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Comedians defend Israel the best way they know how: Make ’em laugh

(JTA) — In his viral video on social media after the Hamas attack on Israel, comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding riffs on the imagined reactions of an intolerably “woke” activist.

“If there was a Hamas terrorist attack at a queer rave in Brooklyn or Berlin, there’d probably be a purple-haired girl in the center of the massacre watching all her friends being brutally murdered [switches to a high-pitched voice]: ‘It’s OK, guys, resistance is justified when people are occupied! It’s Israel’s fault!’”

He continues: “Her best friend’s being burned alive and mutilated. [He switches to character’s voice] ‘It’s okay, McKayla, take one for the team!’ She’d probably take a knife and start stabbing herself. [He mimics stabbing himself] ‘I’m fighting apartheid!’”

Funny? To some. Provocative, certainly. Spaulding’s video has been viewed 9 million times.

With the war on Gaza, hostages still in captivity, antisemitism raging around the world and on U.S. college campuses, there doesn’t seem much to laugh about. But many people like Spaulding are using humor to push back against what they see as a propaganda war against Israel and Jews.

After the attack, “I saw friends of mine posting ‘Palestinians have the right to defend themselves,’” said Spaulding, 38, a Canadian who is not Jewish but had just performed in Tel Aviv. He thought his friends didn’t understand what really happened on Oct. 7.

“I had been visiting Israel for so long I forgot how antisemitic people were and how much they hated Israel,” he said. He wanted to say something, and finally posted his first comedic video defending Jews and Israel.

“Comedians are social critics: We have the ability through humor to expose hypocrisy, to make people think about things in a certain way,” he said. “Doing the right thing doesn’t come at the right time. You have to be brave, there might be a risk and consequences.”

“Comedians are social critics,” says Daniel-Ryan Spaulding, a Canadian comic who had just performed in Tel Aviv when Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attack. (Courtesy)

Some comedians already in the Jewish space are devoting content to current affairs. On social media, Alex Edelman, star of Broadway’s “Just For Us,” spoofed Hamas’ call for a global Day of Rage: “Yesterday was the day of resistance, today is the day of rage, tomorrow you rest, because you’re tired from all the rage, and then Sunday’s pizza, and then Monday you’re back to rage! And Tuesday’s obviously tacos.”

@alexedelman♬ original sound – Alex Edelman

He followed that video with one advising Jews to pick a “gentile” name for when things get really bad, by combining the name of a president and a small city. (Edelman’s gentile name is Thomas Albany III, “but my friends call me Tug,” he jokes.)

Jews use humor in times of trouble in a lot of different ways, said Jeremy Dauber, professor of Yiddish, literature and culture at Columbia University and the author of “Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.” “There are theories that humor helps to provide a sense of resilience — to help endure and psychologically manage stressful situations,” he said.

Joking about a situation might provide audiences some comfort, or a sense of control over something “that they know is all too well beyond their power to control,” Dauber said, noting that comedy also may be used to cut opponents down to size.

That seems to be the purpose of many humorous viral TikToks by Israelis. In Israel, it seems like every soldier, comedian, actress or cute kid is making reels to amuse, inspire or distract Israelis.

“Pardon my French, but listen to me good: the minute you crawl out of your hiding place I will break your unibrow. You are ruining my quality of life, I won’t put up with this anymore!” says Moshe Korsia, an Israeli singer now serving in the reserves, in a Hebrew reel directed at Hamas. In the video, he wears his uniform and makes coffee, his signature move.

Korsia posts multiple videos a day. He has 200,000 followers on TikTok and 250,000 on Instagram, and his videos regularly get over 100,000 views.

@moshekorsiaתתפללו לרפואתה ♬ צליל מקורי – Moshe Korsia

Israeli comedian Adir Miller even joked about soldiers acting out on social media, during a recent performance for troops in the field. “I have a little problem with the soldiers on the internet,” said Miller. “Politicians tell the soldiers, ‘You guys are lions, leopards, foxes,’ but I go on TikTok and I see all the soldiers [imitates a soldier singing and dancing to a trivial Israeli pop song]. What is up with this? Stop it! Do you see Hamas doing this?”

Actress Meital Avni (4.1 million views on TikTok) has lately used her platform to call out what she sees as hypocrisy on the part of the media and Israel’s critics. She too mocked the BBC, which apologized Wednesday for reporting that the Israeli military was targeting medical teams and at Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital.”Oops, you did it again,” she sang, quoting a Britney Spears song. “You gave a fake report/it was a mistake…”

Humor as a response to the trauma of Oct. 7 and the war that has followed is not for everyone, though. “I’ve always relied on humor to overcome hardship, even to gain strength from it,” said Hadas Bueno, a therapist who helps children in Israel process their emotions. “After such a horrendous disaster I didn’t think it would be possible to consider using humor.”

But she changed her mind when she saw a comedy sketch on Israel’s popular satire show “Eretz Nehederet” (“It’s a Wonderful Life”). In it, a character based on Rachel Edri, the real-life woman who offered cookies to the Hamas terrorists who broke into her home in Ofakim, is now leading Israel’s military.

“As Jews, we know how to use sarcastic and commendable humor better than anyone else because history has taught us that we must learn to laugh even when it’s tough to continue, survive, and be strong,” said Bueno.

“Eretz Nehederet” writer Itay Reicher, who helped pen the Rachel skit, has been with the show for 17 of the 20 years it has been on the air.

“We’ve been writing the show through three-and-a-half wars — I think the new thing is that it gets a wider audience,” said Reicher, who also wrote two viral English-language sketches: the BBC “news” spoof where newscaster “Harry Whiteguilt” shows a video of the hospital bombing from “Hamas, the most credible not terrorist organization in the world,” and the “Welcome to Columbia Untisemity” skit, where a pink-haired student says “everyone is welcome, LGBTQ-H” — noting the H is for Hamas.

Reicher said the parody of pro-Palestinian activism on American college campuses hit a chord on both sides of the debate. “We’re very passionate about the woke ultra-left progressive students in colleges ripping down posters of children torn from their beds, and I think we knew it was resonating when people disliked it. It unsettled them,” he said. “It put a mirror in front of them.” The video has gotten 17 million views on Twitter alone.

Spaulding, the Canadian comic, also put out a reel about anti-Israel activists tearing down posters depicting the Israelis taken hostage by Hamas. He calls them out, “in your little Yassir Arafat scarves doing your little Jihad Jane cosplay … I’m a gay guy, I’m going down with the Jews.”

Does Spaulding — who appears in his off-Broadway show “Power Gay” at Red Eye NY on Nov. 19 and 24 — think that his videos will reach anyone outside the bubble of Israel supporters?

“I don’t know if I’m changing minds,” he said. “But at least I’m trying.”

The post Comedians defend Israel the best way they know how: Make ’em laugh appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Jewish Comedian Michael Rapaport Announces Stand-Up Debut in Israel

Michael Rapaport. Photo: YouTube screenshot

Jewish-American actor and comedian Michael Rapaport announced that he will perform two full-length and live stand-up comedy shows in Israel for the first time ever in October.

He will be performing in Jerusalem on Oct. 13 at the Jerusalem Theatre and in Tel Aviv on Oct. 14 at the theater Beit HaHayal, he said in an Instagram post on Sunday. He added: “I’m so honored, I’m so excited & pray that all the hostages will be home by then & the country & people will be able to heal by October. Baruch Hashem.” Tickets are currently on sale for both shows.

Rapaport has been one of the most vocal supporters of Israel in Hollywood since the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel. He has constantly advocated for the release of the hostages held captive by Hamas since Oct. 7 and joined hundreds of other entertainment industry figures in signing an open letter to US President Joe Biden calling for the immediate release of those still in captivity in Gaza.

Before Oct. 7, Rapaport had never visited Israel, but since the Hamas massacre, he has traveled to the Jewish state several times to visit families of hostages and speak at events for those who were abducted. He has also made guest appearances on the Israeli comedy satire show Eretz Nehederet. During one English-language skit on the show in late February, he pretended to host this year’s Academy Awards and commented on the hypocrisy of Hollywood stars for staying silent about the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

While speaking to The Jerusalem Post in May, Rapaport talked about his love for the people of Israel.

“They’ve been so used to being f—ked with: terrorism, intifadas, soldiers being killed, their fight to exist, and the need to explain their existence; it creates an incredible type of person. You don’t really understand it until you engage with them, and since Oct. 7, I’ve been so fortunate to engage with so many of them,” he said. “These two long trips I’ve been on [to Israel] have changed me as a Jew, as a New Yorker, and as a man. I can’t put my finger on it because it’s still happening right now. But one thing I know is that Israel will be a big part of my life going forward. I’m going to make up for lost time.”

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Anti-Israel Coalition at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Issues Threat to Jewish Community

Illustrative: Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

A coalition of anti-Zionist groups at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) has issued an open threat to Jews who support Israel and Jewish organizations, promising to treat them as “extremist criminals.”

“We will no longer normalize genocidal extremists walking on our campus,” the group, which calls itself UWM Popular University for Palestine, posted on Instagram last week. “Any organization or entity that supports Israel is not welcome at UWM. This includes the local extremist groups such as Hillel, Jewish Federation, etc.”

Reiterating its first point, the group continued, “We refuse to normalize extremists and extremist groups walking around our campus. We are watching Israel’s legitimacy and international recognition fall to pieces on the world stage. Any organization that has not separated themselves from Israel will be treated accordingly as extremist criminals. Stay tuned.”

Photo: Screenshot

The statement has since been deleted, but it alarmed the local Jewish community, which interpreted the post as a declaration of violence to come.

“While we deeply believe in and support freedom of speech and freedom of expression, we believe this post could encourage harassment and violence towards Jewish students on campus as well as towards the staff of Hillel and the Jewish Federation,” said the Milwaukee Jewish Federation said in an email to the local community.

The federation said it alerted UWM police, Hillel leadership, and the FBI of the apparent threat.

The local district attorney, however, argued that UWM Popular University for Palestine’s comments are protected by the First Amendment, according to the federation.

“Our office is currently working with UWM Police to further investigate this matter,” Milwaukee County District Attorney Chief Deputy Kent Lovern told the Wisconsin Law Journal this week.

At the time of publication, the university is the only non-Jewish body that has appeared to denounce the anti-Israel group and condemn hate speech.

“UWM takes this post seriously and recognizes that the language in it, if acted upon, would undermine the safety of the UWM community, especially Jewish individuals and organizations,” the university said in a statement. “Where speech is not protected by the First Amendment, UWM will address it through appropriate processes, which could include student and student organization disciplinary processes. While hateful or intimidating speech is legally protected, it conflicts with the respect and conduct we ask of each member of our community.”

UWM also said it “strongly denounces these statements and denounces any form of antisemitism, and we will be actively monitoring campus as a result.”

However, the school’s responses to antisemitism on the campus have been mixed since the Palestinian terror group Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, emboldening the radical anti-Zionist groups which operate there according to a paper by UWM political science professor Shale Horowitz.

Published earlier this month, the paper — titled, “The Campus War against Israel: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — argues that the administration was first to countenance violence and discrimination against Jews when it issued a statement about the Oct. 7 onslaught “without naming Hamas as the aggressor.” Until this week, Horowitz argued, he school had refused to address antisemitism as a stand-alone issue, denouncing both “antisemitism and Islamophobia” despite there having been little evidence of the latter and many instances of the former, including an incident in which an anti-Zionist mob descended on a Hillel event calling for “intifada” and a “free Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

Later, after anti-Zionists commandeered a section of campus, setting up a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on the property, UWM chancellor Mark Mone praised protests against Israel as “history” unfolding “across the nation and the world.” Mone added, “I appreciate that the protests have remained peaceful and have not disrupted daily campus operations. And it is laudable that so many learning opportunities have been incorporated into life inside the encampment. This is a reflection of our campus community as a whole — and I salute the many instances of people coming together, discussing issues of the day, and welcoming the diverse people and opinions on our campus.”

Mone went on to endorse a litany of falsehoods about Israel in a statement announcing an agreement to end the encampment. Accepting the ideological premises of the anti-Zionist movement, he described Israel’s conduct in the war against Hamas as “genocide” and equated Hamas’ kidnapping women, children, and the elderly to Israel’s detaining of Palestinian terrorists, which Horowitz criticized for being a false equivalence and an implicit endorsement of terrorist violence.

“The systemic anti-Israel collusion of extremists and university bosses also has important implications for American Jews,” Horowitz concluded. “In Animal Farm, [George] Orwell explained where far-left ideologies lead. Some people and groups will inevitably be more equal than others, and those monopolizing power will decide which ones. For the far left, Jews are white Westerners, while Palestinian and other Muslims are non-white, non-Westerners, whose more radical segments are part of the anti-Western coalition.”

He added, “It doesn’t matter the the racial elements of this worldview are false and repugnant. The far left long ago classified as enemies Israel and Jews.”

Antisemitism in the US has surged to catastrophic and unprecedented levels, rising a harrowing 140 percent in 2023 — and exponentially so in the months after Oct. 7 — according to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual audit of hate incidents that targeted the Jewish community.

The ADL recorded 8,873 incidents last year — an average of 24 every day across the US, amounting to a year unlike any experienced by the American Jewish community since the organization began tracking such data on antisemitic outrages in 1979. Incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault all spiked by double and triple digits, with California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Massachusetts accounting for nearly half, or 48 percent, of all that occurred.

Breaking down the numbers, the ADL found a dramatic rise in the targeting of Jewish institutions such as synagogues, community centers, and schools, with 1,987 such incidents taking place in 2023 — a 237 percent increase which included over a thousand fake bomb threats, also known as “swattings.”

Other figures were equally staggering, with assaults and vandalism rising by 45 percent and 69 percent, respectively, while harassment soared by 184 percent. Antisemitic incidents on college campuses, which The Algemeiner has continued to cover extensively, rose 321 percent, disrupting the studies of Jewish students and leaving them uncertain about the fate of the American Jewish community.

“Antisemitism is nothing short of a national emergency, a five-alarm fire that is still raging across the country and in our local communities and campuses,” ADL chief executive officer Jonathan Greenblatt said in April. “Jewish Americans are being targeted for who they are at school, at work, on the street, in Jewish institutions, and even at home.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups

Mahmoud al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Palestinian organization and political party Fatah, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Mussa Abu Marzuk, senior member of the Palestinian terror movement Hamas, attend an event at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 23, 2024. Photo: Pedro Pardo/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Tuesday said it “strongly opposes” a Beijing-brokered declaration signed earlier in the day by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement and the Hamas terror group, aimed at reconciling their longstanding divisions and establishing a unity government to manage Gaza after the war.

The declaration, which was also signed by more than a dozen other Palestinian factions, is seen as a symbolic win for China’s role as a global mediator, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing it as a “historic moment for the cause of Palestine’s liberation.” However, doubts linger about its effectiveness in addressing the years-long rift between the groups.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to the announcement, saying Hamas had “blood on its hands, of Israelis and of Palestinians,” and could not be in any leadership role.

“When it comes to governance of Gaza at the end of the conflict, there can’t be a role for a terrorist organization,” Miller said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) — which currently exercises limited self-governance in the West and has long been riddled with allegations of corruption and authoritarianism — should be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza, Miller said, adding that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unlike Hamas, had renounced terrorism.

The PLO is a coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

“If you look at the death and destruction that Hamas’ decision to launch the attacks of Oct. 7 has brought on Gaza, they have — there’s no one that has brought more pain and suffering to the people in Gaza than Hamas through their decisions — first to launch the attacks of Oct. 7, and then their ongoing decision, which continues today, to hide among civilian communities and use civilians as human shields.”

Miller also addressed China’s role in the mediation, saying that the US has generally encouraged China to leverage its influence with regional countries, especially those where the US has less sway, to prevent conflict escalation. One example was the Chinese-mediated deal last year restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also urged China to discourage both Iran from financing proxies attacking Israel and the Houthis from targeting commercial shipping. “We have asked China to use its influence to try to bring those attacks to an end, and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller said.

Tuvia Gering, a China and Middle East analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the move is part of China’s effort to rival the US by building alliances with developing nations as well as the Arab and Muslim world to prioritize its interests and stifle Western dominance.

China is “challenging America in every space possible as a new type of major power that takes in the considerations of the Global South and the coalitions of those oppressed by imperialism and Western hegemony” to create “a new global order,” he told The Algemeiner.

Gering condemned Beijing’s move, saying it “normalized terrorism” and will embolden the Palestinians into further intransigence in talks for any future peace accord.

“Until today, China failed to criticize [the Palestinians] and put all the onus onto Israel. This means effectively that the Palestinians will only adhere to the most maximalist positions in negotiations for the two state solution [which] will become even more of a distant reality,” Gering told The Algemeiner.

Gering also predicted that the “golden age” of China-Israel relations, which burgeoned over the last decade with the inking of major bilateral deals, was over because of China’s decision to “legitimize terror” since Oct. 7. Gering warned that moving forward, Israeli strategy in the region must also take China into account.

Gering expressed doubts that the declaration signed on Tuesday would lead to any major developments, noting “a large amount of skepticism” in the Arab world.

Indeed, the declaration gave no outline for how or when a new unity Palestinian government would be formed.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which was also a signatory on the declaration, issued a statement later in the day outlining its demand for all factions in any future unity government to reject recognition of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz blasted the agreement, saying it underscored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ embrace of “the murderers and rapists” of Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“In reality, this won’t happen because Hamas’ rule will be crushed, and Abbas will be watching Gaza from afar. Israel’s security will remain solely in Israel’s hands,” Katz said.

In his statement, Wang reiterated China’s commitment to a “comprehensive, lasting, and sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocated for an “international peace conference” aimed at pursuing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dina Lisnyansky, an expert in Middle East affairs and Islam, warned that while the deal may not come to fruition, China’s role is of growing concern for Israel. Egypt and Algeria — both mediators in failed past attempts at rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — were far weaker than China as regional actors. “When China sets its sights on something it usually achieves its goals, so it should worry us greatly,” Lisnyansky told The Algemeiner.

Lisnyansky also said that Israel should sanction the PA for signing the declaration. “Israel should negate any entity that has any ties at all to Hamas, which needs to lose both its authority and legitimacy.”

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