Traumatised Zionist mindset exposed by new Hollywood attack on Glazer for Oscar speech

Son of Saul showed how the Holocaust’s horrors required inmates to hollow out their humanity. The horrors of Gaza have made a moral monster of its director, Laszlo Nemes

Laszlo Nemes, the Hungarian director of the award-winning Holocaust film Son of Saul, joins the elite mob determined to lynch film-maker Jonathan Glazer for trying to publicly prick Hollywood’s conscience at the Oscars ceremony last week and end its deafening silence in the midst of a plausible genocide in Gaza.

Nemes’ statement is a fascinating insight into the emotional and ideological contortions of the traumatised Zionist mind, incapable – given its particularist, zero-sum worldview – of acknowledging the endless suffering of the Palestinian people. Instead, it constantly seeks to deflect from its responsibility for that pain by demonising those who stand in solidarity with Palestinians or even those who can no longer, in good faith, stand by as 2.3 million people are being bombed and starved to death.

Nemes’ statement, published sympathetically by establishment media outlets, turns the world on its head in accepting the gravest atrocities in living memory only because they are being committed by Israel – a militarised, settler colonial state that claims to represent Jews around the world and was founded, with western backing, on the ruins of the Palestinian people’s homeland.

A state that has been ethnically cleansing Palestinians for eight decades and is now declared by the international human rights community to be an apartheid state.

A state that the World Court has ruled is committing a plausible genocide, and is known to have killed and maimed many tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and created famine conditions for some 2 million more.

All of this, according to Nemes, is evidence not that Israel has turned out to be a classic example of the abused turning abuser but of a continuing global plot supposedly against the Jewish people, one that threatens their existence more so even than the Nazi Holocaust.

It is, says Nemes, Zionist Jews like himself who are the true victims of Israel’s killing spree in Gaza – not the Palestinians being turned skeletal by a famine induced by the state Nemes identifies with, or the Palestinian bodies blown apart by bombs dropped by the state Nemes says represents him.

It is, Nemes claims, Israel and the Zionist Jews who excuse its every action who are friendless, isolated, vulnerable, even as the United States – the world’s global hegemon – provides a constant flow of bombs to Israel and untold billions in financial aid, and even as Washington and Europe freeze funding to UNRWA, the only United Nations body capable of keeping the famine in Gaza at bay.

All of that is irrelevant to Nemes’ traumatised, sick mind. He demands Glazer and others of conscience stay silent – stop “moralising” – and let Israel finish the job of erasing Gaza. A job it has been carrying out incrementally for decades with the support of the same western establishments that originally gave away what was not theirs to give away – the homeland of the Palestinian people – to a Zionist movement that had promised to colonise Palestine on the West’s behalf.

With zero self-awareness, Nemes tells Glazer to instead worry about the “sorry state of cinema” and “the destruction of creative and artistic freedom by corporate mindset”.

Yet in the same breath, he dismisses as antisemitism the call to stop bombing children in the pursuit of corporate profits by the arms industry, and the demand for Washington to stop backing a genocide by its most useful client state in controlling the oil-rich Middle East. Calls for an end to occupation, calls for the imposition of a ceasefire, remind him of “12th-century archbishops, in an ecstatic state of self-righteousness, self-flagellation, denouncing vice, longing for purity”. According to Nemes, abhorrence at babies and children being actively starved to death is nothing more than a medieval “longing for purity”.

Glazer, in calling for Israel to stop hijacking the voice of Jews by claiming to speak for them all and shielding itself from criticism by weaponising the Holocaust, is supposedly regurgitating “talking points disseminated by propaganda meant to eradicate, at the end, all Jewish presence from the Earth”.

In Nemes’s twisted mind, Glazer’s call for an end to Israel’s belligerent occupation and 17-year siege of Gaza, and the oceans of Palestinian and Israeli blood spilt to sustain it, is simple propaganda that leads to the extermination of all Jews. Is it not Nemes who sounds like some terrifying throwback to the Dark Ages, not Glazer?

Nemes ends with a warning as divorced from reality as the rest of his screed. We are, he says, “reaching pre-Holocaust levels of anti-Jewish hatred”, in what he describes bafflingly as a “trendy, ‘progressive’ way”. So presumably in Nemes’ mind, the threat of antisemitism is not posed by the far-right racists stalking the corridors of power, like Donald Trump or Hungary’s own Viktor Orban, or the white nationalists who see Israel as a model for their own ethnic supremacist nationalism that will demand Jews be exiled from the West to a Jewish ghetto in the Middle East. No, Nemes is worried about those “progressives” who want equality for Palestinians and Jews, who want an end to Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians.

Son of Saul showed a Jewish inmate of Auschwitz who gained marginal privileges over other inmates by turning himself into a hollow, morally empty creature ignoring the horrors all around. There could be no clearer metaphor for the moral monster the genocide in Gaza has made of Laszlo Nemes.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.