Jonathan Glazer receives fresh support from Jewish artists and filmmakers for Oscars speech

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Jonathan Glazer’s speech is continuing to become one of the Oscars’ most debated and polarizing moments.

Heated debate continues to rage after his stirring speech during the 96th Academy Awards, during which the British director, accepting Best International Feature for his staggering Holocaust film The Zone of Interest, drew a parallel between his film and the current conflict in Gaza. 

In his speech, Glazer said: “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 – whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza – all the victims of this dehumanisation…”

His words on Oscar night have been labelled “morally indefensible” and “reprehensible” by the Holocaust Survivor’s Foundation USA. Several directors have weighed in, and more than 450 Jewish creatives, executives and Hollywood professionals signed an open letter last month denouncing Glazer’s speech.

“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,” read the letter, which also 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.”

Jonathan Glazer at this year’s Oscars

Now, the director has received fresh and welcome support through a new letter, whose signatories include Nan Goldin, Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Stoppard, Elliott Gould, Debra Winger, Joel Coen, Emma Seligman, Nicole Holofcener, and Boots Riley.

They are among more than 150 Jewish creatives who have signed the open letter supporting Glazer’s Oscars speech, writing that they were “alarmed to see some of our colleagues in the industry mischaracterize and denounce his remarks”.

“In his speech, Glazer asked how we can resist the dehumanization that has led to mass atrocities throughout history,” reads the letter. “For such a statement to be taken as an affront only underscores its urgency.”

The letter criticized the earlier condemnations of Glazer, saying they “have a silencing effect on our industry, contributing to a broader climate of suppression of free speech and dissent, the very qualities our field should cherish.”

“We should be able to name Israel’s apartheid and occupation – both recognized by leading human rights organizations as such – without being accused of rewriting history.”

The letter concluded: “We stand with all those calling for a permanent cease-fire, including the safe return of all hostages and the immediate delivery of aid into Gaza, and an end to Israel’s ongoing bombardment of and siege on Gaza.”

Scroll down to read the full letter.

Ken Loach at the 77th British Academy Film Awards – Feb 2024

Elsewhere, celebrated British director Ken Loach has given his support to Glazer, whose speech has highlighted a growing divide in Hollywood, especially in the wake of the 7 October attacks in Israel.

Speaking with Variety, Loach said that he had “great respect” for the director, calling him “very brave”.

“I’m sure he understood the possible consequences, which makes him braver still, so I’ve got great respect for him and his work,” said Loach.

He also mentioned the Jewish community, saying that Glazer received “lots of support from many, many Jewish people who said it breaks the stereotype that all Jewish people support what Israel is doing, because clearly that’s not the case…”

He added that the speech “was hugely valuable in that it shows that diversity.”

Here is the full open letter of support:

We are Jewish artists, filmmakers, writers, and creative professionals who support Jonathan Glazer’s statement from the 2024 Oscars. We were alarmed to see some of our colleagues in the industry mischaracterize and denounce his remarks. Their attacks on Glazer are a dangerous distraction from Israel’s escalating military campaign which has already killed over 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza and brought hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation. We grieve for all those who have been killed in Palestine and Israel over too many decades, including the 1,200 Israelis killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and the 253 hostages taken.

The attacks on Glazer also have a silencing effect on our industry, contributing to a broader climate of suppression of free speech and dissent, the very qualities our field should cherish. Glazer, Tony Kushner, Steven Spielberg and countless other artists of all backgrounds have decried the killing of Palestinian civilians. We should all be able to do the same without being wrongly accused of fueling antisemitism.

In his speech, Glazer asked how we can resist the dehumanization that has led to mass atrocities throughout history. For such a statement to be taken as an affront only underscores its urgency. We should be able to name Israel’s apartheid and occupation — both recognized by leading human rights organizations as such — without being accused of rewriting history.

As the Director of the Auschwitz Memorial, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, wrote, “’The Zone of Interest’ is not a film about the Shoah. It is primarily a profound warning about humanity and its nature.” We must not reserve this warning for a single group. To preserve our humanity and ensure our mutual survival, we must sound the alarm when any group faces such brutality and acts of erasure.

We are proud Jews who denounce the weaponization of Jewish identity and the memory of the Holocaust to justify what many experts in international law, including leading Holocaust scholars, have identified as a “genocide in the making.” We reject the false choice between Jewish safety and Palestinian freedom. We stand with all those calling for a permanent ceasefire, including the safe return of all hostages and the immediate delivery of aid into Gaza, and an end to Israel’s ongoing bombardment of and siege on Gaza.

We honor the memory of the Holocaust by saying: Never again for anyone.

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