I recently watched the Oscar nominated film Zone of Interest and a few things really struck me. In case you haven’t seen or heard about it, it’s a work of historical fiction centered around an Auschwitz commandant and his family, who happen to live directly adjacent to the death camp. The most striking thing about the film, and this is no spoiler, was simply the juxtaposition of the world’s most notorious extermination factory and the idyllic, pristine family home of the camp’s commanding officer. The meticulously manicured garden, swimming pool—complete with a slide to delight their five Aryan children, the greenhouse and the lavish parties. They entertained guests, basked in their good fortune, all with billowing smoke ever-present in the distance and a muted soundtrack of desperate screams, barking attack dogs and intermittent gunfire eerily humming in the background. The scariest part was that no one—save for one of their blonde, blue-eyed children and a mother in-law with a hacking, human ash-induced cough–appeared to notice any of it. This model Nazi family and their guests were somehow able to inure themselves to what was happening just on the other side of a ten-foot cement wall. There was no empathy, conscience or even recognition of the horrors that were taking place a mere stone’s throw away. In their minds, they had reached their zenith. They were living in their dream home not despite the cruelty, but because of it–and their relishing of the spoils of war was yet another profoundly disturbing display of man’s inhumanity to man. And it made me wonder, “what did they tell themselves to justify their existence?” “What lies did they feast upon in order to dehumanize the screams and the wafting scent of burning flesh?” And then a chill ran down my spine as it dawned on me that this is precisely what’s happening right now.
On October 7, Hamas didn’t just attack Israel, it attacked every Jew on planet earth. It punctured the tenuous bubble that we were living in, resurrecting our generational trauma and once again reminding us of our vulnerability. And the aftershocks of this seismic shift in our collective psyche continue to reverberate as we witness not just silence, but pure, unadulterated hatred – from all corners. It’s as if the anti-Semites of the world now have license to unleash the venom they’ve been keeping under wraps. And how is this Jew hatred justified? With the same lies that everyday Germans told themselves when their neighbors were being thrown onto cattle cars—except now, the conduit for this disinformation isn’t leaflets, radio addresses and offensive caricatures, but something far more efficient and global in reach.
Social media is propaganda on steroids. Goebbels would have had a field day on TikTok, X and Instagram, with their supercharged ability to disseminate lies, conspiracy theories and blood libels with immediacy and on a massive scale. This capability, combined with a public that sees no value in truth or facts, and seeks only to reinforce pre-existing narratives propagated by terrorists and self-promoting influencers, has gotten us to the Twilight Zone in which we are living today. A world where GoPro footage shot by Hamas themselves is labeled as Israeli propaganda, where a sovereign nation that was savagely attacked on 10/7 is being charged with Genocide at the Hague for defending itself, where our supposed best and brightest are loudly and proudly calling for death to Jews on their Ivy League campuses, where morons in Keffiyehs are chanting “Allahu Akbar” mere steps away from the site of 9/11, where the Red Cross refuses to lift a finger to help our hostages, where the UN is complicit in funding and enabling Hamas’ terror tunnels, where feminists are silent in the face of barbaric sexual violence and where Queers for Palestine are rallying for savages who would throw them from a roof if they dared to wave a rainbow flag anywhere in the Middle East, other than Israel.
To us Jews, it indeed feels like the world has gone mad. But unlike in the 1930’s, when one could make a case for plausible deniability, today there is no excuse for refusing to believe what is right before our eyes. The atrocities of October 7 and the insidious acts of anti-Semitism that followed have been explicitly documented and on-display for all the world to see. The so-called ‘zone of interest’ is now omnipresent—from the phone in your hand, to the ripped hostage posters at your local supermarket. The hate has been unmasked, but we have the benefit of hindsight this time. We now know–on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day–that we cannot board those cattle cars without a fight and that we must summon the courage and strength to speak out, even when the world refuses to listen. Because never again, is right now.