How one actress faced down the Zionist hoodlums in Hollywood
Vanessa Redgrave's 1978 Oscar acceptance speech has stood the test of time.
At the 1978 Oscars, left-wing actress Vanessa Redgrave won the award for Best Supporting Actress. She had played the title role in Julia, an anti-Nazi fighter.
She gave a speech which, as recently as 2019, the The New York Times still considered rendered that night “the most political ceremony in Academy history.”
The previous year, Redgrave had sold two houses to raise the funds to make The Palestinian, a documentary about the Palestinian struggle which she narrated herself.
After her Oscar nomination for Julia, terrorist group the Jewish Defence League (JDL) threatened the members of the Academy with repercussions if they voted for Redgrave, citing her “one-sided” film and her support for the Palestinian people.
They put a bounty on Redgrave’s head and picketed Oscar night, burning her in effigy as “Arafat’s whore”. A JDL member would later go on to be convicted of the bombing of a Los Angeles theatre which had been set to screen The Palestinian.
So it was a great victory that the Academy had ignored the JDL’s threats and voted for Redgrave to win the Oscar. She used her speech to thank the audience.
“I pay tribute to you and I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks, you’ve stood firm,” she said.
“You have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums—” boos and audible gasps from the audience. She persevered:
“… whose behaviour is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.”
She went on to commit herself to the struggle against fascism and anti-Semitism. But it is her condemnation of the Zionist hoodlums of the JDL which that night is best remembered for.