Gingrich: U.S. run by “anti-Jewish” elite

The United States under President Obama is “dominated by a secular, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish elite,” Newt Gingrich said.

Gingrich, the onetime speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a likely presidential candidate for 2012, spoke on March 25 at a meeting in Iowa of the American Family Association, Politico reported.

“Until you replace this president and until you have the Congress and the new president replace large parts of our bureaucracies, we’re going to continue to be dominated by a secular, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish elite, which is seeking to impose on us rules that make zero sense,” Gingrich said, referring to a number of disparate cases in which federal, state and local governments and courts have addressed Muslim sensibilities.

Separately, Louis Farrakhan, who backed Obama’s candidacy in 2008, called him the “first Jewish president” and said powerful Jews were behind his election.

“He was selected before he was elected,” the Nation of Islam leader, addressing a conference March 25 at Jackson State University in Mississippi, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. “And the people that selected him were rich, powerful members of the Jewish community.”

Obama in 2008 rejected Farrakhan’s endorsement.

Briefs: Loyola hosts Jewish Studies conference, Jews at UC Irvine say they are safe

Loyola Hosts Jewish Studies Conference

The Western states conference of the Association of Jewish Studies will be held April 6-7 at — Loyola Marymount University (LMU), a Jesuit institution.

The particular venue says a good deal about the evolution of Jewish studies from an ethnic specialty to a broad academic discipline integral to any self-respecting university.

Actually, Loyola Marymount University vied with the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) for hosting honors, and won out.

Professor Holli Levitsky, director of Jewish studies at LMU, pointed out that her university will initiate a minor study program in her field this fall, offering courses ranging from Introduction to the Hebrew Bible to Near Eastern archaeology.

The conference, which is open to interested persons without charge, will consist of 20 plenary and specialized sessions, workshops, and an evening of music and entertainment.

Sunday’s program on April 6 opens with a discussion on Christian-Jewish relations, and includes sessions on topics as varied as Jewish holidays in comic strips, the impact of Jewish artists Sigmund Romberg and Stanley Kubrick, and an analysis of “The Debate over American Support of Israel” by U.S. State Department historian Adam Howard.

A tribute luncheon will honor the scholarly work of UCLA professor Arnold Band. The evening program includes a performance by the Shtetl Menschen and a concert of klezmer music.

The subsequent keynote event will present an interfaith conversation, “Collars and Kippot,” with Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, national director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Monsignor Royale Vadakin, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

On Monday, April 7, scholars will discuss “Literature and Jewish Identity,” while a session on “Home and Hearth” will focus on Iranian Jewish women and a talk titled “Bodies, Food & (tsk, tsk) Sex.” The meeting will conclude with a panel discussion on “Israel at 60,” moderated by The Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman.

An exhibit of paintings, “Panim el Panim” (Face to Face) by Evelyn Stettin, described as a “Visual Midrash,” will be open throughout the meeting. (See article, Page 39.)

Co-sponsors of the conference are American Jewish University, UCLA, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, American Jewish Committee, Chapman University, Cal State Long Beach and CSUN.

LMU is located in the Marina del Rey-Westchester area and all events are in University Hall. For information, phone (310) 338-2806, or e-mail

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Jerusalem Fountain Piano Suite to Premiere at Cathedral

A tourist to Los Angeles looking for the Jewish Family Fountain will find it in a rather unlikely place — in the plaza of the landmark Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Alternately known as the Jerusalem Fountain, it will be celebrated in the world premiere of the piano suite “Water From a Stone,” by Michael Isaacson, on Saturday evening, April 5, in the main cathedral sanctuary.

Noted pianist Andrea Anderson, who asked Isaacson to compose the suite, will also perform works by Mozart, Debussy and Copland. Rounding out the program is Prokofiev’s Flute Sonata, with flautist Zachary Valenzuela.

The fountain, described by Cathedral sources as “probably the first-ever Jewish contribution to a Christian cathedral,” was built through a $2.5 million grant from the Skirball Foundation and an anonymous Jewish family.

Their purpose was “to acknowledge the long-standing and cordial relationship between the Jewish and Roman Catholic communities in Southern California.”

The biblical inscription on the rose and gold limestone from an ancient quarry outside Jerusalem reads, in Hebrew and English, “The world stands on three pillars – Torah, Worship and Good Deeds.”

Isaacson said that he tried to express “the interdependent duality of the immovable [stone] and the ever-changing [water]” through a musical combination of biblical themes, Hebrew prayers and early Israeli folk songs.

The suite’s three movements are titled “Moses Striking the Rock,” “Dew of Morning” and “Fountain of Deliverance.”

Isaacson is the founding music director of the Israel Pops Orchestra, has created more than 500 Jewish and secular compositions, and has been the arranger and conductor of music for numerous feature films and television series.

Anderson is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation grant and has performed at Carnegie Hall and other concert halls in the United States, China, Sweden, Finland and Lithuania.

The concert will start at 8 p.m. on April 5 at the Cathedral, 555 W. Temple St. Admission is free, but a $10 donation is suggested. Secure parking is $5. For information, call (213) 680-5200.

— TT

Saving America from the SAVE Act

Standing up for immigrant and employer rights, the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee) and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, along with Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, voiced opposition to the SAVE (Secure America with Verification and Enforcement) Act during a press conference and subsequent vote at L.A. City Hall on March 26.

The SAVE Act, sponsored by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), is a new immigration enforcement bill intended to help secure America’s borders. Title two of the SAVE Act requires all U.S. employers to go through a mandatory work authorization verification system using an “E-Verify” program that would check the legal status of all employees.

During the press conference on the bill, however, AJCommittee representatives outlined some of the act’s flaws.

“Over 10 million workers would be identified incorrectly. This Act does not address the real issues of border security,” said Seth Brysk, director of the AJCommittee’s Los Angeles Chapter.

Following the press conference, the L.A. City Council voted against implementation of the bill. AJCommittee hopes that members of Congress will look to their constituents and take into account this opposing stance. Brooke Menschel, AJCommittee’s assistant legislative director, said that if the bill goes through it would undermine local law enforcement and create unrest and distrust within local communities.

“The database is riddled with errors,” Menschel said. AJCommittee “has strived to protect those who come to this country to escape persecution. We need to also secure homeland security and ensure that the gateway to America isn’t just an open door. We need to work to find a delicate balance, and this bill does no such thing.”


Philippe Karsenty is not sure exactly when he snapped. He does recall a certain morning in Paris when one of the employees in his software firm walked into his office, and, instead of talking business, brought up something rather unexpected: “What did you do yesterday in Gaza? When will you Jews stop murdering Arab children?” the employee asked.

It was the day after the shot heard around the world — one of the many shots that rang on Sept. 30, 2000, at the beginning of the second intifada, the day those “brutal Israeli occupiers” allegedly killed a young Palestinian boy named Mohammad al Dura as he crouched for cover near his panicked father.

Within hours, virtually every television station in the world had played and replayed the now-famous tape of that tragic scene. I remember being confronted myself by one of my closest friends, an assimilated Jew who knew I was a supporter of Israel, and who was quite shaken by what he had just seen on the evening news. There wasn’t much I could say, because I, too, was pretty shaken after watching the same images.

It was a low point for Israel, and for her supporters.

For the next few months and years, the picture of the crouching, dying boy unleashed a global wave of resentment against Israel and became the icon par excellence to incite further terrorist violence against Jews and the Jewish state. To this day, the Al Dura image continues to proliferate throughout the Muslim world, in everything from postage stamps, billboards and T-shirts to memorials, films and television shows.

For the Palestinians, it has been a PR bonanza — the money shot that says it all in one second: helpless victim of violent oppressor.

The only problem is, there’s compelling evidence that it’s all a hoax.

Beyond the stuff I’ve read over the years (most notably, an exposé by James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly), I’ve recently seen evidence with my own eyes. I saw, for example, footage that was kept out of the original news clip, which shows the “dead” boy lifting his hand from his face, almost as if to say: “Can I get up now, or are you still filming?”

I also saw footage, taken during those infamous 45 minutes when Israeli soldiers were said to be shooting, that shows the impossibility of the angle between where the Israelis were stationed and the boy and his father. At the same time, I saw a Palestinian “director” staging two scenes of “wounded” Palestinians being carried off to ambulances, with one of the participants applauding after a scene was completed.

I saw close-ups that showed there were no gunshot wounds to the father or the kid — during the time they both appeared dead and immobile — with the only “red stuff” being on a rag that appeared to be a prop. I saw a camera tripod conveniently placed a few feet from the crouching boy. In short, I saw overwhelming evidence that the whole thing was staged; but perhaps the most chilling thing was the edited French newscast that cobbled together all these staged scenes, creating the impression that the Israelis killed a helpless child.

All this was shown to me by a French gentleman named Philippe Karsenty.

More than 100 years after another Frenchman named Emile Zola wrote the famous “J’Accuse!” (I Accuse!) declaration of anti-Semitism by French officials in the Dreyfus Affair, Karsenty has been fighting an uphill battle for the last five years to expose what he calls a “slander against the Jewish nation.”

As he was enjoying some Parisian-style French fries the other day at Shilo’s while on a short visit to America, Karsenty’s passion on this subject could not be contained. He didn’t wait to finish his fries before he pulled out his laptop to show me the evidence. This is the same evidence that is now being shown in his ongoing trial in France against the French television station that sued him for libel a couple of years ago — and won.

But after they turned the tables on him, he is turning the tables on them.

Through his appeal, which began last month, the evidence of a hoax has been gushing out, and the number of his supporters, even among the anti-Israel intelligentsia in Europe, is growing. It helps that his accusers in court have been anything but forthcoming, producing, for example, 18 minutes of original footage instead of the 27 the cameraman swore he shot.

Karsenty, a Sephardic Jew and Internet entrepreneur, thinks he lost the first trial because the president of France at the time, Jacques Chirac, sent a personal letter in support of his opponent. But now, with the next hearing coming up in Paris on Feb. 27 and more evidence coming out, the momentum is shifting to Karsenty’s side. (One sure sign of momentum is that he’s already stimulating interest from Hollywood to turn his crusade into an “Erin Brockovich”-type movie.)

Karsenty is clearly an ambitious man, and his ambition is fueled by outrage.

Outrage at the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias in Europe and in his home country of France, where he says he was maligned as a “conspiracy nut,” and where Israel is usually “guilty until proven innocent.” Outrage at the anti-Semitism that was awakened by the Al Dura global “PR campaign.” Outrage at the general incompetence and timidity of the Israeli diplomatic corps, who rarely publicly confront the lies against their country.

And, finally, outrage at the Jewish groups who jump to scrutinize and criticize Israel over every roadblock and outpost, but who have remained remarkably quiet over this Palestinian deception that has contributed to so much violence against Jews.

Ironically, he’s not especially outraged at the Palestinian deceivers. As he says, calmly: “They lie. That’s what they’re taught to do. That’s how they fight.”

Karsenty would rather fight with the truth.

He’s hoping the words Zola wrote a century ago will still apply today: Truth is on the march and nothing can stop it.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and He can be reached at

Brouhaha on Gibson

There is at least one upside to the brouhaha over Mel Gibson’s controversial film, "The Passion of the Christ": It has led to some serious probing of current Jewish-Christian relations and given many Jews a crash course in the varieties of Christian theology.

On Feb. 10, more than 750 Jews and Christians gathered in a Manhattan hotel to listen and participate in a debate between a rabbi and a messianic Jew on the question of who killed Jesus.

On the same evening in Los Angeles, a similarly mixed audience of approximately 400 at the University of Judaism (UJ) attended a more scholarly discussion on "Crucifying Jesus," ranging from the New Testament Gospels to contemporary interpretations and anxieties. The panel consisted of four academicians — three Christian, one Jewish — and if the Jews in the audience drew one lesson from the presentations it is of the diversity of views among Christians on the history and theology of their faith.

There are vast differences between denominations and between "radicals" and "conservatives" in the same church, said Dr. Kathryn Smith, who chairs the biblical studies department at the evangelical Azusa Pacific University. Besides not being monolithic, Christian views also change and evolve. "We are a theology in process," she said.

From the audience, UJ lecturer J. Shawn Landres put the case more graphically, observing, "Episcopalians, Mormons and Southern Baptists have even less in common than Reform Jews and Chabadniks."

The different views of Jesus’ life and teachings are already apparent in the four Gospels of the New Testament by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, from which Gibson supposedly drew for his film. The Gospels are not history, and there are large variations among them, said professor Gary Gilbert, the lone Jew on the panel, who teaches a course on Jesus at Claremont-McKenna College.

"We don’t even know whether Jesus was actually crucified," he said, adding, "There was no Jew more frum [religious] than Jesus."

For their indictment of Jewish culpability, two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and John, drew heavily on the pronouncements of the ancient prophets of Israel, who scourged their people for their sinfulness and shortcomings, observed Smith.

One panelist who had actually seen "The Passion of the Christ" was professor Jeffrey Siker, who heads the theological studies department at Loyola Marymount University.

"The film is not directly anti-Jewish," he said. "It reflects Gibson’s highly personal testimony that Jesus, in dying for the sins of mankind, saved him [Gibson] as a sinner."

Siker likened Gibson’s perspective to a T-shirt he saw, with a picture of a bloodied Jesus on the front and on the back the words "His Pain, Your Gain."

Professor John K. Roth, a prominent Holocaust scholar at Claremont-McKenna College, testified to his own deep Christian faith. At the same time, he acknowledged that while the Holocaust could not be solely blamed on Christianity, it was a "necessary condition" for the tragedy of the Shoah.

All the speakers agreed that Jesus was put to death primarily as a political rebel who threatened the political stability of Roman rule, although the leading Jewish priests, who owed their jobs to the Romans, encouraged Pontius Pilate’s decree. The panelists also agreed with a questioner that while the film would hardly inflame scholars of Christianity, the impact might be quite different on the man in the European or Arab street.

Professor Michael Berenbaum, director of the UJ’s Sigi Ziering Institute, which sponsored the event, added a provocative thought from the perspective of a Jewish historian. One or two centuries from now, he said, Jewish scholars might well look back on their people’s fate in the 20th century and see in it an analogy to Jesus’ progression from crucifixion to resurrection.

The final word came from Landres, who currently teaches the first course at the UJ on the theology and history of Christianity.

He has prepared a list of 10 dos and don’ts to guide Jewish responses to the issues raised by Gibson’s film, which opens Feb. 25.

The first "commandment" reads: "Do what Jews do best. Study the sources. Read the Gospels for yourself, as well as Paul’s letters, especially his letter to the Romans."

Another is, "Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and the Jewish people, but do not be surprised if Christians wish to do the same for their faith."

And finally, the shortest and perhaps most practical suggestion of all is: "Don’t forget that it isn’t always about the Jews."

Have the Lessons of Oslo Been Forgotten?

When the Oslo accords collapsed three years ago with the Palestinian Arabs’ launching of mass violence against Israel, numerous American Jewish leaders publicly admitted that they had been wrong all along about Oslo — wrong to believe the Palestinian Arabs wanted peace, wrong to ignore Palestinian Arab violations of the accords, such as anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement, and wrong to sit by silently as the U.S. pressured Israel to make more one-sided concessions.

Yet today, many American Jewish leaders are making that terrible mistake once again.

The words that disillusioned Jewish leaders wrote or spoke in late 2000 and early 2001 make for fascinating — and tragic — reading today.

The American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) took out a full-page ad in The New York Times (Nov. 12, 2000) headlined: “It takes a big organization to admit it was wrong.” The text read, in part: “We were persuaded that despite [Yasser Arafat’s] history of terrorism, he had chosen the path to peace. Perhaps we wanted to be persuaded.”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, then-president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), said in his keynote address to the UAHC convention on June 1, 2001: “I have been wrong, and I believe our Reform movement has been wrong about a number of things. We misjudged Palestinian intentions and misread Palestinian society…. We did not pay nearly enough attention to the culture of hatred created and nourished by Palestinian leaders … the growing use of anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi language in the Palestinian media.”

Rabbi Martin Weiner, president of the Central Conference of American (Reform) Rabbis, put it this way: “Many of us who have supported the Oslo process for the last decade must admit to ourselves that the Palestinians really do not want peace…” (Jerusalem Post, March 7, 2002). His colleague, Rabbi Amiel Hirsch, director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, was blunt: “I think there is reason to re-evaluate the underlying thesis of Oslo” (Forward, Oct. 13, 2000).

Leonard Cole, chairman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that in order for there to be peace, there would have to be “a demonstrated effort by the Palestinians by way of what they teach their children, by way of the textbooks, the maps that are shown, that shows that they, too, are partners [for peace].” (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 27, 2000).

Yet, incredibly, many Jewish leaders are now making the exact same mistake about Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that they made about Arafat. And now it’s even worse — because while Arafat publicly made commitments but did not fulfill them, Abbas says openly, “I have no intention to dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad” and declares that the PA police “will not go house to house in search of weapons.”

Perhaps in another year or two, a major Jewish organization will take out yet another ad headlined, “It takes a big organization to admit it was wrong.” But how many more Israelis will die in the meantime? How many more one-sided concessions will be squeezed out of Israel? How many more terrorists will Israel be pressured into setting free?

In 1993, Arafat insisted that he wanted to live in peace with Israel. Just like Abbas says today. When he signed the Oslo accords, Arafat pledged to stop all violence against Israel and, for a time, there was, indeed, a reduction in terrorist attacks, just as Abbas did for seven weeks before a bus exploded in Jerusalem on Tuesday, killing 20 and wounding about 100.

Arafat’s words were pleasant sounding, like Abbas.’ People “wanted to be persuaded,” as the AJCongress newspaper ad put it. Today, too, people want to be persuaded. But to avoid repeating the mistakes of the Oslo years, we need to compare Abbas’ words to Abbas’ deeds.

Just like Arafat, Abbas is required to stop the vicious anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement that appears every day in the official P.A. media, school books, speeches and religious sermons. And just like Arafat, he refuses to stop it.

Just like Arafat, Abbas is required to treat Hamas and Islamic Jihad as terrorists, as enemies. And just like Arafat, he treats them as brothers and comrades, shelters them from Israeli arrest, demands that Israel free their imprisoned members, calls them “heroes” and “martyrs” and names streets and summer camps after them.

Ironically, while Jewish leaders and the Bush administration are championing Abbas as the “moderate” alternative to Arafat, Abbas makes it clear that he is as loyal to Arafat as ever.

Abbas co-founded the Fatah terrorist movement and was Arafat’s second in command for 40 years. He has said he makes no decisions without Arafat’s approval.

Abbas does not represent a “new” Palestinian Arab leadership, “not compromised by terror” — the condition that President Bush set in his June 2002 speech but subsequently ignored. Abbas is a terrorist who is temporarily using diplomacy to gain territory, Western funding and, perhaps, even a sovereign state.

The only difference between Abbas and Arafat is the suit and the shave.

Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America.

Gibson Film Causes ‘Passion’ to Rise

The ghosts of virulently anti-Semitic nuns may haunt Mel Gibson’s new film about Jesus’ final days, some Catholic and Jewish scholars are warning.

The growing hype concerns charges that "The Passion" blames Jews for Jesus’ death. Gibson denies any anti-Semitic intent, and little attention has focused on the sources for his screenplay.

Scholars — some of whom have seen an early version of the script — fear it relies partly on the teachings of a 19th century nun who blamed Jews collectively for the crucifixion. These theologians also warn that the movie may splice the New Testament’s multiple gospels about Jesus into a cinematically sharpened, but distorted, anti-Jewish passion play.

"Mel Gibson ought to take special care, because the people he is relying on [for the movie’s narrative] are people who are very antagonistic toward Jews," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) this week also endorsed a highly critical report by some of these scholars based on a pirated, early version of the script.

Media focus on the film increased after The New York Times published a lengthy article earlier this year about Gibson’s fundamentalist Catholic sect, which rejects the Vatican’s authority and its modern-day reforms.

Gibson has issued a single statement saying, "Neither I nor my film are anti-Semitic."

Gibson’s spokesman, Alan Nierob dismissed the prerelease criticism.

"Just getting rabbis and priests and whomever to just guess on the issue — they don’t really know what they’re talking about," Nierob said.

At the heart of the controversy lies the question of Gibson’s intent, and the issue of which sources he is using to shape the film’s narrative.

Now editing the film, Gibson said two weeks ago that the movie "conforms to the narratives of Christ’s passion and death found in the four Gospels of the New Testament."

But some reports contradict that.

Several experts on Catholic-Jewish issues said one source of inspiration for the film seems to be Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, a mystic in the late 1700s and early 1800s, who saw visions of Jews with "hooked noses," Hier said. According to a 1976 biography of Emmerich by the Rev. C. E. Schmoeger, Emmerich described one vision of an "old Jewess Meyr" who admitted "that Jews in our country and elsewhere strangled Christian children and used their blood for all sorts of suspicious and diabolical practices."

A March article about the film in The Wall Street Journal, written by Raymond Arroyo, said the movie also is based on a 17th century nun, Mary of Agreda, whom critics say is also anti-Semitic.

One of those critics is Philip Cunningham, a Boston College theology professor and executive director of the college’s Center for Christian-Jewish Learning. Cunningham was on a nine-member, ad-hoc panel that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the ADL organized to review an early version of "The Passion" screenplay. Their assessment provoked Gibson to threaten a lawsuit. The Conference of Bishops later backtracked, claiming it did not authorize or review the report.

One concern for Cunningham is that an Italian Web site that claims to be an unofficial site for "The Passion" says the film "is based upon the diaries of St. Anne Catherine Emmerich."

"Any kind of drama based on such a work would be fraught with peril in terms of anti-Semitic sentiments," and would violate current church teaching, Cunningham said.

Emmerich’s diary includes images of servants of the high priest bribing fellow Jews to demand Jesus’ death, paying some of his killers and describing scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion as more "brutal" than those in the New Testament, Cunningham said.

Rabbi James Rudin, another expert on Catholic-Jewish issues, said this material had served as the "toxic" source for centuries of anti-Semitic passion plays. Rudin likened such "extra-biblical" material to Jewish Midrash (post-biblical analysis).

"It’s all Midrash. If Gibson uses that as kosher, than he is really going against the authorized Catholic teaching of the Vatican," Rudin said. "To use that is distortion and dangerous."

The scholars are equally troubled by references to Mary of Agreda, who blames Jews throughout the ages for Jesus’ death.

Hier cites a passage from her writing that refers to Jews, saying: "Although they did not die, they were chastised with intense pain. These disorders consequently upon shedding the blood of Christ, descended to their posterity and even to this day continue to afflict this group with horrible impurities."

Such attitudes had a direct influence on modern anti-Semitism and even on the Holocaust, said the Rev. Michael Cooper, director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in Florida.

Nierob said he had "never heard" of Emmerich or Mary of Agreda. He also questioned criticism of Emmerich.

"Is everything she wrote anti-Semitic?" he asked.

The scholars also voiced worries that Gibson might weave together the most anti-Semitic portions of the gospels into his film.

By editing the gospels into a single montage, Cunningham said, "you end up with a multiplication of anti-Jewish elements that ends up being more powerful than any one gospel would have been."

"It takes enormous sensitivity to strip [the gospels] of anti-Semitic teachings," Rudin added.

Hier, who recently wrote about the film in the Los Angeles Times editorial pages, said he had urged Gibson to meet with him and others to discuss their concerns.

Gibson’s spokesman likened such calls to censorship.

"Are they filmmakers? Do they want to tell him how to make this film?" Nierob asked. "They can make a film if they want to."

Hier, in fact, is a filmmaker: The Wiesenthal Center won an Academy Award in 1997 for the Holocaust documentary, "The Long Road Home," which he co-produced. Ironically, as a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hier backed Gibson for best director for his 1995 film, "Braveheart."

Hier insisted that his aim was only to discuss with Gibson concerns about the film’s story. He pointed out that he had consulted on other films, including the recent "Young Hitler." At his urging, Hier said, the filmmakers tacked on a series of documentary Holocaust images after the film.

Anti-Semitism Hits France

A fresh outburst of anti-Semitic violence throughout France has Jewish leaders fearing the return of Kristallnacht.

The reference to the horrors of Nazi Germany, issued by French Jewish leader Jean Kahn, hit the French dailies, as police in Marseille were still investigating a fire that reduced a synagogue to ashes.

The incident punctuated a weekend of anti-Jewish aggression that included attacks on synagogues in Lyon and Strasbourg and a shooting at a kosher butcher shop near the southwestern city of Toulouse in which no one was injured.

In addition, a French Jewish couple was injured in a weekend attack in the southern part of the country.

The latest violence apparently was sparked by indignation aroused by pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France, Germany and Greece on Saturday.

Lyon and Strasbourg witnessed the largest of these protests, with turnouts estimated at 6,000 and 3,000, respectively, while police reported smaller showings in Toulouse and Marseille.

The first of the attacks took place Saturday morning before the protest in Lyon. According to an eyewitness, approximately 15 hooded men drove a car through the large wooden doors of a synagogue in the Jewish neighborhood of La Duchere and then set it on fire.

The other incidents occurred just hours after demonstrations, in which protesters carried banners that read "We are all Palestinians," "Sharon Assassin" and "Stop the Massacre of Palestinians."

In Toulouse, a man opened fire at a closed kosher butcher shop on Saturday evening, causing damage to the building’s facade. Hours later, vandals set fire to the doors of a synagogue in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, home to one of France’s largest and oldest communities of Ashkenazi Jews.

Firemen were able to extinguish the fires in Lyon and Strasbourg before they spread, but the arson in Marseilles completely leveled the 4,800-square-foot Or Aviv synagogue.

Reactions in the Jewish community ranged from hurt to outrage, but nobody seemed very surprised.

Commenting on the Toulouse attack, Rabbi David Layani said: "This new act comes after hundreds of others that have struck the French Jewish community in the last 18 months, following events in the Middle East which make the situation here extremely tense."

In Strasbourg, Jewish officials were quick to blame demonstrators for stirring up anti-Semitic hatred.

In the midst of a heated presidential election race, the two front-runners, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, were quick to denounce the surge of anti-Jewish aggression.

Jospin said he was "revolted" by these "cowardly and absurd" acts.

Chirac, who has enraged Jewish leaders in the past by denying the problem of French anti-Semitism, condemned "with the utmost severity the brutal, hateful and unacceptable attack."

"Those responsible should be prosecuted and severely punished," he told the media.

Anti-Semitism has become an epidemic in neighborhoods where Jews and Arabs live side by side. While many Jews are still digesting the news of this latest outbreak, the initial responses of Jewish leaders indicate a shift in their perception of the problem.

Partly as a result of the connection between the pro-Arafat demonstrations and the latest anti-Semitic violence, French Jews appear more inclined to view these incidents as coordinated acts of terrorism than the irrational anger of Arab teens.