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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
UK Jews voice Gibson film worries
Mel Gibson (right) directing Jim Caviezel as Jesus (centre) in The Passion
Mel Gibson (right) directed and co-wrote The Passion
Representatives of British Jews have said they want an "early" chance to see Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion, about the killing of Christ, according to reports.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has added its voice to growing concern about how Jews are portrayed in the film, and wants to decide for itself, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The film has already been criticised by Jewish figures in the United States for being "dangerous" and portraying Jews in a negative way.

One US rabbi has said the film had already fuelled dozens of hate letters and calls - although it will not be released for months.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said they were afraid it could lead to anti-Semitic feeling "by portraying Jews in an unfavourable light, and perpetuating myths which have been refuted by various religious authorities in the past", the paper said.

"We are aware that some leaders of the American Jewish community have voiced their concern on the matter which, in principle, we would share," a statement said.

They wanted to see the film so they could make a "definitive judgement", they said.


The Passion has been directed and co-written by Gibson, and depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus' life.

Gibson has "softened the story" - told in Latin and Aramaic - in response to the criticism.

The Anti-Defamation League recently said the film contained "dangerous teachings" that Jews and Christians had tried to work against in the past.

"We are deeply concerned that the film, if released in its present form, will fuel the hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism," the group's national director, Abraham Foxman, said.

'Love and hope'

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the establishment had received "spurts" of hate mail unlike anything in the past.

But Gibson's spokesman Alan Nierob has said the film was not anti-Semitic.

"No one associated with this film has any interest in fuelling hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism," he said.

"In fact, Mel's interest is just the opposite as he has stated previously that this film is about love, hope, faith and forgiveness."

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