Greek Protest over ‘temptation’ Turns Violently Anti-semitic
Menu JTA Search

Greek Protest over ‘temptation’ Turns Violently Anti-semitic

Download PDF for this date

A protest by Christians here against the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” culminated in a violent outburst of anti-Semitism by a mob that damaged a local theater where the film was being shown.

In Israel, meanwhile, the film was banned from being screened.

Despite precautions by police and private security guards, the Embassy theater in downtown Athens was invaded by knife-wielding protesters who ripped the screen while shouting, “The Zionists are trying to mock Christianity.”

The mob was the vanguard of hundreds of unruly demonstrators, led by priests, who marched through the streets of Athens last Thursday, brandishing wooden crosses.

Riot police broke up the attack on the cinema with tear gas.

The film, which seeks to depict the human side of Jesus, was directed by Martin Scorsese, a Catholic of Italian ancestry, and produced by Universal Studios. It is based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, a Greek who was born into the Orthodox church.

But the protestors hold Jews responsible and publicly burned an Israeli flag to make their point.

The film generated anti-Semitic demonstrations in the United States when it opened this summer, because Lew Wasserman, the chairman of Universal’s parent company, MCA, is Jewish.

Although American Catholics objected to the film, it was American Protestant fundamentalists who scapegoated the Jews.

In deciding Monday to ban the screening of “The Last Temptation,” the Israel Board of Censorship on Plays and Motion Pictures ruled that the film is “offensive to Christian believers.” The move was passed by a majority vote of the panel.

(JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund