Persecution and the art of Dave Chappelle (2)

We are awash in a wave of anti-Semitic hatred and violence that is coursing through the black community and elsewhere. I heard it in the troubled musings of Kanye West and wrote about in “Anti-Semitism for Ye — but not for me.” The December Commentary features Elliot Kaufman’s deep backgrounder “O Ye of Little Faith: The Anti-Semitism of Kanye West.”

Over the weekend comedian Dave Chappelle hosted Saturday Night Live and performed the opening monologue. He devoted the first half of his monologue to Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. Video of Chappelle’s monologue is embedded in this New York Post story on it.

I wrote about Chappelle’s monologue briefly here on Sunday morning. Jonathan Tobin now turns to Chappelle in his JNS column “Dave Chappelle and normalizing black antisemitism.”

Chappelle’s own point of view was expressed ironically in comic form, and he may be a genius at it, but you don’t have to be a genius to understand what he was saying. He started with a prepared statement. “I denounce anti-Semitism in all its forms and stand with my friends in the Jewish community,” Chappelle said. “And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time.” You fake it.

Chappelle’s apology may have applied to his own routine as well, but it made me wonder. What do decent people say when confronted with anti-Semitic musings of celebrities, cultural icons, and others? Don McLean sent us a statement early on that sounded like the formula that Chappelle was mocking (let me be clear: I appreciated it):

Lately a flood of antisemitic invective has been triggered by the ranting of a stupid attention-seeking fool we all know. I want to say I stand with my Jewish friends and I stand with the state of Israel. When this kind of thing happens we should realize why the state of Israel must be respected and protected.

I lived off and on in Israel from 1978 to 1982 and grew to love the country and the people. Living there changed my life forever.

By contrast, Tucker Carlson presented West as a sage on Tucker Carlson Tonight and hasn’t returned to the subject since. Candace Owens spoke up for West. It seems to me that a decent non-Jew with a soapbox — someone like Carlson, or Owens, or Don McLean — can call West out and observe the harms perpetrated right now by anti-Semitic canards. Owens, by the way, was back yesterday.

Chappelle’s routine is of course wrapped in comic irony, but it’s not that layered. There are certain things you can’t say, he explained, such as sentences beginning with “the Jews.” That is not too complicated (or funny, for that matter). Moreover, according to Chappelle’s own observations, “the Jews” control Hollywood. You don’t have to pierce through too many layers to extract that nugget.

Chappelle comes to Kanye’s defense. According to Chappelle, West should not be held to account for the harms that have befallen the Jews through the ages. Blacks are not responsible for the Holocaust. “I know the Jewish people have been through terrible things all over the world, but you can’t blame that on black Americans,” said Chappelle. “You just can’t.” If you don’t understand how that excuses Kanye’s contribution to the current epidemic of anti-Semitism in the black community and elsewhere, well, the excuse must be hidden in one of those layers.

I don’t call for Kanye and his supporters such as Chappelle to be canceled. I call for them to get a clue and for influential non-Jews such as Tucker Carlson and Candace Owens to speak up. Elliot Kaufman is Jewish. Jonathan Tobin is Jewish. I am Jewish. My question is what decent gentiles have to say.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.