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Israeli Theater To Show 'Passion'

An Israeli movie theater has decided to screen Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," a decision likely to raise an uproar in the Jewish state over accusations the movie is anti-Semitic.

The Tel Aviv Cinematheque is in final negotiations with Gibson's production company for a one-time showing of the film in Israel, probably in a few months, cinema manager Alon Garbuz said.

The release of the movie in the United States sparked a debate over whether Jews bore responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion. Rabbis in the United States warned the film would fuel anti-Semitism.

Angry Jewish reaction to the film prompted the Vatican to reiterate its stance that Jews were not collectively responsible for Jesus' persecution. Gibson has denied he meant to portray Jews in a damaging light, saying he was only trying to portray the New Testament as it was written.

Palestinians have applauded the film, saying it truthfully shows Jews as the culprit, and have compared the crucifixion to their suffering under Israeli occupation.

The cinematheque has received angry reactions to the decision, Garbuz said.

"I think that those who think that the film is anti-Semitic shouldn't come see it," Garbuz said. "No one has the moral duty to decide for the public what they can see."

Jewish and Christian clergy will oversee a discussion with the audience after the viewing.

Israel's censorship board could prevent the screening if it deems the movie is too anti-Semitic. But Garbuz said he has received word the board will not prevent the showing.

The board has prevented the theater from screening the Arab film "Jenin, Jenin," which Israeli officials say falsely portrays Israel's military operation in the West Bank town of Jenin, during which 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed.

By Laurie Copans

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