Tony Kushner Agrees With Jonathan Glazer: ‘Looks A Lot Like Ethnic Cleansing To Me’

Jonathan Glazer has found strong support for his public stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The “Zone of Interest” director visibly trembled earlier this month as he accepted the Oscar for Best International Film and called out Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. While hundreds of Jews in Hollywood denounced him for it, screenwriter Tony Kushner isn’t one of them.

When asked Wednesday on the Haaretz Podcast if he could identify with Glazer — who delivered the only Oscars speech that directly acknowledged the war in Gaza — Kushner answered with palpable bewilderment: “Of course. I mean, who doesn’t?”

“What he’s saying is so simple,” the Tony Award winner added. “He’s saying: Jewishness, Jewish identity, Jewish history, the history of the Holocaust … of Jewish suffering must not be used … as an excuse for a project of dehumanizing or slaughtering other people.”

“This is a misappropriation of what it means to be a Jew, what the Holocaust meant, and [Glazer] rejects that,” Kushner, who is himself Jewish, continued. “Who doesn’t agree with that? What kind of person thinks that what’s going on now in Gaza is acceptable.”

The “Zone of Interest” depicts the lives of Auschwitz concentration camp commandant Rudolf Höss and his family. Intended to explore Nazi Germany’s banality of evil with no escape for the viewer, it was widely acclaimed — before Glazer gave his speech.

“Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst,” he said at the podium, adding: “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.”

Glazer, who asked how “the victims of Oct. 7 in Israel” and those of “the ongoing attack in Gaza” could resist such dehumanization, has since been condemned by more than 1,000 Jewish Hollywood figures including Debra Messing, Eli Roth and Amy Pascal.

Glazer visibly trembled while reading his acceptance speech at the Oscars earlier this month.
Glazer visibly trembled while reading his acceptance speech at the Oscars earlier this month. Rich Polk/Variety/Getty Images

Kushner, whose Oscar-nominated script for Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” (2005) notably wrestled with ideas of revenge and identity, said Glazer’s words were an “unimpeachable, irrefutable statement” — and rejected the conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel.

“The people that I know who are passionately involved in calls for a ceasefire, these are not people who are anti-Semites,” Kushner said Wednesday, “their interest is not in destroying Israel and certainly their interest is not in pogroms against Jews elsewhere.”

Kushner argued the pushback against Glazer stems from the “rage” of those fearing for the “millions of lives” affected by this conflict but, as a longtime critic of Israel’s policies and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, notably included Palestinians in that equation.

“Because before our eyes, what really looks a lot like ethnic cleansing, to me, is going on,” Kushner said on the podcast. “I mean, I tend to believe the people on the extreme right in Netanyahu’s cabinet who say, ‘Yeah it’s ours now,’ how is that not ethnic cleansing?”

Around 1,200 Israelis were killed in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. The Israeli military has since killed more than 30,000 Palestinians — mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry — and is currently laying siege to Gaza’s biggest hospital.