Jewish stars including Debra Messing and Eli Roth denounce Jonathan Glazer’s Oscars speech

Will & Grace star Debra Messing and Hostel director Eli Roth are among the 450 Jewish creatives and Hollywood executives who have signed an open letter denouncing director Jonathan Glazer for the speech he gave at this year’s Oscars.

Glazer was accepting the Oscar for Best International Film for The Zone of Interest, his movie about an Auschwitz commandant and his wife who try to build a dream life next to the camp.

“Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst,” 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 the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza – all the victims of this dehumanisation … how do we resist?”

Now, his speech has been criticised in a statement signed by a wide variety of Jewish people working in Hollywood, including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, Venom producer Amy Pascal and actor Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Their statement reads in full:

“We are Jewish creatives, executives and Hollywood professionals.

“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.

Jonathan Glazer holding his Oscar for Best International Film for ‘The Zone of Interest’ (AFP via Getty Images)
Jonathan Glazer holding his Oscar for Best International Film for ‘The Zone of Interest’ (AFP via Getty Images)

“Every civilian death in Gaza is tragic. But 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.

“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.

“It 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.”

Last week Glazer’s speech was also condemned by The Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA, which called it “morally indefensible” and “disgraceful”.

In an open letter posted on the foundation’s website, the group’s 94-year-old president, David Schaecter, wrote: “I watched in anguish Sunday night when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony [to] equate Hamas’s maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defense in the face of Hamas’s ongoing barbarity.”

Others have spoken out in support of Glazer, with the Israeli military veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence saying in a statement on X/Twitter: “[Glazer] took an unequivocal stance against the cynical utilisation of Judaism and the Holocaust in the name of justifying the occupation … we refuse to accept the ease with which the blood and lives of civilians is used as a justification for political ideologies, or as a bargaining chip. Empathy is not a zero-sum game.”

In a five-star review of The Zone of Interest, The Independent’s chief film critic Clarisse Loughrey wrote that the film “issues a warning from just outside the walls of Auschwitz, spreading its soul-sickness across each frame”.