Jonathan Glazer accepts the Best International Feature Film award

Jonathan Glazer accepts the Best International Feature Film award for "The Zone of Interest" at the 96th annual Academy Awards on March 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by Rich Polk/Variety via Getty Images)

Filmmaker Jonathan Glazer Speaks Out Against Israel's Hijacking of Holocaust to Justify Gaza War

"Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst," said Jonathan Glazer, director of The Zone of Interest.

The 96th annual Academy Awards on Sunday evening were marked by a number of statements—some vocal and some sartorial—in favor of Palestinian rights and against Israel's occupation and bombardment of Gaza, with filmmaker Jonathan Glazer directly addressing Zionists who have "hijacked" the Holocaust to justify relentless attacks on civilians.

Glazer accepted the award for Best International Feature Film for The Zone of Interest, his film about a Nazi commander who lives with his family just outside the walls of Auschwitz concentration camp, where gunshots and other sounds of the extermination of Jewish prisoners are audible from the commander's garden.

Glazer and producer James Wilson were adamant as they accepted the award that The Zone of Interest should not be viewed as a film about past events, but one that was "made to reflect and confront us in the present."

"Not to say, 'Look what they did then,' rather 'Look what we do now,'" said the director. "Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst."

Glazer then noted that both he and Wilson are among many Jewish people who object to the Israeli government's perennial claim—supported by Western countries including the U.S.—that Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and subjugation of Palestinian people is necessary to provide Jewish people with safety from the kind of persecution that ultimately led to the Holocaust.

"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," continued Glazer. "Whether the victims of October 7 in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization—how do we resist?"

Glazer's comments were immediately decontextualized by right-wing commentators including Newsweek opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon, who claimed the director displayed "moral rot" by telling the audience he refuted "his Jewishness."

"You're lying about what they said by adding a period in the middle of their sentence," said Yonah Lieberman, co-founder of the Jewish-led Palestinian rights group IfNotNow, which has frequently been accused of antisemitism by pro-Israel groups for objecting to Israeli apartheid. "They clearly meant they refute the way their Jewishness has been hijacked. You're supposed to be a journalist."

The Israeli group Breaking the Silence (BtS), run by veterans of the Israel Defense Forces who now object to the occupation, compared the outraged reaction to Glazer's speech to the aftermath of Israeli filmmaker Yuval Abraham's comments at the Berlin International Film Festival, where he spoke out against the subjugation of Palestinians in the West Bank.

Abraham was immediately denounced as antisemitic by Israeli media and received death threats, while the German government announced it would open an investigation into the filmmaker's comments.

"These 'misunderstandings' aren't new," said BtS regarding the response of Ungar-Sargon and others.

"It's possible to oppose the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza and still care for the safety of Israeli hostages," added the group. "One can worry about Israelis who were evacuated from their homes after October 7 and still be horrified by the conditions in which so many are currently living in Gaza. We refuse to let this harsh reality make us less human, and that we refuse to accept the ease with which the blood and lives of civilians is used as a justification for political ideologies, or as a bargaining chip. Empathy is not a zero-sum game."

Other than Glazer's speech, most commentary about Israel's assault on Gaza—now in its sixth month and having killed at least 31,045 Palestinians as the Israeli government blocks nearly all humanitarian aid from reaching the population—was made through Oscar attendees' clothing choices.

Several actors and filmmakers wore red pins in support of Artists4Ceasefire, which toldThe Hill that members showed "collective support for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, the release of all of the hostages, and for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza."

Musician Billie Eilish, director Ava DuVernay, and actors including Ramy Youssef, Mark Ruffalo, Riz Ahmed, and Mahershala Ali were among those who wore the red pins.

"We're all calling for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza," Youssef told reporters. "We're calling for the safety of everyone involved, and we really want lasting justice and peace for the Palestinian people... We really want to say, just stop killing children."

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