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Hollywoods Jewish can of worms

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Los Angeles (Reuters): In the days since Mel Gibson's arrest on suspicion of drunk driving after a wild ride down a Malibu highway, few leading Jewish figures in the film industry have publicly commented on the superstar's barrage of anti-Semitic comments. The actor and director was formally charged with drunk driving yesterday, six days after his arrest and subsequent rant to a police officer about Jews causing every war. On Tuesday, Gibson issued a statement that said in part, ''I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said...''

Former AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman Merv Adelman was so incensed by the lack of outrage in an industry founded and led by many Jews that he bought a quarter-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times to protest the lack of protest. ''Bigots have so often accused our community of being run by Jews that I think it has entered our psyche. We have become so defensive that when faced with a degrading and disgusting incident starring a movie star, we as individuals remain relatively silent,'' he said in the ad. ''What would this community have done if Mel Gibson had drunkenly ranted and raved about the dirty 'Mexicans' or for that matter used the 'N' words disparagingly as he used the word Jews...?'' he asked.

At least one actor took a public stand. Comedian Rob Schneider, the son of a Jewish father and Philippine-American mother and star of the ''Deuce Bigalow'' films, took out an ad on trade publication Variety's Web site pledging that he would never work with Gibson. Los Angeles Times film industry columnist Patrick Goldstein wondered why the ''Big Kahunas of Hollywood'' -- like director Steven Spielberg and studio bigwigs like Universal's Ron Meyer, DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg and Paramount's Brad Grey -- have been silent.

A spokesman for Spielberg said the director was on vacation and ''uncontactable.'' Goldstein saw the silence by today's Jewish leaders in Hollywood as continuing a pattern of trying to fit in -- which once saw actors like Emmanuel Goldenberg and Muni Weisenfreund change their names to Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni. ''They are all thinking, what happens if he comes out of this and I've said something? He won't work with me when I need him,'' Goldstein quoted producer Howard Rosenman as saying.

TV network ABC on Tuesday pulled a miniseries about the Holocaust that Gibson, a traditionalist Roman Catholic who built his own church in Malibu, was producing, but refused to say that the cancellation was related to the controversy. Gibson directed the 2004 blockbuster ''The Passion of the Christ,'' about the last hours of the life of Jesus, which was criticized in some quarters as anti-Semitic for portraying Jews as the killers of Christ. His father described the Holocaust as: ''maybe not all fiction, but most of it is.'' Filmmaker and Time magazine critic Richard Schickel said Hollywood's caution stems partly from the fear of speaking out against one of the most bankable stars in the industry. ''I don't think this is the only reason, but I think many feel he will weather this storm and retain his clout as a star and a director. And if this is what they are doing, that is deplorable,'' he said.

Los Angeles Weekly film columnist Nikki Finke said there are people speaking out and vowing they would not do business with Gibson in the future. Among those who have are prominent agent Ari Emanuel, who called for a boycott, and Sony Pictures Chairwoman Amy Pascal, who called Gibson's comments ''incredibly disappointing.'' Finke said some Gibson critics are people ''who have issues of their own'' and thus expected to show sympathize with a person with an admitted alcoholism problem.

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