Jonathan Glazer, October 2023. Jonathan Glazer, October 2023. Photo: Raph_PH / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0 DEED

The many displays of support for Palestine at the Oscars are the direct result of the pressure imposed by the international movement for solidarity, argues Lucy Nichols 

Each spring for the last 96 years, the glitz and glam of Hollywood comes together for a manifestation of red carpets, lavish costumes and either a terrible musical performance or terrible hosting from an American comedian you’ve never heard of. Far from being an honest celebration of film, the Academy Awards allow America’s elites to show off Hollywood’s vulgar decadence, while patting themselves on the back for a year’s hard graft. 

While it was good to see an anti-war film win big, the Oscars are just another opportunity for the celebrity class to swan around in expensive dresses, and for money to be made by anyone and everyone through sponsorships, brand deals and advertisements.  

This year, Oppenheimer was the top winner, bringing in seven different awards, including Best Actor for Cillian Murphy. Other notable awards included Emma Stone’s surprise Best Actress win for Poor Things, and Da’vine Joy Randolph taking home best supporting actress for The Holdovers. Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon) made history as the first Native American to be nominated for an Oscar, although she ultimately lost out to Emma Stone, though this snub had nothing on the anger caused by Barbie’s lack of nominations. 

Millions tune into the Oscars each year: in 2023, 18.5 million people watched the ceremony. Often, attendees use this huge platform to raise awareness for political or social issues. There are plenty of very famous examples of A-listers using their acceptance speeches to make digs at the establishment. This year was no different, and understandably, Palestine was the focus and protests took place in and outside the Dolby Theatre. 

For the first time in history, the prestigious ceremony was delayed by protestors blocking the main road into the theatre. Attendees were shuttled into the venue via golf cart as Los Angeles residents took to the streets demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. 

There is a long history of attendees using the Oscars as a means of taking a political stance. Marlon Brando famously snubbed his award in 1973, instead asking the Native American, Sacheen Littlefeather, to give an acceptance speech on his behalf. That same year, Jane Fonda used her acceptance speech to denounce the Vietnam War and later, in 1978, Vanessa Redgrave hit out at Zionists. There was a swell of protests from actors at the 2003 awards, with Michael Moore famously boo’ed for his criticism of the Iraq War

Palestine ascendant 

This year, various celebrities donned the red ‘Artists4Palestine’ badges. Two young actors from French film Anatomy of a Fall wore Palestine flags on their lapels, and Mark Ruffalo of Poor Things celebrated the delay to the start of the ceremony: ‘the Palestine protestors shut down the Oscars’, he cried on the red carpet, ‘Humanity wins’. 

Jonathan Glazer was, however, the standout. The British director won Best International Film for Zone of Interest, a film about the family of a Nazi officer living next to Auschwitz. The film was made in close collaboration with the Auschwitz Museum, not exactly known for its anti-Zionist credentials. 

Glazer, with visibly shaking hands, used his acceptance speech to condemn the ‘ongoing attack’ in Gaza: 

‘Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of 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 the victims of October 7th in Israel, or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanisation, how do we resist?’ 

Unlike Michael Moore’s 2003 speech, Glazer was met with applause from the audience for this genuinely brave speech. Hollywood has previously been very unkind to those defending Palestine; Susan Sarandon, for instance, was dropped by her agents for condemning Israel. 

Too much should not be read into the few instances of support for Palestine at this year’s Oscars: the Academy is not going to end ties with Israel as a result, nor will the US establishment pay any attention to Glazer’s wonderful speech. Celebrities should be encouraged to stand up for Palestine (as should anyone), but the wearing of a small red badge that only means something to those in the know is not massively groundbreaking.  

What is encouraging, however, is that Glazer was not booed off the stage, but met with support. A number of very famous celebrities wore the small red badge, with two proudly displaying a Palestine flag on their tuxedos. Palestine was very present at the 96th Academy Awards, regardless of official attempts to stop this and the US establishment’s total hostility to anti-war and anti-Zionist voices. 

In October, there were very few celebrities willing openly to support Palestine. Now we are in a position where we have had five months of continuous protests and a huge international movement has been built. The majority of Americans support a ceasefire, including 49% of Republicans. 

It is incredibly unlikely that this would’ve been the case had there not been a globalised movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Palestine was the issue of the day at the biggest and most famous awards ceremony in the world, thanks entirely to the power of protest.  

We must continue our efforts to make sure that Palestine remains the issue on everyone’s minds until there is a permanent ceasefire and the Palestinian people are free. 

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