The overt antisemitic comments by rapper, Kanye West and Net basketball player, Kyrie Irving flashed danger signals to such Jewish organizations as the American Defamation League. Because these two Black performers are so well known their comments that support antisemitic tropes, such as Jews controlling the banks and Hollywood, it can cause their huge numbers of followers to accept these tropes as a truth. But what I found even more annoying and perhaps even more dangerous was the fact that David Chappelle went on to both normalize and reinforce these beliefs in his monologue on Saturday Night Live (S.N.L).
In an earlier blog I posted, I had complimented David Chappelle for pointing out how Jussie Smollett, a Black American actor, had hoodwinked the media and the police department in believing that he had been mugged by three whites wearing MAGA (Make America Great Again) in downtown, Chicago in the wee hours of the morning. I lauded the fact, that as a Black comedian, he did not pull any punches when satirizing the actions of another Black. This has rarely been done by other Black comics.
Mr. Chappelle, however, disappointed me in his recent routine on SNL, when he audaciously stated many negative stereotypes about Jews. To illustrate one: He pointed out when he first came to Hollywood, he learned never to say the following two words together: “The Jews.” The underlying stereotype is that there are so many powerful Jews in Hollywood that you must be careful what you say. In an attempt to dismiss this statement, he said there are also a lot of Blacks in Ferguson, Missouri. But although this was meant to be funny insofar as he is alluding to the fact that Blacks have little power or influence in Ferguson, it does not lessen the implication of his basic message that Jews control Hollywood so beware! He concluded his riff by saying: “It’s not a crazy thing to think Jews own Hollywood, but it’s a crazy thing to say it out loud.”
In the past, Jewish comedians have dealt with ethnic humor. Here I am specifically thinking of Jackie Mason. But when Mason satirized any other group, he would be sure to start his routine by pointing out the foibles of his fellow Jews. So first it would be Jews that were satirized before he would hit on non-Jews or Gentiles. Moreover, even in today’s politically correct society, it is deemed appropriate to criticize your own ethnic group rather than other groups. Imagine a Jewish comedian putting down Afro-Americans as part of his/her routine. I don’t think that individual would last too long on the comic circuit. And heaven help any non-Black who utters the “N” word, a word that has become sacrosanct in the English language, where only Blacks can say it in vain.
Now we come to the interview that Jon Stewart (nee Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz had with Stephen Colbert, late night show host. Previously the two of them had hosted The Daily Show in which leftist political satire became the core of their comedic content. This show actually set a milestone of sorts inasmuch as earlier T.V. hosts, and here I am thinking of Johnny Carson (one of the all-time best comedians in my opinion), avoided any kind of political commentary. Stewart’s dialogue with Colbert focused on the recent rants of antisemitism by Kanye West (now called Ye), Kyrie Irving, and David Chappelle. In an effort to satirize the idea of Jewish control of Hollywood and banks, he said: “I hope to see a Christian president in America.” Stewart’s underlying satire reflects the irony that if Jews are so powerful why hasn’t a Jew ever been elected president.
Rather, than censoring Ye and Irving for their antisemitic diatribe, Stewart thought a better approach would be to understand the Black perspective. Furthermore, he mentioned the censoring of someone’s thoughts will not erase these thoughts. However, the obvious problem with this is that both Ye and Irving, who may carry a huge amount of influence on others, let their thoughts go public. And yes, it’s a free country, but people in a free country also have a right to react negatively to such comments.
Stewart pointed out the importance of reacting to antisemitic tropes by denouncing their invidious fallacious roots. But in admitting that Chappelle, in his routine, normalized the antisemitic tropes of both Ye and Irving, he made no comment. In the past, when Stewart received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Chappelle told the audience how Stewart had mentored and inspired him when he first started out. What a chance this would have been for Stewart to set the record straight, and criticize the ugly stereotypes of Jews that Chappelle had normalized in his routine. Coming from a person he highly admired, I believe Chappelle may have reconsidered and even apologized for his “bad humor.”
Censoring and penalizing individuals that have a huge public following is one way of handling hateful speech. However, I have a better idea. Clint Smith, a Black journalist, recently published an article in the Atlantic Magazine titled: Monuments to the Unthinkable. The article refers to the plaques and central city monuments that have been built in Germany to memorialize that were murdered in the Holocaust. Rather than censor Ye, Irving and Chappelle (the latter, who, to date, has not been censored), why not have them take a trip with Mr. Smith, as their guide, to the places (i.e., concentration camps etc.) where the Holocaust took place. I would add Donald Trump to that tour, who recently hosted two virulent antisemites, Ye and Nick Fuentes, for dinner at Mar-a-Lago.
Stewart concluded his interview with Colbert by saying he has been called an antisemite because he’s against certain policies of Israel toward the Palestinian movement. No, Jon, I don’t consider you an antisemite if you disagree with certain Israeli policies as many American Jews, including myself, feel the same way. One can only wish that Mr. Stewart would speak out as vociferously against antisemitic comments, even if made, by friends of his. Mr. Stewart was asked why he changed his birth name with one response being that “it sounded too Hollywood.” Rather than hiding from his Jewish roots, I think Mr. Stewart might revert back to his birth name of Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz for the next month as his penalty for shying away from defending his people.
2 replies on “ Fighting Antisemitism”
Response to BN blog 12-04-2022
I don’t relate to spectator sports, so I haven’t paid much heed to some other docallegro blogs. I also don’t follow tv or radio at all, let alone talk shows. But (assuming correct descriptions of the incidents he treats here) I appreciate most (though not all) of what docallegro has said here. Three points bear mention.
POINT 1. YES, Mr Stewart should have spoken out plainly – and not let himself be insulted as member of a sterotyped tribe. Timely verbal self-defense is enlightened common sense, as is expressed in two key places in our tradition:
(1) Hillel’s so-called ‘negative’ Golden Rule (which usually is more practical to follow than the so-called ‘positive’ Golden Rule). Namely DO NOT do unto to your ‘neighbor’ (i.e., fellow, peer) what is (or anyhow what common sense suggests should be) hateful to you. In particular, don’t blame someone else for behavior which is not theirs but rather is in your arrogant (and likely also ignorant) stereotype of their tribe.
(2) Leviticus’ (19:18) famous form of the ‘positive’ Golden Rule, ‘love your fellow person as yourself’. This statement in fact is appended to some important and sound practical advice for good – or at least tolerable – relationships: don’t let a grudge against your fellow silently fester, but timely and directly (and without rancor) voice it openly to them.
POINT 2. YES, Stewart’s desire instead to ‘understand the Black perspective’ is misguided for two reason:
(1) Understanding anything (no matter how commendable in itself) DOES NOT SUBSTITUTE for properly and timely defending yourself.
(2) in fact there is no single ‘Black perspective’ any more than there is a single ‘Jewish perspective’. (When scholars offer courses on ‘the Jewish perspective’ on anything – whether ethics or cooking or whatever, their prime material tends to be just what is documented from the past, but rarely does it match the content and variety of current practices and thoughts of today’s millions of Jews.)
To speak of a definitive ‘the Jewish perspective’ or ‘the Black perspective’ can amount to a pseudo-respectful politically correct way to continue to condescend and stereotype. Even when the stereotyped characteristics are positive and praised, the stereotyping has innocent victims: people who insist on being their full selves, not just representatives of ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Blacks’.
Treating antisemitism as an ‘understandable’ aspect of a supposedly definitive ‘Black perspective’ is doubly damaging. It condones antisemitism and penalizes opponents of it among Blacks.
POINT 3. Unfortunately, a tour of Shoah sites will not necessarily convert antisemitic perspectives. Only some antisemites are ‘redeemable’ – being that way from ignorance, or from lapses in what is otherwise their customary sympathy for other folk.
Some other antisemites, on the other hand are extreme and consistently vocal; they virulently hate, and a tour of Shoah sites will simply confirm to them that on the ground Hitler achieved a lot of good.
Then there are outwardly friendlier nominally non-antisemites but potentially equally fatal. They include prominent politicians who pursue policies which give special aid to those who plan and act to murder Jews.
Most notably, Barack Obama’s foreign policy focused on giving greatest aid, among all the world’s regimes, to the one regime (Iran’s) which (as a matter, not merely of temporary policy but indeed of abiding existential doctrine) seeks the nonexistence of Israel and the Islamist subjugation of the USA.
In 2009 Obama made it a point to go to an Islamic university in Cairo to give a signal speech (essentially, a USA would-be apology to the religion of Islam, and a statement that all nations, including Iran, are entitled to nuclear weapons capability). He returned home via a visit to a Shoah site – presumably to assure Jews that he was not one-sidedly with Islamists. But that Shoah site visit in fact replaced a visit to Jerusalem, a more natural complement to the visit to Cairo. In brief, for Obama, the good Jews are the 3-D Jews: duped, donors, or dead. Donors and dupes (which may coincide) are welcome, and the Shoah dead can be praised as virtuous victims; independent live Israeli Jews are not so convenient.
It’s never too late to speak up and say what needs to be said. Hopefully, those with a platform will eventually do the right thing. ________________________________