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Jewish leaders mixed on Gibson's apology

Some offers of help from the Jewish community, but a call for the actor to make ‘a long-term effort’
/ Source: The Associated Press

Mel Gibson’s latest apology drew mixed reactions from Jewish leaders, with some saying they were willing to help the actor address the anti-Semitic slurs he made during a drunken driving arrest and others demanding proof of his repentance.

Gibson made his second public apology Tuesday, four days after he was arrested for investigation of drunken driving following a hostile, offensive confrontation with deputies.

A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the sheriff’s report says Gibson told the arresting deputy: “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” and asked him, “Are you a Jew?”

The apology went far beyond the first — directed primarily to deputies — and addressed Jewish groups directly. “Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith,” he said .

“There will be many in that (Jewish) community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable,” he added. “But I pray that that door is not forever closed.”

Gibson, 50, has had an edgy relationship with Jewish organizations since his 2004 blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ,” which some criticized for portraying Jews as responsible for Jesus’ death. Supporters said the movie merely followed the Gospel story.

His apology prompted one rabbi to invite Gibson to speak at his temple on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. Other Jewish leaders say the healing process will take some time.

“Anti-Semitism is not born in one day and cannot be cured in one day and certainly not through the issuing of a press release,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said in a statement. Gibson should read about Jewish persecution and the Holocaust, among other things, Hier added by telephone from Israel.

“When Mr. Gibson embarks on a serious long-term effort to address that bigotry and anti-Semitism, he will find the Jewish community more than willing to engage and help him,” he said.

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the process requires hard work. “You can’t just say I’m no longer a drunk; you can’t just say I’m no longer a bigot. You need to work hard at it, and we’re ready to help him,” Foxman said.

Gibson publicist Alan Nierob said the Yom Kippur invitation came from a Beverly Hills rabbi.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive and generous since he issued his statement,” Nierob said. But he added that it was too soon for Gibson to accept any speaking engagements.

Nierob adding that Gibson was seeking private meetings with Jewish leaders. “It’s not a quick fix, that’s not what my client is interested in. This is a recovery process,” Nierob said.

Review of arrestMeanwhile, county prosecutors were reviewing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department report to decide what charges, if any, would be filed against Gibson.

The actor-director was originally stopped for speeding early Friday after authorities said he was driving 87 mph in a 45-mph zone on Pacific Coast Highway. Sheriff’s officials said a bottle of tequila was found in his car and his blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent, above California’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Witnesses said Gibson had been drinking at a Malibu beachfront restaurant called Moonshadows before his car was stopped. Widely distributed photos show him with his arms around several young women at the restaurant shortly before his arrest.

Authorities initially did not mention Gibson’s remarks when giving an account of his arrest, with a Sheriff’s Department spokesman saying the arrest was made “without incident.”

A civilian watchdog attorney, investigating allegations of a cover-up, said a preliminary review found nothing wrong with the handling of Gibson’s arrest. The department has denied any cover-up.