Comedian Dave Chappelle courageously calls out antisemitism — and ADL is still upset about it

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By Edward “Coach” Weinhaus

Jews grouped together to form the state of Israel. They (we) run the place.  It is not crazy to think or say that.

It is “delusional” to even think that “the Jews run Hollywood” even if there are “a lot of Jews there…I mean a lot.” And crazier to say it.

That’s according to Dave Chappelle, who although denouncing antisemitism in toto faces the ire of wrong-headed critics for his “Saturday Night Live” monologue on Nov. 13.

Edward “Coach” Weinhaus is a Creve Coeur resident who runs provocagent.com, a Hollywood entertainment law practice. He is a member of Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha.

What the ADL (and others) are upset about is their own perception as to why he denounces antisemitism. While questioning his motives, they show utter disrespect for Chappelle’s bravery. 

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Chappelle began his monologue with a perfectly formed response to his critics, who had not yet known to retrieve their proverbial knives.  “I denounce antisemitism in all its forms, and I stand with my friends in the Jewish community,” he said, reading from a slip of paper.

It’s sad we live in a world where Chappelle felt the need to preface a series of jokes about the mental illness or stupidity (his words not mine) of one or more famous people (by the way, “Black people” — again, his words not mine) by sopping to what are the inevitable labels of antisemitism.

But sop he did. Then, he let his audience and the rest of the world in on the joke he was telling:

“And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time.” Of course he was referring to Kanye West’s antisemitic remarks that began last month on Instagram and Twitter. 

West’s downfall, whether attributable to purported mental illness or antisemitism, was the topic for which Chappelle sought and received laughs.

That’s. His. Job.

In so doing, he said: “I’ve been to Hollywood. And I don’t want y’all to get mad at me, I’m just telling you this is just what I saw. It’s a lot of Jews. Like a lot. (laughs) But that doesn’t mean anything, you know what I mean? There’s [sic] a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri. It doesn’t mean we run the place. (laughs)”

The final comment that tied the monologue (as it relates to Jews) together allows Chappelle’s critics to expose their own views — not Chappelle’s. 

He highlights the trope of Jewish-run-anything-except-Israel:

“I would see if you had some kind of issue, you might go out to Hollywood, you might start connecting some kind of lines, and you could maybe adopt the delusion that the Jews run show business. It’s not a crazy thing to think. But it’s a crazy thing to say out loud in a climate like this.”

Chappelle acknowledged three main ideas for which we should be very grateful:

• It is “delusional [to think] that Jews run show business.”

• The person who holds these ideas probably already “had some kind of issue.”

• Talking like that is “crazy…in a climate like this.”

He calls even the ancient antisemitic trope of Jewish control “delusional.” A result of mental illness.

Chappelle has the right to speak about being the target of speech police. Even if the topic is Jews. Chappelle has been the target of modern speech police so many times, for so many reasons, for offending so many people, his anticipation of criticism was prescient. That he would need to denounce antisemitism to discuss, openly, the topic of antisemitism is precisely his point. He used to be able to just tell jokes.

Jews are a part of modern American culture. Our actions matter, including our reactions to being a topic of discussion. Jews weren’t offended by comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s Jewish jokes and criticisms. Jews weren’t offended locally on Oct. 14, 2009, when West News Magazine published an opinion piece extolling the virtues of West County religious Jews in troubled moral times.  

Jews, in a fit of pique about being merely a topic of discussion, have an opportunity to reflect on what our response to Chappelle says about us as a people. Especially given Chappelle’s own leadership in free expression.

If we cannot support Chappelle’s sincere search for discussing truth that relates to Jews and antisemitism, we are going to have a tough time when real enemies come for us.

What Chappelle’s critics truly wanted was his denouncement of antisemitism to come as a result of their critique. His critics care more about their power than his sincere beliefs plying his trade and fully, and steadfastly denouncing antisemitism. We are better than that.