Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman and other Jewish leaders slammed Mel Gibson this week after screenwriter Joe Eszterhas accused his film former collaborator of “hating Jews” and repeatedly making anti-Semitic remarks.
In a nine-page letter obtained by TheWrap, Eszterhas says Gibson repeatedly referred to Jews as "Hebes," "oven-dodgers" and "Jewboys" and described the Holocaust as "mostly a lot of horseshit."
The two men had been working together on a movie about Jewish hero Judah Maccabee, whose victory over Greek and Syrian armies is celebrated at Hanukkah.
"If what Joe Eszterhas claims is true, it exposes [Gibson] as a serial bigot and a serial anti-Semite who thought that he could manipulate everybody into believing he changed," Foxman told TheWrap.
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Gibson hit back at Eszterhas in a letter that was leaked to an online outlet, saying that much of Eszterhas' observations were "utter fabrications." He did apologize for using "colorful" language.
The actor has been plagued by allegations of anti-Semitism dating back to his 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ." At that time, he was criticized by the ADL and other groups for reinforcing the belief that Jews were responsible for Jesus' execution.
These problems intensified after Gibson was detained by police in Malibu in 2006 for drunken driving. He found himself embroiled in a public relations fiasco when reports surfaced that he had launched into an expletive-laden anti-Semitic rant while in custody.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that even though Gibson apologized, the actor never really atoned for his comments that night.
“The whole apology was a joke," Hier said. "It was written by a publicity agent. If he wanted to profoundly apologize, he could do it the right way. He could visit a concentration camp. He could take a course on Holocaust studies. He could write an opinion piece. He did none of that, so it comes as no surprise to me.”
Like Hier, Foxman (pictured right) says Gibson never substantively apologized for the incident in Malibu.
"Mel Gibson never really came to grips with his bigotry," Foxman said. "Most people who are revealed or exposed as anti-Semites, under stress or alcohol, try to engage in some epiphany once they are revealed. Mel Gibson never really confronted his problem to the point where his lawyers removed from the record what he said to the police, so he could move on without confronting it."
Foxman said that as far back as "The Passion of the Christ," Gibson did not seem to take the Jewish community's concerns seriously. Foxman said Gibson's spokespeople repeatedly reassured the group that the actor would sit down and meet with the ADL to discuss their issues with the film, but that he never followed through on that promise.
"This is part of a pattern," Foxman said. "He never dealt with the issue. He kept putting it off and putting it off."
Even though Foxman said he felt Hollywood has been largely silent on Gibson's behavior, he believes the actor's sagging box office appeal is an indication that moviegoers have turned their backs on the action star.
"What America is all about is that the Constitution gives you the right to be a bigot, but there are consequences to bigotry," Foxman said. "This was a man who was the No. 1 actor in movies, the No. 1 producer, who was on the most covers of magazines, and where is he now? I think the American people in our society dumped him, because they decided this is not who we want to embrace as a role model."
Nor will America be treated to Gibson's take on Judah Maccabee anytime soon. Warner Bros. has shelved the film, saying that Eszterhas' script was lacking in “feeling” and “a sense of triumph."