Condemnations mount for Jonathan Glazer’s 'morally indefensible' Oscars speech

Condemnations mount for Jonathan Glazer’s “morally indefensible” Oscars speech
Condemnations mount for Jonathan Glazer’s “morally indefensible” Oscars speech Copyright Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Copyright Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
By David Mouriquand
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

The US Holocaust Survivors Foundation has labelled Jonathan Glazer’s Oscars speech “morally indefensible”. The director of the Oscar-winning Holocaust drama 'The Zone of Interest' said those killed in both Israel and Gaza were victims of "dehumanisation".


The Oscars this year were a relatively tame affair, with very few stars and filmmakers directly speaking out about the current conflict in the Middle East on what is irrefutably Hollywood’s biggest stage.

Prior to the ceremony, several celebs expressed their views, but with the fear that speaking out could lead to negative impacts on their careers, most choose silence – something which feels even more glaring considering the awards night started with protesters demanding a ceasefire and blocking traffic outside the Dolby Theatre.  

The 96th Oscars did see some celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo and Billie Eilish, wearing pins calling for a ceasefire, but only one acceptance speech dared to address the war in Gaza.

That came from Jonathan Glazer, the director of the searing Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest - one of our must-see films of the year. 

Glazer took to the stage alongside producer James Wilson to accept the Oscar for Best International Film – the first time Britain has won the prize – for his German-language, Polish-shot adaptation of the Martin Amis novel. The film, which premiered last year in Cannes and won the Grand Prix, focuses on the family of Auschwitz's longest-serving commandant, Rudolf Höss.

James Wilson, from left, Leonard Blavatnik, and Jonathan Glazer accept the award for "The Zone of Interest"
James Wilson, from left, Leonard Blavatnik, and Jonathan Glazer accept the award for "The Zone of Interest"Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The director, who is Jewish, said those killed in both Israel and Gaza were victims of "dehumanisation".

"Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst. It's shaped all of our past and present."

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

He finished by paying tribute to Alexandria Bystroń-Kołodziejczyk, an elderly Polish woman he had met, who had worked for the Polish resistance when she was 12 years old. Bystroń-Kołodziejczyk shared how she would cycle to the death camp to leave apples – a silent and covert act of resistance, which is seen in the film via haunting scenes shot in negative exposure.

“It was her bike we used, and the dress the actor wears was her dress. Sadly, she died a few weeks after we spoke.”

“(She) glows in the film as she did in life,” said Glazer during his Oscars speech. “I dedicate this to her memory and her resistance.”

Scene from "The Zone of Interest"
Scene from "The Zone of Interest"A24

The stirring speech was one of the evening’s highlights, but now, Glazer has received criticism for his words, specifically from the Holocaust Survivor’s Foundation USA (HSF).

In an open letter published on the organisation’s website, the foundation’s chairman David Schaecter, wrote:

“I watched in anguish Sunday night when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony to equate Hamas’ maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defense in the face of Hamas’ ongoing barbarity. Your comments were factually inaccurate and morally indefensible.”

He continued: “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.”

Schaecter added: “You should be ashamed of yourself for using Auschwitz to criticise Israel. If the creation, existence, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish state equates to ‘occupation’ in your mind, then you obviously learned nothing from your movie.”

Glazer’s comments were also attacked by the Anti-Defamation League, who posted a message on social media, saying that his comments were “reprehensible”.

“Israel is not hijacking Judaism or the Holocaust by defending itself against genocidal terrorists. Glazer’s comments at the #Oscars are both factually incorrect & morally reprehensible. They minimise the Shoah & excuse terrorism of the most heinous kind.”


In a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter from Allison Josephs, founder and executive director of Jew in the City, Josephs made the following comments:

“Glazer could have spoken about how the dehumanization of Jews led people to not believe that sexual violence was used against Israeli women or that it was ‘justified resistance.’ He could have said that the dehumanization of Jews led people to celebrate and/or deny that October 7 happened at all. He could have noted that October 7 was the most deadly day for Jews since the Holocaust.”

“Instead Glazer used a common refrain from Jew-haters — that the Holocaust is the ‘get out of jail free card’ for Jews. He blamed Jews for their own massacre by saying that ‘the occupation led to conflict for so many people,’ which is why he was refuting his Jewishness and the Holocaust being used for this purpose. Cillian Murphy accepted his award as ‘a very proud Irishman.’ If only we had a SINGLE Jew in Hollywood who could accept their award as a very proud Jew.”

Poster for The Zone of Interest
Poster for The Zone of InterestA24

Thankfully, Glazer has also received support for his comments, including from Israeli military veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence, which posted a statement on social media: “(Glazer) took an unequivocal stance against the cynical utilisation of Judaism and the Holocaust in the name of justifying the occupation…”

“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.”


Additional sources • Hollywood Reporter

Share this articleComments

You might also like