Close-up of Death Culture: 1,000 in Entertainment Biz Proclaim Support for Gaza Slaughter

Last week, Variety reported that “more than 1,000 Jewish creatives, executives and Hollywood professionals have signed an open letter denouncing Jonathan Glazer’s ‘The Zone of Interest’ Oscar speech.” The angry letter is a tight script for a real-life drama of defending Israel as it continues to methodically kill civilians no less precious than the signers’ own loved ones.

A few ethical words from Glazer while accepting his award provoked outrage. He spoke of wanting to refute “Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation, which has led to conflict for so many innocent people,” and he followed with a vital question: “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?”

Those words were too much for the letter’s signers, who included many of Hollywood’s powerful producers, directors and agents. For starters, they accused Glazer (who is Jewish) of “drawing a moral equivalence between a Nazi regime that sought to exterminate a race of people, and an Israeli nation that seeks to avert its own extermination.”

Ironically, that accusation embodied what Glazer had confronted from the Academy Awards stage when he said that what’s crucial in the present is “not to say, ‘Look what they did then,’ rather, ‘Look what we do now.’”

But the letter refused to look at what Israel is doing now as it bombs, kills, maims and starves Palestinian civilians in Gaza, where there are now 32,000 known dead and 74,000 injured. The letter’s moral vision only looked back at what the Third Reich did. Its signers endorsed the usual Zionist polemics – fitting neatly into Glazer’s description of “Jewishness and the Holocaust” being “hijacked by an occupation.”

The letter even denied that an occupation actually exists – objecting to “the use of words like ‘occupation’ to describe an indigenous Jewish people defending a homeland that dates back thousands of years.” Somehow the Old Testament was presumed to be sufficient justification for the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, most of whose ancestors lived in what’s now Israel. The vast majority of 2.2 million people have been driven from their bombed-out homes in Gaza, with many now facing starvation due to blockage of food.

Israel’s extreme restrictions on food and other vital supplies are causing deaths from starvation and disease as well as enormous suffering. In early March, a panel of U.N. experts issued a statement that declared: “Israel has been intentionally starving the Palestinian people in Gaza since 8 October. Now it is targeting civilians seeking humanitarian aid and humanitarian convoys.” (So much for the anti-Glazer letter’s claim that “Israel is not targeting civilians.”)

Last weekend, on Egypt’s border at the crossing to Rafah, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other. That is more than tragic. It is a moral outrage.”

But there is not the slightest hint of any such moral outrage in the letter signed by the more than 1,000 “creatives, executives and Hollywood professionals.” Instead, all the ire is directed at Glazer for pointing out that moral choices on matters of life and death are not merely consigned to the past. The crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany against Jews are in no way exculpatory for the crimes against humanity now being committed by Israel.

What Glazer said in scarcely one minute retains profound moral power that no distortions can hide. Continuity exists between the setting of “The Zone of Interest” eight decades ago and today’s realities as the United States supports Israel’s genocidal actions: “Our film shows where dehumanization leads, at its worst. It shaped all of our past and present. 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 the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

Much of the movie’s focus is on the lives of a man and a woman preoccupied with career, status and material well-being. Such preoccupations are hardly unfamiliar in the movie industry, where silence or support for the Gaza war are common among professionals – in contrast to Jonathan Glazer and others, Jewish or not, who have spoken out in his defense or for a ceasefire.

“What he was saying is so simple: that Jewishness, Jewish identity, Jewish history, the history of the Holocaust, the history of Jewish suffering, must not be used in the campaign as an excuse for a project of dehumanizing or slaughtering other people,” the playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner said in an interview with an Israeli newspaper days ago. He called Glazer’s statement from the Oscars stage “unimpeachable and irrefutable.”

Yet even without signing the open letter that denounced Glazer’s comments, some in the entertainment industry felt compelled to assert their backing for a country now engaged in a genocidal war. Notably, a spokesperson for the financier of Glazer’s film, Len Blavatnik, responded to the controversy by telling Variety that “his long-standing support of Israel is unwavering.”How many more Palestinian civilians will Israel murder before such “support for Israel” begins to waver?

Norman Solomon is the national director of and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of many books including War Made Easy. His latest book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, was published in 2023 by The New Press.