OPN Jonathan Glazer
Jonathan Glazer makes his speech after winning the Oscar for Best International Feature Film for "The Zone of Interest" during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 10, 2024 Image Credit: AFP

You are already a well-known Hollywood actor, traditionally known as an individual engaged in progressive causes, who, like your fellow-actors, come from a creative subculture that is generally progressive and, well, bohemian, so why not harness the untapped power of your celebrity to promote movements dedicated to social justice and freedom?

Few venues in the US, indeed the world, are more influential for actors than prestigious award ceremonies like the Grammys, the Golden Globe Awards and, of course, the mother of all venues, the Oscar Awards, which, aired as they are internationally since 1969, are reportedly watched by close to a billion people worldwide every year.

Well, this year, the irremediable suffering endured by the people of Gaza made it to the red carpet and to the stage at the 96th Academy Awards ceremony held on Sunday, where hundreds of actors and artists arrived at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles wearing “Artists4Ceasefire” pins — red pins featuring a hand with a black heart in the middle — a coordinated effort by the eponymous group, a coalition of more than 400 Hollywood figures who this month had signed an open letter urging President Biden and Congress to press for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Read more by Fawaz Turki


Though other actors, like Machado Graner and Swan Arland, both actors in the Oscar-nominated film “Anatomy of a Fall”, chose to wear instead Palestinian flag pins, the “Actors4Ceasefire” pins proliferated among the majority of both attendees and nominees, including Mark Ruffalo (long a supporters of the Palestinian cause), who was up for best supporting actor role in “Poor Things”, and Ramy Youssef, star of the film, who told a Variety reporter that he was “calling for an immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza and for peace and justice, lasting justice, for the people of Palestine”.

The pins were also worn by Billie Ellis and her brother Finneas O’Connor (bless their Irish hearts) who became the youngest two-time Oscar winners, with their win for original song, “What Was I Made For”, from the film “Barbie”.

It was no surprise that the “Artists4Ceasefire” pin had earlier made it to other art award venues as well, such as the Golden Globe Awards, where it was worn by all three members of the band Boy Geniuses as by other artists in attendance.

Back at the Dolby Theatre (where the opening ceremony was delayed by a pro-Palestinian protest that blocked traffic and saw nominees being driven by golf buggies to the red carpet, an inconvenience about which Mark Raffalo commented, “We’re late. Fine. The Palestinian protest has shut down the Oscars. Humanity wins”.

OPN Jonathan Glazer
Director Jonathan Glazer accepts the award for Best International Feature Film for "The Zone of Interest"

"How do we resist?"

The only actor to bring the painful matter of Gaza directly to the stage in his acceptance speech was Jonathan Glazer, director of “The Zone of Interest”, a film about the holocaust, which won an Oscar for best international feature film.

Glazer said, reading from a prepared speech, that he and his fellow-Jewish producer, James Wilson, who stood alongside him on the stage, “Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst. It has shaped all 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 for the victims of Oct. 7 in Israel or the victims of the ongoing attack on Gaza — all the victims of this dehumanisation. How do we resist?”

He had an answer ready, an answer I read to be relevant to this moment of immediacy in Gaza, an answer he gave as a conclusion to his speech — he told the audience he was dedicating his Oscar to the memory of the real-life Polish woman depicted in his film, who used to sneak into a concentration camp at night to leave food for the prisoners.

While Glazer’s speech drew loud applause from his fellow actors listening to it at the Dolby Theatre, it drew — surprise, surprise — swift, blistering and across-the-board condemnation on social media from supporters of Israel. A sample of that condemnation? A former adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one Michael Freund, went so far as to call the Oscar winner, on X, one “ self-hating Jew of the worst kind who exploits the holocaust to attack Israel at the Oscars ceremony”.

The more things change ...

Glazer, whose stature in filmic art is solid, remains unapologetic. Look, sometimes, just as you gotta do what you gotta do, you also gotta say what you gotta say.

— Fawaz Turki is a noted academic, journalist and author based in Washington DC. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile