Winning Director Compares Gaza To Auschwitz

Published: Wed 13 Mar 2024 09:45 AM
At the Oscars this week Jonathan Glazer went nuclear. The director of Zone of Interest, the Best Foreign Film, directly compared the Auschwitz death camp to what is happening in Gaza.
I have to admit that until I heard his speech I had no intention of watching Zone of Interest, a film set outside the walls of Auschwitz concentration camp which follows the commandant and his family’s pursuit of the good life. I feel there is something obscene about constantly bringing the memory of one genocide, committed 80 years ago, to the foreground whilst Israel, the United States and the white-dominated countries of the West commit another genocide right now before our eyes. Then Jonathan Glazer gave his speech:
“All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present — not to say, ‘Look what they did then,’ rather, ‘Look what we do now.’ Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst. It shaped all of our past and present.”
Glazer, who is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and attended the Jewish School in Camden, London, went on to say he refuted his “Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an Occupation, which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.” Bombshell. Half the audience erupted in applause, half turned to stone with folded arms.
Viewed through this lens, the movie can be seen as a metaphor for Israel's project to run a death camp in Gaza whilst expecting, demanding - like the Hoss family in the movie - the right to a happy life right next door.
It's doubly explosive because the director is drawing a comparison between Nazism and Zionism - which is as incendiary as it gets in American political discourse.
The reason I find Holocaust movies problematic is not because I think we should forget the Shoah – we should never do that – but I’m with Norman Finkelstein, Hannah Arendt, Noam Chomsky, Gideon Levy and so many other progressive Jewish people who reject the exploitation of Jewish suffering in WWII to manufacture consent for the persecution of the Palestinian people today. Never Again - should be for everyone. ‘Never Again’ has brought thousands of Jewish progressives out onto the streets to say ‘Not In Our Name’.
Norman Finkelstein, whose father and mother both survived the Warsaw Ghetto and concentration camps, wrote The Holocaust Industry in 2000 to expose the exploitation of the memory of the Six Million for modern political purposes. He says invoking the Holocaust was “a ploy to delegitimize all criticism of Jews”. It has fostered a deep acceptance in the West of 80 years of Israeli pogroms against the Palestinian people.
Hollywood and its constant stream of Holocaust movies – “The Book Thief”, “Defiance”, “The Pianist”, “Conspiracy”, “Schindler’s List”, “Into the Arms of Strangers”, “Life is Beautiful” and many more – may be fine movies with important themes but – wittingly or unwittingly – they also play into a coherent, extremely astute strategy to enlist the sympathies of Western populations to the unassailable rights of the Israeli state – regardless of what they do to the indigenous population.
I have visited Yad Vashem and paid respect to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. What I say here in no way should be interpreted as disrespectful to the victims of German violence against the Jews – or the long history of European, including English, persecution of the Jewish people. I simply affirm the trenchant criticism of Israel, the US and the UK for, as Finkelstein says, the misappropriation of history for ideological purposes.
The great Jewish intellectual Hannah Arendt saw the dangers of what Israel could do to the non-Jewish population of Palestine. In 1955 she wrote:
“They treat the Arabs, those still here, in a way that in itself would be enough to rally the whole world against Israel." How wrong she was about the rallying … until now. And a big part of why she was wrong comes down to the power of storytelling and filmmaking … especially the choice of whose stories are told and retold, whose are forgotten or dishonoured.
Hollywood has been weaponised in the way that Noam Chomsky and Edward S Herman wrote about in The Propaganda Model. The Israel lobby has waged a propaganda war to conflate Judaism with Israel and to make criticism of Israel a form of antisemitism. Jonathan Glazer cut through this lie.
It was visible to all watching that delivering the speech required real courage – Glazer knew these words could lead to him being targeted for cancellation and worse.
One other memorable thing Jonathan Glazer said in his speech was:
“How do we resist?” He paused and let the question fill the space. It’s a great question for all of us when we are confronted, as we are now, with a genocide:
“How do we resist?” The question is yours to answer.

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