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Favorite moment from the Oscars
Published in the Arab News Feb. 22, 2017
By Ray Hanania
Over the past few weeks in America, the mainstream news media has been focused on the presentation of Oscars for Hollywood’s “best” films at the Academy Awards this Sunday (Feb. 26).
Many media rebroadcast and reported on “favorite moments” from the annual movie celebration that has been taking place since 1929.
Memories include the moment when actor Roberto Benigni won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1999 for the movie Life is Beautiful, about an Italian Jew who tries to bring happiness to other Jews at a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Benigni walked to the stage standing on the tops of the backs of the audience chairs creating an unusual site. The film also won Best Foreign Film.
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There were other funny and serious moments that the media mentioned, including when actor Marlon Brando rejected the Oscar award for Best Actor in 1973 for his role in the Godfather. Native American and actress Sacheen Littlefeather explained that Brando was rejecting the award in protest of Hollywood’s negative portrayal of Native Americans in movie films.
There were so many great moments like that. But the one that the news media didn’t mention was the one that took place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1978 when Vanessa Redgrave won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her performance in the movie “Julia.”
The movie Julia depicted the story of a woman who raised money to fight the Nazis and their persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.
Redgrave had also just completed a documentary detailing Israeli violence and atrocities against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Occupied Jerusalem.
Terrorist members of the Jewish Defense League were allowed to protest and make threats outside of the Academy Awards presentation, attacking Redgrave and libeling her as police stood by watching.
In going to the stage to accept her Oscar, Redgrave thanked the audience then gave one of the greatest Academy Award speeches to champion the rights of the oppressed people all over the World.
She thanked the Academy Awards for standing firm against “Fascism,” and she commemorated the historic Jewish struggle against Fascism and oppression.
Redgrave denounced the protestors outside the awards ceremony as “a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.”
She continued, “I salute that record and I salute all of you for having stood firm and dealt a final blow against that period when Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch hunt against those who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believe in. I salute you and thank you and I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against anti-Semitism and fascism.”
I remember seeing her speak and it made me inspired me, reinforcing my commitment to pursue peace and justice for Palestinians in the Middle East and peace based on justice with Israel.
The audience reacted with a mix of gasps and some applause, but not a lot. Of course, there were no American Arabs in Hollywood movie roles in the 1970s and the only movies made by Hollywood about the Middle East portrayed all Arabs as terrorists and Israelis as heroes, victims and Holocaust survivors that they blamed on the Arabs.
Later during the Academy Awards, pro-Israel screenwriter Sidney “Paddy” Chayefsky denounced Redgrave saying, “I am sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propaganda of their own personal agenda. I would like to suggest to Ms. Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed.”
Chayefsky was a notorious racist Arab hater who produced the vicious anti-Arab film “Network.” It was not surprising that he ignored the vicious assaults against Redgrave by protestors outside the Academy Award, and it was rumored that he later met with the hate-driven organizers who praised his criticism of Redgrave.
Ironically, many actors who have received Oscars have used their moment in the spotlight to showcase their personal causes, including Chayefsky’s colleagues.
Only Redgrave, who had the courage to stand up for the rights of Palestinians was denounced. And it took real courage to defend the Palestinians back in the 1970s, especially in America and especially in the movie industry, which profited from films that thrived on anti-Arab hate.
That anti-Arab trend in Hollywood continues till this day, although there are some token films that have been made showcasing the positive contributions and compelling narratives of Arabs and Muslims.
But not enough has. And no one has stood up to defend the rights of Palestinians in Hollywood more forcefully that Vanessa Redgrave.
If you watch the Oscars this Sunday, take a moment to recall a true Hollywood hero who stood up for justice and righteousness.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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