Mason rapped for Zionist gig

Israel's anniversary 'nothing to celebrate'

Veteran Jewish comic Jackie Mason has come under fire for agreeing to perform a London gig celebrating 60 years of the Israeli state.

The 71-year-old is headlining the Israel 60 gala show at Wembley Arena next month organised by the Zionist Federation.

But stand-up Ivor Dembina, who is also Jewish, said: ‘There is nothing to celebrate about Israel until the occupation ends and justice and freedom is extended to its citizens irrespective of their ethnic background.’

He is helping to organise a charity gig on the same night as Mason’s show, but in protest at Israel’s presence in the Occupied Territories.

Mason has long been an outspoken supporter of the Israeli state, and was a co-founder of the One Jerusalem Foundation, whose aim is keep the capital of the Jewish people undivided under Israeli control. He has said: ‘Everybody knows we're entitled to one Jerusalem because it’s our historic land and anybody who denies it is also denying reality.’

In 2002, Mason was criticised after Palestinian comic Ray Hanania was dropped from supporting him on tour. His manager and wife, Jyll Rosenfeld, said at the time: ‘Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him.’ However, Mason later said he was not involved in the decision.

Dembina claimed that Mason was ‘a dismal record on peace and justice including a refusal to share a stage with a performer of Arabic origins’.

‘He is a bad Jewish joke,‘ he said.‘Never mind Israel not wanting to share Jerusalem with Palestinians - he won't even share a stage with one.’

When Chortle asked Mason for a response, he said: ‘I don't reply to idiotic statements and I don't refuse to perform with Palestinian comics unless they hate Israel and spew anti-Semitism.’

Dembina’s gig, 60 Years: What A State, takes place at Hampstead Town Hall in North London on May 8, on Israeli Independence Day, or Yom Ha'atzmaut. It features Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steel, Reginald D Hunter and Shazia Mirza.

Dembina said: ‘For 15 years I’ve run a great little comedy club in the heart of north London's Jewish community in Hampstead. It’s the nearest thing to Jewish comedy club on the circuit, but I'm very proud of the way Jews and non-Jews happily share their enthusiasm for comedy. People of different races and religions will always be welcome at my club and they’ll all be just as welcome at 60 Years: What A State!'

Mason is currently performing his farewell New York show, The Ultimate Jew, and regularly broadcasts his opinions on YouTube podcasts.

Published: 28 Apr 2008

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