Jonathan Glazer's 'Zone of Interest' Oscars Speech Is Denounced by Over 450 Jewish Creatives and Professionals

Jonathan Glazer
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

In his Oscars acceptance speech, 'The Zone of Interest' director called out the 'dehumanization' in the 'ongoing attack on Gaza.'

Jonathan Glazer's acceptance speech at the 96th annual Academy Awards has drawn criticism from over 450 Jewish professionals in Hollywood in an open letter published by Variety on Monday. 

While accepting the Oscar for Best International Film on March 10, The Zone of Interest director gave an impassioned speech saying: "All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present, not to say look what they did then, but rather look what we do now. Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It's shaped all of our past and present."

With producer James Wilson and financier Len Blavatnik standing behind him, Glazer continued: "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 -- 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?"

Loosely based on the 2014 novel by Martin Amis, Glazer's historical drama focuses on the life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig, who live with their family in a home in the "Zone of Interest" next to the concentration camp. 

The Zone of Interest premiered at the 76th Cannes Film Festival and was released in theaters in December 2023 to critical acclaim. Glazer's direction and script received exceptional praise. 

On Sunday night, Glazer's speech was met with applause, especially from stars who have vocally called for a ceasefire in Israel's ongoing attacks on Gaza, including Poor Things star Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef, Billie Eilish, Finneas O'Connell and Ava DuVernay. The stars wore red pins in support of the organization Artists for Ceasefire. At last month's GRAMMYs, Boygenius members Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker wore the same red pins.

But Glazer's speech became a hot topic over the ensuing days, culminating in the open letter published by Variety with signatures from Hollywood stars such as Julianna Margulies, Debra Messing, Tovah Feldshuh, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Brett Gelman, directors Eli Roth and Rod Lurie, creators Amy Sherman-Palladino, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg and more.

The letter says: "We refute our Jewishness being hijacked for the purpose 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."

"Every civilian death in Gaza is tragic. Israel is not targeting civilians. It is targeting Hamas. The moment Hamas releases the hostages and surrenders is the moment this heartbreaking war ends. This has been true since the Hamas attacks of October 7th," it continues. "The use of words like 'occupation' to describe an indigenous Jewish people defending a homeland that dates back thousands of years, and has been recognized as a state by the United Nations, distorts history."

The letter also claims that Glazer's speech "gives credence to the modern blood libel that fuels a growing anti-Jewish hatred around the world, in the United States, and in Hollywood. The current climate of growing antisemitism only underscores the need for the Jewish State of Israel, a place which will always take us in, as no state did during the Holocaust depicted in Mr. Glazer's film."

Glazer has not yet responded to the letter published by Variety.

While Israel and Palestine have been entrenched in conflict for almost a century, the Oct. 7 attack drastically escalated circumstances. Some 1,200 Israelis were killed, and 240 citizens were taken hostage by the militant group Hamas. In response, the Israeli government retaliated by launching coordinated attacks and bombings in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Per Al Jazeera the Health Ministry has estimated that, to date, the death toll in Gaza has reached over 31,000 and over 72,524 have been wounded as a result of the ongoing conflict with Israel and the subsequent humanitarian crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a ceasefire to end the conflict that has also caused a massive humanitarian crisis, with the UN warning that more than half a million Palestinians are facing famine-like conditions in the territory where nearly all infrastructure has broken down.

American Jews and allies hold a 7-hour shiva organized by 'If Not Now' for ceasefire outside the Jacob Javits Center where the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) annual conference takes place in New York. - Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images

Per CBS News, the European Union recently sharply criticized Netanyahu, with the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell saying at a humanitarian conference over the weekend that Gaza was "no longer on the brink of famine, we are in a state of famine, affecting thousands of people."

Glazer isn't the only member of The Zone of Interest to express his thoughts on what those calling for a ceasefire have labeled a "genocide" of Palestinian people.  

Executive producer and co-financier Danny Cohen, said on a recent episode of the Unholy podcast, "I just fundamentally disagree with Jonathan on this," adding, "My support for Israel is unwavering."

"I think the war is tragic and awful, and the loss of civilian life is awful, but I blame Hamas for that. And I think any discussion of the war without saying that, for me, lacks the proper context that any discussion about war, from my perspective, should have," Cohen added.

To date a number of other celebrities have called for a ceasefire, including Gigi and Bella Hadid, Melissa Barrera, Susan Sarandon, Kehlani, The Weeknd, Annie Lennox, Hunter Schafer, Hozier and Angelina Jolie.

"We're calling for immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza. We're calling for peace and lasting justice for the people of Palestine," Youssef told Variety on the Oscars red carpet. "It's a universal message of, 'Let's stop killing kids. Let's not be part of more war.' No one has ever looked back at war and thought a bombing campaign was a good idea. To be surrounded by so many artists who are willing to lend their voices, the list is growing. A lot of people are going to be wearing these pins tonight. There's a lot of talking heads on the news, this is a space of talking hearts. We're trying to have this big beam to humanity."

"There's no other route," Youssef added. "It's taking so long. The president has called for it in the State of the Union. We need to look at ourselves and be honest, if the leadership supposedly thinks that should happen, why has it not happened? That's what we're all encouraging everyone to be vocal about."

Most recently, singer and Mean Girls star Renée Rapp called for an "immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza" during her acceptance speech at the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles earlier this week.

Rapp, who won the award in the Outstanding Music Artist category for her Interscope album Snow Angel, said, "We're in a room of very influential people, very privileged people, which is exciting and also is a huge privilege to be a part of that. Having said that, I'd like to take the opportunity to show support and call for an immediate ceasefire and permanent ceasefire in Gaza."

As the audience applauded, Rapp continued, urging the crowd to "please continue to advocate for yourselves, continue to advocate for your friends, your queer friends and for those who can't advocate for themselves."