Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Some Jewish Hollywood Figures Say Mentioning “Occupation” at Oscars Is Antisemitic


The backlash against even the mildest-mannered protests for Gaza at the Oscars was predictable. Artists, musicians, and actors who wore a pin symbolizing a call for a ceasefire in Israel–Palestine are being called antisemitic.

Jonathan Glazer, the director of “The Zone of Interest,” took a stand during his Oscars acceptance speech. He highlighted the Israeli occupation and how it has led to conflict for innocent people. This bold move sparked controversy as Glazer dared to speak about the context of the ongoing conflict.

A letter signed by over 900 Hollywood “creatives and professionals” condemned the use of the word “occupation” to describe the situation in Israel. The letter claimed that the term distorts history and fuels anti-Jewish hatred worldwide. It went as far as equating the mention of occupation with invoking antisemitic tropes.

According to the letter, opposing any Israeli policy could be considered antisemitic, including policies related to self-defense. The denialism in the letter was evident as it claimed that Israel is not targeting civilians but Hamas, despite reports of civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure.

The letter failed to acknowledge the plight of Palestinians affected by the conflict, further highlighting the bias in its narrative. The support for Israel’s actions in Gaza by well-known Hollywood figures like Eli Roth, Debra Messing, and Michael Rapaport added to the controversy.

The list of executives and producers who denounced Glazer’s speech included prominent industry insiders. This group engaged in what can be described as a bullying campaign against Glazer, leveraging their Jewish identity to discredit his statements.

The response to Glazer’s speech reflects a refusal to engage in self-criticism and a denial of facts that challenge prevailing narratives. It mirrors what philosopher Charles Mills termed “white ignorance,” which functions as an epistemic block against acknowledging systemic issues.

Glazer’s film, which delves into the domestic life of an SS officer at Auschwitz, sheds light on entrenched ideologies and willful ignorance. The knee-jerk reaction to Glazer’s speech underscores the need to confront uncomfortable truths and challenge prevailing narratives.

In conclusion, the controversy surrounding Glazer’s Oscars speech highlights the complexities of discussing sensitive geopolitical issues in mainstream settings. It also underscores the importance of engaging in nuanced conversations about conflict and occupation without resorting to censorship or denialism.

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