fascism. We, as always, are the miner’s canary, singled out as–and the first victims of–national or global unrest.

What happened to Mel Gibson is the same thing that happened to the West faced with the specter of jihadist killers: He became frightened. He regressed and started speaking the absurd.

Mel Gibson was pulled over for drunken driving, and, perhaps, because he was frightened–as you or I might be in the same situation–he said something regrettable. Then he apologized. Good for him.


David Mamet is a playwright. His book, “The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred and the Jews,” will be published in October.