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Jonathan Glazer’s Zone of Indifference to Jewish Suffering

Jonathan Glazer, the director of “Zone of Interest” – his movie about the time Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss’ and his family lived next to the Auschwitz concentration camp Rudolph Hess’ Auschwitz – used his acceptance speech for his Oscar for Best International Feature Film to reject being Jewish or the Holocaust as reasons for supporting Israel. He should have also received an Oscar for outstanding exploitation of Jewish suffering.

Glazer said: “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 on Gaza – all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

It’s no surprise that Glazer, who airbrushes any indication that Jew-hatred led to the Holocaust from his film, would use the opportunity to bash Israel.

Yet, Glazer’s effort to frame his stark, soulless film (Happy Days at Auschwitz?) as an attack on Israel defending Jewish life was not a deeply felt political statement. In fact, Glazer said nothing about how “Zone of Interest” reflected such concerns until his Oscar speech. The movie was screened on October 8, a day after Hamas butchered, raped, beheaded, tortured, and abducted Jewish women, children, and infants. At that time, Glazer said:“The events of the last couple of days have been quite difficult for everybody.” It was as if the air conditioning had stopped working in the theater where his film was being screened.

In December, Glazer told the Guardian: “The reason I made this film is to try to restate our proximity to this terrible event that we think of as in the past. For me, it is not ever in the past, and right now, I think something in me is aware – and fearful – that these things are on the rise again with the growth of rightwing populism everywhere. The road that so many people took is a few steps away. It is always just a few steps away.” (Perhaps attacking the left would hurt his ability to market the film and win awards and accolades?) In a Vanity Fair interview, Glazer talked about cinematography but nothing else.

To Rolling Stone: “I was determined to make it not about then, but about now…Because this movie isn’t a document. It’s not a history lesson. It’s a warning.” No mention of Israel, Gaza, or the Holocaust.

Days before the Oscars, co-producer James Wilson opined: “The killing of staggering numbers of innocent people somewhere else who aren’t directly connected to those obscene crimes [of October 7] seems a very stark reminder of that selective empathy. It doesn’t seem to me that complicated to condemn both losses of innocent lives – on a basic human empathetic level, there just seems to be the sort of extraordinary empathy dissonance. I think the sad fact is that the selective empathy that marks our culture is a continuum, is not a moment – probably for hundreds of years before the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, and for the 80-plus years since.”

Glazer and Wilson’s selective indifference to the unique features of Jewish persecution and pogroms contrasts with that of David Mamet, who Disney contracted in 2009 to write and direct a remake of the Diary of Anne Frank. Mamet submitted a starkly different version of the play and movie, both of which hide Anne’s Jewishness and militancy to portray her as a likable Greta Thunberg.

Mamet presented Disney with a pro-Israel exploration of antisemitism movie set in contemporary times. The studio rejected the project as “too dark, intense, and dark and scary.”

Mamet uses his art and stature to stand up for the Jewish people and Israel. Glazer and his coproducer are doing the opposite and worse. They conveniently use the repudiation of their Jewishness to rebrand “Zone of Interest” after they received their award as a statement that it is not kosher to connect Jewish survival, self-defense, and national self-determination. Now, and only now, do they frame their film as proof there is no difference between Jewish self-defense and an Iranian proxy terrorist group hellbent on exterminating Jews. In other words, you can’t invoke being Jewish or the Holocaust to justify Israel’s policy of limiting access to Gaza, which (he claims) led to the Iranian-backed Hamas murder of 1,200 people and abduction of 350 hostages and subsequent Israeli mission to wipe out Hamas.

Apparently, they regard it as morally wrong to define themselves as Jews in solidarity with the Jewish nation but legitimate to publicly reject the use of Jewish identity to sell more downloads or rentals of their movie.

If Glazer and Wilson had been in Sderot or Kibbutz Be’eri or the Nova Festival, their rejection of “selective empathy” would not have saved them from the savagery of Hamas. Instead, their Jewish brethren have given their lives to save them. During the massacre of October 7, Israelis of all stripes, of all ages, of all ideologies streamed towards the maelstrom armed with nothing but sidearms and rifles and the belief that there is no more outstanding obligation than defending Jewish life.

After October 7, millions of Israelis immediately abandoned their farms, their classrooms, their synagogues, their tech ventures, and yes, their film projects to protect and die for the Jewish state. Would they have faced death to defend against those who sought to turn Israel into Auschwitz-Birkenau? Or would they have calculated how their actions would affect their share of the movie’s gross?

David Mamet wrote: “The acquiescent apikoros (Jews who publicly reject identifying with Jews) basks in sloth. This person is not righteous but cowardly, and neither sloth nor cowardice will protect him if, God forbid, the hammer of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the jihad falls toward him. Who will protect him? His fellow Jews.” That’s a movie concept with high production values.  But I bet that Glazer and Wilson will be looking to cash in on their newfound fame with some kind of post-Zionist pornography.

About the Author
Robert Goldberg has written extensively about Zionism and Israel for several years. His articles have been featured in prominent publications such as Tablet, The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, National Review, Algemeiner, and the American Spectator. Additionally, he is writing a book on lessons from the Haggadah about responding to anti-Zionist Jews. As Vice President of The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, he writes about healthcare issues.