Steven Saks

And the Oscar for chutzpah goes to?

Though entertainment is supposed to serve as an  escape from the “real world,” it was no surprise that Israel was defamed at the Oscars. Unfortunately, it also shouldn’t be a surprise that the defamation was supplied by a Diaspora Jew.  Jonathan Glazer, who wrote and directed “The Zone of Interest,” which tells a fictionalized story of the commandant of the Auschwitz death camp, accepted the Oscar for Best International Feature Film by reading a prepared statement. 

“Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of our past and present. Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness in a 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 dehumanization, how do we resist?”

Though the statement is so poorly written that it would receive an “F” from any English teacher, Glazer’s message is clear. As Jonathan Tobin, the editor-in-chief of the Jewish News Syndicate correctly points out, Glazier was virtue signaling, by proclaiming that though he shares a common heritage with those who were attached on October 7, his “enlightened” views allow him to rise above the reflexive reaction of those less enlightened Jews who have unapologetically rallied around the flag of Israel. 

Glazier should have been awarded a second Oscar for chutzpah! His statement turns history on its head implying that Israel’s behavior is akin to that of the Nazi’s, while making a moral equivalence between the actions of those who fight to avoid another holocaust with those who would engage in another if not for the Jewish state’s strength. The misuse of the term “Holocaust” is considered to be a form of classical antisemitism according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism. In other words, Glazier’s statement was not only anti-Israel but antisemitic.

Unfortunately Glazer, in his desire to virtue signal, is only one in a long list of Jews who have thrown their own people under the bus while providing cover for antisemites as detailed in Eli Lakes article in the March issue of Commentary.  Johannes Pfefferkorn, a Jew, had recently converted to Catholicism convinced the Holy Roman Emperor to issue the Padua Mandate of 1509, which banned the Talmud as well as other Jewish books. The Emperor charged Pfefferkorn with enforcing the decree which Pfefferkorn, a true scoundrel, turned into an entrepreneurial scheme. Pfefferkorn attempted to extort wealthier Jewish communities by giving them the opportunity to pay him protection money in order to be spared from the decree. Pfefferkorn did not stop there, he ultimately urged that Jews be expelled from the Holy Roman Empire. Fortunately, by this time he had fallen out of favor in the imperial court and his advice was not acted upon.  

I am going to make a bold claim and assert that Pfefferkorn’s behavior was not all that much different than the star of our this week’s Haftorah, King Solomon. Solomon flouted the biblical injunction that the king not have too many wives. The reason for this injunction according to Professor Michah Goodman was to dissuade the king from entering into political alliances with foreign powers through marriage. The fear being that the kings of Israel, in order to cement the alliance, would honor the Gods of his foreign wives thus undercutting the monotheistic worship of the God of Israel. Indeed, Solomon wasted no time by quickly marrying the Pharaoh’s daughter and honoring her God’s. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 21b) explains that God was so infuriated with Solomon’s marriage to the Egyptian princess (which took place upon the completion of the building of the first temple according to one view) he had the angel Gabriel implant a pole in the Mediterranean which caused a sandbar to rise from the sea, upon which Rome would later be built. The Talmudic message is that Solomon’s desire to ingratiate himself to Israel’s enemies led to the downfall of his descendants who suffered exile at the hands of Rome.     

Michael Glazer would be wise to keep in mind Solomon died as an ignominious unrepentant sinner and Pfefferkorn as a traitor to his people. Yet despite the betrayals of the Solomons and Pfefferkorns of each generation, the Jewish people have repeatedly defied the odds and survived assault after assault at the hands of the world’s most powerful. In the Vehi Sheamda portion of the Haggadah we proclaim, “In every generation they rise up to destroy us but The Holy One delivers us from their hands.” In this generation too, God will stand with the Jewish people and help them to defeat their enemies whether they be external foes such as Hamas and their “enlightened useful idiots” which include those who have turned on their own people. 

About the Author
Rabbi of Sons of Israel, Woodmere NY. Vice President of Morasha Rabbinical Fellowship (affiliated with the Union for Traditional Judaism). Served as president of the Rabbinical Association of Delaware.
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