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Mideast Conflict at Oscar Ceremonies

April 5, 1978
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The Arab-Israeli conflict came to the Academy Awards 50th anniversary ceremony last night, if but briefly. It was injected by British actress Vanessa Redgrave, who, after winning on Oscar for best supporting actress in “Julia,” praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for not being “intimidated by threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums.”

Her remarks were ignored by the participants in the ceremony except for playwright Paddy Chayefsky who denounced her for using the nationally-televised program to air her own political views. “I am sick and tired of people using the Academy Awards for their own political views,” he said. “Ms. Redgrave winning an award is not a pivotal moment in history. She did not have to make a political proclamation. A simple thank you would have sufficed.”

Chayefsky, who said he could not have lived with himself if he had not made his remarks before presenting the writing awards, was warmly applauded. Ms. Redgrave was also applauded although there were many “boos” when she used the words “Zionist hoodlums.”

The controversial British actress was apparently referring to threats that the Jewish Defense League had made in protest of her nomination for her work in “Julia” because of her support of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Ms. Redgrave has been denounced by Jewish groups for her documentary film, “The Palestinian,” which expresses a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli view.


Several hundred JDL members picketed the Los Angeles Music Center where the awards ceremony was going on. They were kept separate from a small number of PLO supporters. According to a report, the only case of violence occurred when three JDL members jumped three men wearing Nazi uniforms. Two of the Nazis were reportedly taken to the hospital and two of the JDL members arrested.

The award to Ms. Redgrave was the first in the three-hour program in an apparent effort by the Academy to get any problems over with immediately. Chayefsky’s appearance did not come until the show was nearly over.

In her speech after receiving the Oscar, Ms. Redgrave said: “You should be very proud that in the last few weeks you stood firm and you refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic struggle against Fascism and oppression.” She declared that she would continue to fight against “anti-Semitism and fascism.” In “Julia,” which is based on a story by Lillian Hellman, Ms. Redgrave plays a friend of Ms. Hellman called Julia who worked in an underground movement before World War II helping Jews and others flee the Nazis.


On a non-political note, the best foreign language film award went to the French-made “Madame Rosa,” directed by an Israeli, Moshe Mizrachi. He was also the director of the Israeli film, “I Love You Rosa.” One of the five films nominated for the foreign language award was “Operation Thunderbolt,” the Israeli-made film on the rescue of hostages in Entebbe, Uganda in July, 1976.

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