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At Oscars, Holocaust film director talks ‘refuting’ Jewishness, Israel ‘hijacking’ Holocaust

Some said that Jonathan Glazer was referring to Zionists hijacking Judaism, while others understood him to say he was “refuting” his own Jewishness.

Charles Roven, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan accept the Oscar for "Best Picture" 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.
Charles Roven, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan accept the Oscar for "Best Picture" 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.

Accepting the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, Jonathan Glazer, director of the Holocaust movie “The Zone of Interest,” read, with quivering hands, from a prepared statement.

“All our choices are made to reflect and confront us in the present. Not to say, ‘Look what they did then,’ rather ‘Look what we do now,” Glazer said on Sunday night at the 96th Academy Awards. “Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst.”

“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 added. “Whether the victims of Oct. 7 in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

Abraham Foxman, director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on social media that he was glad that the film had won an award.

“But as a survivor of the Holocaust, I am shocked the director would slap the memory of over one million Jews, who died because they were Jews, by announcing he refutes his Jewishness,” he wrote. “Shame on you.” (About one million Jews were murdered at Auschwitz, per the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.)

Malka Simkovich, chair of Jewish studies and director of the Catholic-Jewish studies program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, told JNS that Glazer’s was a “nonsensical phrase, which is why people are misquoting it—or not understanding it.”

“Yet he wrote it out!” she said.

Oscars
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.

Simkovich noted that many celebrities at the awards ceremony wore red stickers “in support of Gaza” and that “Jews are pointing out that it signifies the bloody hands that two Palestinian terrorists held up in that famous photo after they committed a murderous attack.” (A man displaying bloody hands was photographed during the 2000 Ramallah lynching of two Israeli reservists.)

Many of those wearing the stickers probably didn’t know about the 2000 photo, according to Simkovich. “That’s exactly the point. The fact that they don’t know what they’re supporting embodies the very problem,” she said. “This is the only cause I know of where the dissonance between passionate activism and ignorance is truly astounding.”

David May, a research manager and senior research analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, wrote that “what’s worse is that he read it from a page to make sure he got the wording right, and the wording was terrible. Best case scenario, he was saying Israel’s defense against Hamas is like the Holocaust.”

Noa Tishby, an actress, model, author and former Israeli special envoy for combating antisemitism, wrote that the show “was a subtle and overt display of Jew-hatred.” She called out Billie Eilish, Finneas, Mark Ruffalo, Ava DuVernay, Ramy Youssef and Quannah Chasinghorse for wearing red Artists4Ceasefire pins. 

“Notably absent were the yellow pins representing the hostages kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7,” Tishby wrote. “If you’re calling for a ceasefire without calling for the release of the hostages, you are promoting Hamas’s agenda by questioning Israel’s right to self-defense.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote that he loved the film, but the filmmaker was a “fool” and his speech “absolutely disgusting.”

Glazer “betrayed his people and disgraced himself and trivialized the six million martyrs of the Holocaust, when he said that Israel’s war in Gaza was hijacking the memory of the Holocaust,” Boteach wrote. “How dare you compare the two?”

As many as 1,000 anti-Israel protesters reportedly disrupted the arrival of stars at the awards ceremony. Some weren’t in their seats when the show started late, apparently because they had to walk as much as a mile from their cars due to the protests, as did “Best Actress” nominee Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”).

“No one expected it to be as chaotic as what we’ve seen tonight,” a security guard told the Mirror. “All the drivers have been told it’s impossible to get to the Dolby Theatre.”

The year’s “Best Picture” favorite, “Oppenheimer,” won the top award, and the film also garnered best awards to Cillian Murphy (actor in a leading role), Christopher Nolan (director), Robert Downey Jr. (actor in a supporting role), Hoyte van Hoytema (cinematography), Jennifer Lame (film editing) and Ludwig Göransson (music, original score). 

Downey’s award recognized his role as U.S. government official Lewis Strauss, who was Jewish and served on the American Jewish Committee’s executive committee.

David Schaecter, president of the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation-USA, wrote to Glazer on Monday that he “watched in anguish Sunday night when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony to equate Hamas’s maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defense in the face of Hamas’s ongoing barbarity.”

“Your comments were factually inaccurate and morally indefensible,” he wrote. “You made a Holocaust movie and won an Oscar. And you are Jewish. Good for you. But it is disgraceful for you to presume to speak for the six million Jews, including one and a half million children, who were murdered solely because of their Jewish identity.”

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