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Jonathan Glazer’s Oscar Speech Becomes Latest Battleground in Israel-Gaza Conflict

Jonathan Glazer’s searing Oscars acceptance speech, in which the Zone of Interest filmmaker referenced the Israel-Gaza conflict and said that he refuted his “Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation,” has led to a fierce reaction on social media.

In his prepared speech accepting the 2024 Academy Award for best international film, Glazer thanked his partners on The Zone of Interest, a haunting film about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and then made a statement addressing both his work and a reference to the Israel-Gaza conflict. “All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present, not to say, ‘Look what they did then’; rather, ‘what we do now,'” Glazer said. “Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of our past and present.”

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Glazer, who is Jewish, added: “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 said, pausing briefly due to applause.

He continued, “Whether the victims of October 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

Glazer then dedicated the film’s win to Alexandria, a 90-year-old woman he met while working on the film and who inspired one of the key characters in The Zone of Interest.

The reaction to Glazer’s speech was swift, although much of the early negative sentiment occurred because some news sites hadn’t fully quoted the British filmmaker, or because his quotes were taken out of context with the rest of his speech. Some people, incorrectly, took Glazer’s speech to mean that he was refuting his Jewishness, rather than that he was refuting his “Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people,” as he said in his speech.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes was quick to correct people who were misquoting Glazer. “I’m seeing [several] people saying this about Glazer’s speech, and it’s clearly wrong,” Hayes tweeted along with the full quote from Glazer.

“It was [a] little awkwardly phrased, but he’s clearly saying he refutes his Jewishness being hijacked. Not refuting his Jewishness,” added Hayes in a follow-up tweet.

Still, several prominent Israeli and Jewish users on X slammed Glazer for his comments. Michael Freund, an Israeli political activist who served as a deputy director of communications under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1990s, wrote on X, “Jonathan Glazer is a self-hating Jew of the worst sort who exploits the Holocaust to attack Israel in public at the Oscars ceremony.”

Newsweek opinion columnist Batya Ungar-Sargon, another who incorrectly quoted Glazer, wrote on X, “I simply cannot fathom the moral rot in someone’s soul that leads them to win an award for a movie about the Holocaust and with the platform given to them, to accept that award by saying, “We stand here as men who refute their Jewishness.”

Among a flood of quote tweets and replies to Ungar-Sargon, Yonah Lieberman, the co-founder of IfNotNow, an American Jewish group that opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, wrote on X, “You’re lying about what they said by adding a period in the middle of their sentence. They clearly meant they refute the way their Jewishness has been hijacked. You’re supposed to be a journalist.”

Lieberman tweeted Monday, “Almost all those twisting Glazer’s words are Jewish themselves. Can you imagine another minority group so willing to lie about one of their own in order to uphold a status quo where an ethnostate can kill women and children with impunity?”

In a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter from the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), CEO Sacha Roytman wrote, “Unfortunately, Jonathan Glazer has turned a magnificent achievement into another ‘As a Jew’ moment, where he appropriates his religious and ethnic identity to attack the national homeland of the Jewish People which is fighting a war on seven fronts against those who openly call for the genocide of Jews.

“While not comparing the two, Jews are once again being dehumanized for mass destruction, much as they were in the Holocaust. Rather than hijacking the Holocaust, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish People have learned that when someone says that they come to destroy us, we should not doubt their intent.”

Abraham Foxman, a director emeritus at the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted, “I am pleased that Zone of Interest was won the best international film at the Oscars — but as a survivor of the Holocaust I am shocked the director would slap the memory of over 1 million Jews who died because they were Jews by announcing he refutes his Jewishness. Shame on you.” Foxman’s tweet, however, was slapped with a Community Note for taking Glazer’s quote out of context.

Similarly, conservative journalist John Podhoretz took Glazer’s comments out of context. “By saying he refutes his Jewishness on the biggest stage in the world five months after the attack on Israel, Jonathan Glazer has instantly made himself into one of Judaism’s historical villains,” Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, tweeted.

Also Monday morning, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a staunch supporter of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, wasted no time in attacking Glazer, writing on X, “In Jonathan Glazer’s Zone of Interest, you don’t see one Jew. Those are the best Jews, according to Glazer: the faceless victims screaming in the distance. Ironically, he’s the villain: picking up awards from the bodies of those anonymous dead Jews while ignoring the living ones getting slaughtered in the Gaza Envelope by genocidal murderers.”

Glazer did receive some support from fellow Hollywood filmmakers. Jewish American filmmaker Boots Riley was among Glazer’s prominent peers who tweeted his support Sunday night. “Salute to Jonathan Glazer. Not just for speaking out against the atrocities in Gaza & saying that his movie is about the present day — but I finally saw Zone Of Interest last night. Since Under the Skin he has shown that you should not wait [till] post to figure out sound design.”

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