Mel Gibson Mel Gibson

Jewish leaders have blasted Mel Gibson and Warner Bros. for developing a movie about the Jewish war hero Judah Maccabee.

"Judah Maccabee deserves better. He is a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty. It would be a travesty to have his story told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people's religious views," Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti Defamation League, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Check out photos of Mel Gibson

Foxman previously criticized Gibson's controversial 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, alongside other leaders, including Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder and dean of Los Angeles's Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance.Heir tells

THR that Gibson, who made an anti-Semitic rant during a 2006 arrest, is disrespecting Jews with the Maccabee film and has not apologized for his previous remarks."He's had a long history of antagonism with Jews. Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a white supremacist as trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr. It's simply an insult to Jews," Heir says. "Has he shown any sensitivity to Jews after those incidents? Has he gone out of his way to write an editorial to explain himself, to do some outreach and to understand better the implications of the Holocaust or maybe on one of his visits to Europe to stop at a concentration camp and show some sensitivity? Nobody would say a person doesn't deserve another chance. There's no question about that. But he has not shown any of that evidence at all."Heir adds that Warner Bros. is "making a terrible mistake" going forward with the project. "Surely they know the Jewish communities are not going to come to this film."

Get the rest of today's news

Gibson has reportedly wanted to tackle Maccabee's story for more than a decade. Basic Instinct writer Joe Eszterhas has already signed on to pen the screenplay.Judah Maccabee led the Jewish revolt against the Syrian-Greek armies of the Seleucid Empire, who had banned Jewish religious practices, and successfully restored worship at Jerusalem's Holy Temple. The triumph is commemorated by Hanukkah.