OpinionJewish Diaspora

A zone of indifference

We must not be like that fleet of Allied bombers floating impotently above our threatened fellow Jews.

From left: James Wilson, Leonard Blavatnik and Jonathan Glazer accept the Oscar for Best International Feature Film “The Zone of Interest” during the live “ABC” telecast of the 96th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024. Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
From left: James Wilson, Leonard Blavatnik and Jonathan Glazer accept the Oscar for Best International Feature Film “The Zone of Interest” during the live “ABC” telecast of the 96th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024. Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Alan Newman
Alan Newman is the author of the novel Good Heart and a pro-Israel advocate who holds leadership positions at AIPAC, StandWithUs and other organizations.

A few months ago, Hollywood bestowed two Oscars on the Holocaust-based film “The Zone of Interest.” This mundane portrayal of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss’s desultory family and his grey home adjacent to the steadily grinding crematoria of the death camp was an unnerving portrayal of the banality of evil.

Not one Jew was visualized, and the viewer could only hear snippets of the madness just beyond the shaded windows and garden walls. In a clear daytime sky, at high altitude, Allied bombers cruised past in tight formation offering no possible rescue for the victims below. Hints of the Nazi atrocities were there but, as in the horror film genre, the scariest scenes were when the monsters were obscured in the shadows.

To add to the movie’s inverted, odious reality, Jewish director Jonathan Glazer gave his Academy Award acceptance speech just five months after the Hamas invasion of Israel. In a cruel exhibition of life imitating art and with all the documented butchery, child-burning, rape and hostage-taking, Glazer vomited up, “Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.”

Glazer read rather than extemporized his diatribe, apparently not wanting the drama of the moment to disturb his poisonous message. Most of the beautiful Hollywood people in the traditionally liberal audience responded with applause, thus ensuring that Glazer’s 10 seconds of fame were rich with virtue signaling. Somewhat later, a few of Hollywood’s braver stars issued a condemnation of his outrageous self-loathing.

Closer to home and far from California’s famous, high octane, star-filled and self-congratulatory settings, American Jews hear disquieting rumblings beyond their own walls. They sense danger outside the safety of their gated communities and doorman-guarded complexes.

The evidence of rising domestic antisemitism and anti-Zionism is getting harder to ignore. It’s there on the internet and cable news. Virulent performative pro-Hamas and anti-Israel demonstrations continue unabated across our country. Statues are vandalized, campuses are occupied and swastikas are painted anew. The media’s asymmetric obsession with bogus Gaza casualty reporting and the manipulative lawfare of the United Nations, ICC and ICJ reek of a bias that obscures a darker reality. The lies of yesteryear are once again told too often and too loud.

In his novel Humbolt’s Gift, Saul Bellow cleverly observed about the Jewish protagonist that “History was a nightmare during which he was trying to get a good night’s rest.”

Now, when American Jews plan their exotic vacations, many to the very countries from which their families once escaped or were slaughtered, they should wonder just what anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate they might encounter.

American Jews are lucky. They can still choose many distractions to shield themselves from disquieting realties. They can avoid the challenge of learning about Israel’s complex history and the millennia-old repetition of antisemitic pogroms, libels and expulsions.

Jews can be put off by complex Israeli parliamentary politics, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s litigious battles and the frustrating Palestinian negotiations. They can be easily misinformed by the largely biased mass media’s pontification about the conduct of urban warfare in Gaza. They know little about arcane geopolitical, military or political details.

As a result, American Jews can miss the big picture and fail to defend their besieged brethren. They can mistakenly throw their support behind American political candidates whose support for Israel is questionable. They can be stingy in funding important pro-Jewish causes and divert their charity to other, more fashionable organizations.

Is American Jewish apathy painfully similar to the Höss family’s bubble of disinterest? Has their sheltered life returned to “normal”? Has support and sympathy for Israel waned?

Yes, in the immediate aftermath of Oct. 7, American Jews rallied to help fulfill Israel’s immediate needs and large amounts of donations were received. But the war grinds on and the tsunami of anti-Israel hate continues. Israel is now castigated as heartless and genocidal. The antisemitic progressive movement has designated it an “oppressor.” An all-out war against the heavily armed Hezbollah looms. Iran fired a cascade of missiles and drones at Israel. Iran’s nuclear advancements are existential warning signs. Will American Jews meet the challenge?

Unlike the unseen and helpless “Zone of Interest” Jews of Auschwitz, American Jews can still influence the outcome of Israel’s struggle. When our enemies see disinterested, apathetic and even critical Diaspora Jews, they are encouraged and strengthened. We can vote smart; we can be activists; and we can be more generous. We must not be like that fleet of Allied bombers floating impotently above our threatened fellow Jews.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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