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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Jewish film professionals denounce speech by ‘Zone of Interest’ director



The director Jonathan Glazer accepts the award for best international feature film for “The Zone of Interest,” during the 96th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, March 10, 2024. (Amir Hamja/The New York Times)

By Marc Tracy


Hundreds of Jewish actors, producers and others in the film industry have signed a letter condemning remarks critical of Israel that director Jonathan Glazer made when he accepted an Oscar for his film about the Holocaust, “The Zone of Interest.”


Described as a “statement from Jewish Hollywood professionals,” the letter was signed by actors Debra Messing and Julianna Margulies; producers Lawrence Bender and Amy Pascal; and writer and showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino, according to Variety, which first reported on it Monday evening.


The signatories were confirmed Tuesday by Allison Josephs, an activist who has promoted Jewish representation in films and television and who helped with outreach for the letter. She said that by Tuesday morning it had nearly 1,000 signatures.


The letter criticized a speech Glazer made when he accepted the Oscar for international feature at the Academy Awards this month for “The Zone of Interest,” which follows the Nazi commandant who runs Auschwitz and his family as they lead quiet domestic lives just beyond the walls of the camp.


“All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present,” Glazer, who is Jewish, said as he accepted the Oscar. “Not to say ‘Look what they did then,’ rather, ‘Look what we do now.’ 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,” he said. “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 letter condemning his speech said: “We refute our Jewishness being hijacked for the purpose of drawing a moral equivalence between a Nazi regime that sought to exterminate a race of people, and an Israeli nation that seeks to avert its own extermination.”


It continued: “Israel is not targeting civilians. It is targeting Hamas. The moment Hamas releases the hostages and surrenders, is the moment this heartbreaking war ends.”


It accused Glazer’s speech of lending “credence to the modern blood libel that fuels a growing anti-Jewish hatred around the world, in the United States, and in Hollywood.”


Glazer’s remarks, a rare mention of the conflict at an awards show, drew applause at the ceremony and then criticism. Some early reports appeared to misquote Glazer in a way that made it look as though he were refuting his Jewishness, rather than refuting what he characterized as his Jewishness’ being “hijacked by an occupation.”


The term “occupation” is often used to describe Israel’s control of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza. Monday’s open letter seemed to suggest that Glazer had described all of Israel as an occupation; it said that the “use of words like ‘occupation’ to describe an indigenous Jewish people defending a homeland that dates back thousands of years, and has been recognized as a state by the United Nations, distorts history.”


Representatives for Glazer did not respond to a request for comment.


“The Zone of Interest,” featuring Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel, was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture. It was the first film ever submitted by the United Kingdom to win the international feature award.

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