columnArts & Entertainment

‘As a Jew’ Oscar moment shows how woke antisemitism works

A winner of the film award for a Holocaust movie used his moment on the stage to virtue-signal his opposition to Israel and tacit support for modern-day Nazis.

British Film director Jonathan Glazer attends “The Zone of Interest” premiere during the 67th BFI London Film Festival at the Royal Festival Hall on Oct. 12, 2023. Credit: Fred Duval/Shutterstock.
British Film director Jonathan Glazer attends “The Zone of Interest” premiere during the 67th BFI London Film Festival at the Royal Festival Hall on Oct. 12, 2023. Credit: Fred Duval/Shutterstock.
Jonathan S. Tobin. Photo by Tzipora Lifchitz.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Unless you’re a film buff, you may not have heard of Jonathan Glazer before his viral moment at this year’s annual Academy Awards ceremony. After “The Zone of Interest”—a highly-praised film about the commandant of the Auschwitz death camp that is very loosely based on a Martin Amis novel with the same title—was named the winner of the Oscar for Best International Feature Film, Glazer appeared on the stage along with the rest of the production team to accept their trophies. Standing with producer James Wilson and their billionaire financial backer Leonard Blavatnik, Glazer, who wrote and directed the movie, chose not to speak extemporaneously but instead read the following prepared statement:

“Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of our past and present. Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness in a Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza—all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

The tortured syntax of his comments notwithstanding, what Glazer said wasn’t merely deeply offensive. It marked a new low in Hollywood’s descent into fashionable rationalizations of hatred for Jews. It also showed us how the new woke antisemitism works, especially when its standard-bearers are Jews with little or no connection to their heritage. As such, it was the quintessential “as a Jew” moment in which persons invoke their Jewish identity to denounce other Jews.

Who ‘hijacked’ the Holocaust?

Glazer had made a movie about the extermination of Jews at Auschwitz, and on Sunday night was being showered with praise and all the financial, professional and social benefits that go with it. But he was not content with that. He decided to use his invocation of the most painful moment in Jewish history to smear Israel and the Jews.

To link the Holocaust to Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip to eradicate the organization that perpetrated the atrocities committed in Jewish communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7 is to turn history on its head. Pretending that it is the Jews who are today’s Nazis, rather than Hamas and its Palestinian supporters, is a big lie. It is the Palestinians of Hamas who are the contemporary torch-bearers for Adolf Hitler’s plans for the genocide of the Jewish people, as made explicit in their charter and all of their propaganda, which seeks Israel’s destruction and the slaughter of its population. This sort of inversion tactic is—as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of the term makes plain—textbook antisemitism.

To speak of the “occupation” in this context is to use the word in the way that Palestinians deploy it. When they say “occupation,” they refer to the Jewish state’s rebirth in 1948 and are referencing all of Israel, as Hamas makes explicit.

Moreover, by speaking of an “occupation” that had “hijacked” the Holocaust, he was using carefully chosen language to back up the canard that the existence of the one Jewish state on the planet was the result of Jews exploiting the Nazi campaign of extermination that he had depicted on film. Zionists didn’t “hijack” the Holocaust to help create a Jewish state. They had asserted Jewish historical rights to their ancient homeland which they had never abandoned. The murder of 6 million Jews who lacked the power that a sovereign state would give them and who had no safe haven to go to was proof that the establishment of one was necessary and just.

If anyone “hijacked” the Holocaust, it was Glazer.

To say that the “occupation” led to the current conflict is also a lie if it is a reference to Israel’s gaining control of Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War or whether Jews have the right to live there. The Gaza Strip wasn’t “occupied” on Oct. 7. Israel had withdrawn every soldier, settler and settlement from it in 2005, and it had been an independent Palestinian state in all but name since then. And to treat the largest mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust in the Palestinian orgy of slaughter, rape, torture and kidnapping on Oct. 7 as analogous to Israel’s efforts to eradicate the terrorists is as absurd as it is immoral. That puts the murderers on the same moral plane as those who wish to stop them from murdering again.

And what else could he have meant by saying that he and his colleagues “refute our Jewishness” in connection with this “occupation” other than to try to disassociate Jews and Judaism from Israel and its efforts to defend itself?

But that is the point of such “as a Jew” virtue-signaling. Such protestations that seek to differentiate the “good” Jews who want to tell the world that they want nothing to do with the “bad” Jews in Israel and those who support them are particularly important right now. They are an essential element of the new version of antisemitism that is rooted in the toxic ideas of critical race theory and intersectionality in which the world is divided between two perpetually warring groups: “white” oppressors and “people of color” who are their victims.

In this worldview dictated by the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), it is incumbent that members of the oppressor class—who are all deemed as guilty of racism as the worst neo-Nazi or Ku Klux Klan member—must repent of their crimes by embracing “anti-racism.” DEI deems Jews and Israel to be “white” oppressors” of Palestinians, even though the conflict isn’t racial and half of all Jewish Israelis are themselves “people of color” since they trace their origins to North Africa or the Middle East. So “good” Jews must condemn Israel, regardless of what it or those who wish to destroy it do.

And that is what Glazer, as well as those who wore red pins—which bear an eerie resemblance to the bloody hands of a Palestinian Arab who had participated in the lynching of two Israelis at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000 in an iconic photograph of that awful moment—in support of an immediate ceasefire, was doing at the Oscars this year.

Politics at the Oscars

There is nothing new about Oscar winners using the internationally televised ceremony to virtue-signal their political beliefs or to highlight the causes they support. We’ve come a long way from the moment in 1973 when Marlon Brando decided to have Sacheen Littlefeather accept his Best Actor Oscar for appearing in “The Godfather” to highlight his support for the plight of Native Americans. When the buckskin-dress-clad woman took the podium, she was booed by the audience. But like everyone else in Hollywood, Littlefeather was just playacting. It turned out that she was not, as she claimed, a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe or any other sort of Native American, though that only became known after her death.

Five years later, when Vanessa Redgrave accepted her Best Supporting Actress award for “Julia,” she used her moment to denounce “Zionist hoodlums” who had protested her support for the terrorists of the Palestine Liberation Organization that sought Israel’s destruction. Later in the show, the writer Paddy Chayefsky—himself a three-time Oscar winner, as well as a wounded combat veteran of the war against the Nazis and an ardent supporter of Israel—repudiated Redgrave to the applause of those in attendance.

But what seemed shocking then is commonplace now. In recent years, as just about everyone associated with the entertainment industry has become more and more concerned about demonstrating their adherence to fashionable leftist causes (or determined to hide their actual beliefs if they don’t), politics at the Oscars is a given. And the best way to curry favor with the woke mob that’s always ready to tear apart anyone in the public eye who dissents from the current orthodoxy is to proclaim one’s fealty to its causes. There was no audible booing and no refutation of Glazer’s statement from any of the actors and filmmakers who subsequently were seen on stage.

That is why so many in Hollywood are following the lead of political progressives and wrongly characterizing Israel’s efforts to ensure that there will be no more Oct. 7 pogroms as “genocide.” They treat the war in Gaza as an unpardonable crime rather than a campaign that is a necessity if peace is to ever have a chance in the Middle East.

Fighting Nazis, then and now

It is no small irony that the only way the mass murderers who are depicted in “The Zone of Interest” were defeated and brought to justice was by Allied soldiers and airmen who were presented with the same dilemma faced today by Israel. In 1945, as American, British and Soviet troops closed in on the last Nazi strongholds, the Germans refused to acknowledge their inevitable defeat and fought to the bitter end. As they did elsewhere, they made the Red Army fight for every street and house in Berlin. Two million German civilians were killed in Allied bombing campaigns and the conquest of the Third Reich, and as many as 125,000 were killed in the last weeks of the war in Berlin alone.

As horrible as those numbers may sound, decent people everywhere understood that the future of civilization required the defeat of the Nazis, and if that meant German civilians must die, then so be it. They knew that massive civilian casualties—far outstripping even the dubious figures supplied by Hamas of those killed in the current war—were the price that the German nation had to pay for allowing itself to be led by a genocidal movement that most of its citizens had supported so long as the Nazis were winning the war.

The Palestinians and Hamas are in a similar position today. Their ideology of hatred for Jews is hardly different from that of the Nazis depicted in Glazer’s movie. Their crimes on Oct. 7 were committed with a shameless embrace of barbarism that those who administered Auschwitz actually sought to conceal from the world. But because woke ideology deems the Palestinians to be intersectional victims and Israelis as their oppressors, fashionable opinion is adamant that the war to eradicate Hamas must stop and the Jews must be subjected to more atrocities in the future, if not killed and robbed of their homeland “from the river to the sea” as the pro-terror mobs demand.

Sadly, in 2024, there was no proud Jew who would refute and denounce Glazer later in the ceremony as Chayefsky did to Redgrave in 1978. Steven Spielberg had the chance to say something but chose to stick to his script. In contemporary Hollywood, complaints that Jews are being erased by the woke catechism that is inextricably linked to antisemitism in the new Oscar “diversity” rules going into effect for next year’s awards are ignored. It is the “as a Jew” celebrities who have the bully pulpit and those who would speak for the justice of Israel’s cause who are marginalized.

Those, like Glazer, whose efforts are aimed at helping contemporary practitioners of Jewish genocide survive and win—and do so “as Jews”—are a disgrace and deserve to be remembered throughout history with opprobrium along with the worst examples of those who betrayed their own people. They also illustrate the moral depravity of artists and intellectuals who have been captured by an ideology that enables a virulent form of antisemitism that masquerades as advocacy for human rights.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

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