Actor and film maker Mel Gibson made headlines in Israeli media last week after it was reported that he has been donating funds to an organization which supports Holocaust survivors. The matter has attracted attention in light of Gibson’s difficult track record with the Jewish community.
In a highly publicized 2006 incident, Gibson, who had long battled with alcoholism, was arrested in Los Angeles for driving over the speed limit while under the influence. When the arresting officer told him he was being detained, Gibson became extremely angry and was recorded making antisemitic remarks, reportedly saying to one of the officers: “F**king Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world… Are you a Jew?”
The incident added salt to the wounds of those who were already wary of Gibson because of the release of his 2004 Academy Award winning move, The Passion Of The Christ. This ground-breaking and deeply moving film was publicly denounced by the Anti-Defamation League as being anti-Semitic, thus strengthening the perception of Gibson as an anti-Semite. Other Jewish leaders, including Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and head of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, however adamantly defended the movie.
Gibson’s father was also known to be a Holocaust denier.
After all of that, the revelation that Gibson has been helping Eastern European Holocaust survivors is considered especially noteworthy.
The organization to which Gibson has been donating is the California-based Survivor Mitzvah Project (SMP), which is “dedicated to providing direct and continuous financial aid to those elderly and forgotten Jewish Holocaust Survivors scattered throughout Eastern Europe who are sick, impoverished, isolated and receive no direct financial aid from any other agency.”
In referring to Gibson’s troubled past, SMP founder, Zane Buzby told reporters: “I have a great respect for people who turn their lives around, and I think that everyone makes mistakes in life, and I think the real proof of what kind of human being you are is what you do with that mistake.”
“I have a great respect for people who turn their lives around,” she added. “And I think that everyone makes mistakes in life, and I think the real proof of what kind of human being you are is what you do with that mistake. He’s educated himself. He’s done philanthropic work now, and I think that actions speak very loudly… and his actions have helped a lot of people.”