Local Jewish leaders made contact with Mel Gibson's publicist, suggesting a meeting with the actor to address his anti-Semitic behavior.
By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor
Local Jewish leaders expressed outrage over actor/director Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade early Friday morning during his drunken driving arrest on Pacific Coast Highway near Serra Retreat. But they offered to open a dialogue with him following Gibson's apology on Tuesday in a release to the media to "everyone in the Jewish community."
"We agree with Mr. Gibson's statement that 'there is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark,'" wrote Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue Executive Vice President Ellen Wolf in an e-mail to The Malibu Times. "We welcome a meeting with Mr. Gibson, and in fact, we suggested such a meeting in a voicemail to his publicist this past Sunday."
The Malibu Times called Gibson's publicist, Alan Nierob, on Tuesday about whether his client would be communicating with the Malibu Jewish Center. Nierob's secretary said the publicist was not available for comment beyond the release of Gibson's apology.
The apology was written in the first person, although it is not known if Gibson, who is currently checked into an undisclosed alcohol rehabilitation center, wrote it. The apology states, "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." The statement further reads, "I'm not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing."
It is not specified with which Jewish leaders Gibson would like to meet. Rabbi Levi Cunin from Malibu Chabad said in an interview on Tuesday, "There's a lot of healing that has to take place." But he said Gibson should be embraced for wanting to change himself.
"What I would love to see is that he learn more about what Judaism is about and that he embrace the age of information," Cunin said. "It's not like the olden days where you live in a box. If he is willing to open up his heart and mind to that, it would be a beautiful thing."
Although Wolf wrote in her e-mail that people from the Jewish Center would be willing to meet with Gibson, she did write about her disgust for Gibson's reported comments.
"Mel Gibson's remarks are unfortunate and reprehensible," Wolf wrote. "During this difficult time where Israel is defending itself from attacks of Hezbollah and others, Mr. Gibson's remarks are particularly negative and detrimental to the Jewish people and to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue and the Jewish community in Malibu are especially aggrieved and affronted by Mr. Gibson's comments and conduct occurring in our very midst. Since the Holocaust, we as a society recognize the dangers of anti-Semitism and other racial or cultural hatred, and we know the importance of avoiding words or conduct that might incite or encourage such wrongful prejudice or violence. Celebrities are given special rank and privilege in our society, and with that comes special responsibilities as well."
There has been a worldwide media craze since Gibson was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning following a night of partying, which ended at Moonshadows restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway. Pictures of Gibson at the restaurant, according to In Touch Weekly magazine, were taken late Thursday/early Friday and have appeared in the publication and later on various Web sites. A call made to the restaurant's owner, Andrea Bullo, was not returned on Tuesday.
A witness who asked not to be named told The Malibu Times that Gibson was hanging out with a large group of people on the Moonshadows' deck. When Gibson left, the witness said, he did not appear to be stumbling or show any other signs of excessive drunkenness.
Gibson was later pulled over on Pacific Coast Highway by Sheriff's Deputy James Mee for allegedly driving 87 mph. The stop occurred near Serra Retreat, where Gibson's main home is. Through a Breathalyzer test, he was found to have a .12 percent blood-alcohol level (.08 percent is the legal limit in California), according to Mee's report. Later on Friday, a Sheriff's spokesperson said Gibson had been arrested and released on $5,000 bail "without incident."
However, a partial deputy's report that appeared on the Web site, TMZ.com, stated there were several incidents that occurred during the arrest. According to the report, Gibson attempted to run to his car when the officer tried to put him in the back of the Sheriff's vehicle. Also, he was reported to have screamed during the ride to the Malibu/ Lost Hills Station that he "owned Malibu," threatened to "get even" with Mee, and yelled, "[Expletive] Jew. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and, according to the report, asked Mee if he was a Jew.
According to an article on TMZ.com (although the information did not appear in the deputy's report on the site), on arrival at the Lost Hills Station, Gibson called a female lieutenant "Sugar Tits," and attempted to urinate on the floor of his cell.
A statement was released on Saturday with Gibson apologizing for his behavior, but it made no reference to the anti-Semitism allegations. This issue was not addressed until Tuesday's statement.
With the anti-Jewish behavior allegations not being mentioned by the Sheriff's Department when it first commented on the arrest and not appearing in the report that was eventually released to the public, and because of Gibson's close relationship with the Sheriff's Department, speculation of a cover-up has arisen. The Sheriff's Department has denied any cover-up, and says all the information is contained in the report that was forwarded to prosecutors. As of Tuesday, prosecutors had not announced whether charges would be filed against Gibson. A tentative Sept. 28 court arraignment, however, has been announced.
Sheriff Lee Baca has denied any involvement in the investigation, and told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the final decision on what to do with the report was made by Lost Hills Sheriff's Capt. Tom Martin.
A call was made to Martin by The Malibu Times this week. An operator said Martin was not taking calls on the matter and gave the number for a public relations officer.
On Tuesday, the Office of Independent Review, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct, determined that the arrest of Gibson was handled properly. But as of press time, it was still being determined whether department policy had been followed with regard to the issuance of the report.