OPINION: Unlike Jonathan Glazer I see two sides to this

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Unlike Jonathan Glazer I see two sides to this

Josh Glancy considers the social cost and professional implications of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

There’s a famous line from an old Thomas Wyatt poem that’s been intruding on my thoughts of late. “They flee from me that, sometime did me seek,” Wyatt wrote. In this poem, the Tudor courtier and casanova is describing the schism that develops between former lovers, in his case quite possibly the future queen Anne Boleyn. But the words have been haunting me in the very different context of Israel’s war in Gaza.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the uneasy silences we now live with daily as British Jews. The unsettling sense that people have begun to perceive us differently. That conversations are happening behind our backs about our continued support for Israel, in all its different degrees. That we are being judged not just for what we do in life, but for who we are. That as well as being regular people who buy food in supermarkets and watch football on weekends, we are also bad people who support genocide.

I have this lingering fear that people, even people who love me, people whom I love, now view me as lost in a vortex of misguided ethnic allegiance. That people who used to respect me now view me as morally adrift, even worthy of contempt. And in my darkest, most doubtful moments, when I’m wrestling my synapses to sleep, sometimes I fear they might be right. Maybe we are the bad guys. Maybe I’m too blinded by loyalty to truly see it. Maybe.

I go to bed each night with unspoken thoughts pinballing around my brain, agitated by my own silences. Should I have said something to a colleague who retweeted a call for the world to unite against Zionists? Should my friend have confronted a business associate who interrupted an (unrelated) meeting to tell him that they now feel awkward around Jews, because of their support for Israel?

Josh Glancy

More often we choose silence. This issue, more than any other, is so freighted with moral fervour it can dissolve friendships in an instant, as though they’ve been dipped in acid.

What is it then, that people aren’t saying to me? What should I be saying to them, those genocide-calling friends of mine who have never spoken up for Syria or Sudan, for Uyghurs or Rohingyas? When did they suddenly become experts in international law? Why this issue, this war? Why always us? They flee from me, that sometime did me seek.

Some of this is no doubt neurotic, paranoid even, but what Jew doesn’t have a tendency to both? I feel this psychic pressure each day when I am out in the world. What do they think of us? Do they judge my silence? Of course they do. They must. The tension of feeling like a bad person, stuck on the wrong side of history, drains you, it gnaws at you, daring you to speak out, to cross the aisle.

I’m not sure Oscars acceptance speeches lend themselves to nuance or complexity or film directors are best placed to provide careful analysis of just war theory.

I’ve been thinking about this tension a lot in the context of Jonathan Glazer, the director of Oscar-winning movie The Zone of Interest, which is about the family life of Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss.

Upon winning the award for best international film, Glazer used his acceptance speech on Sunday night to, as he styled it, “refute” the use of his Jewishness and the legacy of the Holocaust being “hijacked” to justify the Israeli occupation, and the conflicts that it has spawned, including the current one.

The Zone of Interest

To be honest, I found Glazer’s language and reasoning rather garbled. I take his point that the legacy of the Holocaust does not and should not give Israel a free pass. But I also think it’s reductive and simplistic to claim that the current war is simply a product of the occupation, when it is undeniably being fought in response to a vast and unjustifiable crime.

In a way though, I’m less interested in debating the rights and wrongs of Glazer’s muddled cri de coeur, as I’m not sure Oscars acceptance speeches lend themselves to nuance or complexity or film directors are best placed to provide careful analysis of just war theory.

I still support my people’s right to defend themselves, even if I sometimes baulk at the manner of that defence.

I’m more interested in Glazer’s motivations for making the speech. Sincere, authentic feeling is I’m sure one of them. But the tension and weight of not coming out against Israel must have been gnawing away at him too. I work at a centrist newspaper and have mostly politically moderate friends. Imagine working in the arts, where almost everyone around you is fiercely condemning Israel daily, where your friends begin to demand – subtly and not so  subtly – that you say something.

How tempting it must be. Just a few words of condemnation. What a small price to pay for admittance into the ranks of the righteous. What a relief it must be to have picked a side, to feel once more the adulation and acceptance of your peers and colleagues. To have broken the silence. I envy Glazer in a way, much as I envy those who never falter or concede an inch in their support for Israel.

And yet I will not follow Glazer, because I cannot share his apparent certainty. I still see two sides to this. I still support my people’s right to defend themselves, even if I sometimes baulk at the manner of that defence. And if this makes me repellent to some, then that is the price I will pay.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: