Rant against Israel by Jewish director was jarring

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A few years ago, a bunch of people tried to erase the memory of Christopher Columbus.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. What they really wanted to do was to defame him and turn him into a caricature of a genocidal colonialist, completely manipulating the historical facts to fit their post-“George Floyd” sensitivities.

I remember standing in the middle of Marconi Plaza in Philadelphia, standing in front of the Columbus statue along with other like-minded Italian Americans, all of us gathered to prevent the then-mayor’s attempts to remove the one-and-a-half centuries-old statue from its place of honor.

I also remember seeing some self-defined Italian Americans marching along with their Antifa allies, saying things like “not in my name” and “Columbus shames Italians.” It was a bit of a gut punch to see people who allegedly shared my proud heritage walking arm-in-arm with those who were slandering one of our great heroes.

This was, I thought, nothing more than masochism and self-hatred.

I had that same feeling last week watching the Oscars. When Jonathan Glazer got up to accept his well-deserved Oscar for Best Foreign Film, “Zone of Interest,” I had flashbacks to those moments in Marconi Plaza.

Here was a Jewish man literally saying that he refuted his Jewishness, his ethnicity, his religion and his heritage because he believed that Israel was perpetrating a “genocide” in Gaza.

This was all the more shocking because the film that was just honored was a deeply moving story about the banality of evil, about a family of Nazis trying to live normal lives in the shadow of a concentration camp.

I have not yet seen the film, and despite Glazer’s comments, I intend to. We must remember genocide.

The poignant plea “never again” has gone unheeded, because antisemitism proliferates in this country and all over the world. The least that we can do is reflect and take note.

That’s why Glazer’s comments were so jarring.

Christopher Columbus is intimately tied to the Italian immigrant identity.

He was raised up as a symbol of strength and dignity, resilience and cultural significance in response to the mass lynching of Italian immigrants in New Orleans over a hundred years ago.

He may not be the perfect example of Italian excellence — I’m partial to Da Vinci to be honest — but he is definitely on the shortlist.

The Holocaust is different. While it is also uniquely tied to the Jewish experience and the most painful and compelling example of suffering in the diaspora, it belongs to all of us as well.

The measure of your humanity is defined by how you see the Holocaust.

If you deny it happened, like the famous writer David Irving, or if you minimize its importance, like the racist Louis Farrakhan, or if you simply wish people would stop talking about it, you are not a good person.

You are, to me, unworthy of respect.

Only those who view the Holocaust as a thing to which nothing else can be compared, no other assault on human rights, no matter how horrific it might have been, are people who share my worldview.

Decades of practicing asylum law have exposed me to the absolute worst of the human condition. There have been and continue to be killing fields all over the world. But the scope and the aftermath of what is known as the Shoah stands alone in time, space and significance.

And that is why I feel authorized to condemn Jonathan Glazer for daring to call what is happening in Gaza a holocaust, even with the small “h.”

Israel is not the Third Reich, intent on erasing an entire civilization simply because of its members’ innate identity.

Israel did not start bombing Gaza in a vacuum. Oct. 7 happened, just as Dec. 7 happened, just as Sept. 11 happened.

You cannot separate the carnage in Gaza from the carnage against innocent men, women and children living peacefully on kibbutzes.

Loss of life is always tragic, but some tragedies are worse than others. I have no problem deciding who deserves the lion’s share of my tears.

As a Catholic woman, I am surprised that a Jewish man who just made a sublime film about the massacre of his ancestors is incapable of seeing the difference in tragedies, the need to dispense with moral absolutes about the inhumanity of war, and the obligation to guarantee the safe return of Israeli hostages before even one gun is silenced.

Copyright 2024 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].

Christine Flowers is a Philadelphian who loves the Eagles but can leave the cheesesteaks. She writes about anything that will likely annoy the majority of people, and in her spare time practices immigration law (which is bound to annoy at least some people.)