Oi Dembina , I want my money back .


By Harvey
July 22, 2011
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Ivor Dembina is apparently threatening legal action over a protest made by myself during his Monday night set at the London Jewish cultural centre . That comes as something of a surprise because in the grand history of heckling , I was only doing what hecklers do and that is to heckle . To date I don't believe any have been sued but I could be wrong . A quick google of mr Dembina reveals a number of entries on how to deal with hecklers . However remaining silent and reverting to his ever present crib sheet was not one of them .
After a slow start to the set , things went downhill . Dembina eased into his main theme of the night which is of course the question of Israel and Palestine . I thought this somewhat odd as I believed I was at a comedy event rather then a party political . Dembina then proceeded to regale the audience about his visit to the west bank . That's about as funny as a bag of wasps and as Dembina mentioned, a bit tricky for a Jewish boy .
At this stage I was still not sure how you could extract rip roaring comedy from
Hamas quoting " Israel exists and will continue to exist until Islam obliterates it " . Well that's a real bundle of fun Ivor .
Yet that is who Ivor supports through his work with the ISM or international solidarity movement which purports to be an apolitical humanitarian NGO but in reality is nothing of the sort . The ISM core protocol is the dismantlement of israel and its replacement by a single Palestinian state .
This is who you support Ivor . The least you could do is own up to it , advise the LJCC and let them decide if your act was appropriate for a Jewish centre . But they were not aware and neither was your audience . I merely asked whether you would care to explain to the audience, the nature of your work in the west bank . You failed to answer .
The fact is the comedy part such as it was is merely an ease in for you to expound yourextreme views on israel . It gives you an opportunity to gauge the audience and see how far to push it . No doubt , you have other audiences who are far more receptive to the vicious bile you project against israel given the chance .
I have no problem with that on your own turf . I do when you use subterfuge to disseminate anti israel agit prop at an unsuspecting Jewish community centre .
So sue and be damned . Bring it on as they say although for what I'm not entirely sure . Its simply freedom of speech . The same freedom your co conspirators from the Bds and psc use when they bust into the wigmore hall and interrupted a concert by an Israeli string quartet . Or when they prevented the Israeli ambassador from speaking and every other case . Well whats sauce for the goose etc .
Anyway I want my £8 back .

COMMENTS

MatthewHarris

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 10:54

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I saw Ivor Dembina perform many years ago and he was, back then, very funny. I must admit that I have heckled myself in my time.

You say that you were expecting a comedy event, not a party political - you surely know that some comedians do perform political material? What's wrong with a comedian doing material about Israel and the West Bank?

I imagine that the LJCC was fully aware of Ivor Dembina's views and activities when they booked him, so I doubt that they are "an unsuspecting community centre" in this instance. Perhaps you were the one who was unsuspecting, going to see a famously political comedian and then being surprised when he performs political material?

Since he is Jewish, the LJCC is very much "his own turf", as you put it. So long as he keeps within the law, he can perform what he likes there, I suggest. I probably wouldn't have gone and seen him myself, as I know that he is way to the left of me, and therefore I'm unlikely to enjoy myself at his show, and they do say "buyer beware" - what were you expecting when you paid your £8 to see a show by Ivor Dembina?


amber

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 11:04

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Well don Harvey!

And if the LJCC did know his views, they either should not have invited him, or else informed the audience that they were dealing wiyth an Israel hater.


richmillett

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 13:31

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The LJCC didn't know his views when they booked Dembina. I went to speak to them a week before and they told me so. But they continued with the booking anyway. I left my phone number and I actually got a call from someone at the LJCC asking me whether they should cancel his show. I said that if i was them i would. Then they realised they were speaking to the wrong Richard!

There is a difference between being anti-Zionist and actively participating in ISM activities. Do you know about the ISM, Matthew?

Also, Dembina has a joke about Auschwitz in a comedy act of his. He speaks of a memorial at Auschwitz with Jews at the top and then the disabled, Communists, gays etc. who also died there below Jews in the list. He says it is because this is "Ourchwitz not Yourchwitz. Do you think that is appropriate comedy, Matthew, or have i lost my sense of humour?


MatthewHarris

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 13:52

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I do know about the ISM and I don't remotely support them or their work. However, Mr Dembina can support them if he chooses to and it is McCarthyite to suggest otherwise. He is a Jew who is very strongly critical of Israel, but that doesn't make him "an Israel-hater". No, I don't get that joke about Auschwitz and it does not sound funny to me - I don't get it. I would urge all comedians to be extremely careful before trying to make jokes about anything to do with the tragedy of the Holocaust. I'd need to see or read Ivor Dembina making the joke himself before I could pass judgement on it. It is sometimes legitimate to perform comedy about deeply serious subjects.


richmillett

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 14:02

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He is not just strongly critical of Israel, but volunteers for organisations that aim to see that Israel is no more.

What else is there to see about that joke? It is as i describe. His premise was that certain people manipulate the Holocaust so that people will think that only, or mainly, Jews died at Auschwitz.

Even the woman at the LJCC winced when i told her about said "joke".

Honestly, Matthew, you are a true liberal in every sense. It doesn't matter what lies are employed against Israel as all's fair in love and war for you.


MatthewHarris

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 14:08

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Yes, absolutely, I am a true liberal, in that I don't see any merit in someone like Ivor Dembina being banned from performing at the LJCC.


richmillett

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 14:23

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I don't call for anyone to be banned but as a liberal you should also be in favour of people being made fully aware of Dembina's vile activities regarding Israel, especially as the audience would not have wasted good money and time on seeing him had they known. If he was described accurately in the advertising as "anti-Zionist comedian" i would not have had an issue but Dembina is misleading his Jewish audiences and that isn't right.


Harvey

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 14:25

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I spoke to Sarah from the LJCC the previous week . She was unaware of dembinas views . She expressed her concern and assured me she would speak to her associates . I never heard back


MatthewHarris

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 14:25

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I agree that people should be made fully aware of Dembina's activities so that they can decide whether or not to go and see him. He is a fairly well-known comedian. I'd have thought most people would have looked him up before deciding to go and see him.


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 16:25

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Well done Harvey

Some people do not appreciate that there need to be appropriate borders around 'free speech' in order for it to survive - that's why Jihad Jenny is still in the LDs for example.


Harvey

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 16:34

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Matthew
There is nothing wrong with a comedian doing political material and adding a comedic slant . I have no problem with it being applied to the Israel Palestine divide . This type of comedy generally pokes fun at both sides , is nuanced and effectively states " a plague on both their houses . It draws strongly on caricatures and types across both sides of the divide . That is good strong political satire. Alternatively , there is a political comedy which plays to one specific side . Jackie Mason would be a good example of this genre . He plays to a specific audience and knows what they want to hear . It helps that his views are not dissimilar .
Dembina adopts a different approach . A political diatribe is what best describes his act . It merits no comedic value but is merely a reflection of his own political beliefs . It is in effect an agit prop filled rant .
This is all well and good when playing to a receptive audience . For the most part Jewish community centers and their users and visitors bear a certain allegiance and concerns for israel . Dembina knows no such emotion . He is therefore unsuited to perform before a certain type of audience in the same way that Billy Bragg would be an unlikely choice of musician / raconteur at a Goldman Sachs dinner
Dembina works with and supports the ISM , an NGO which undermines israels security . It is determined on israels eradication and replacement by an Islamic state . How does dembina imagine this will happen . Accepting that 6 million Israelis will not hold a referendum voting for a Palestinian take over , the only other way is through existential war . By supporting the ISM , dembina is effectively avowing one of these options . One pie in the sky . The other a possibility .
Just because dembina is Jewish doIes not mean his views are conducive to the public good of the wider Jewish community
If Dembina has the courage of his convictions let him confide the nature of his material beforehand .


Harvey

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 16:50

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In a more general way , there are many in the community who are at last waking up to the fact that it takes more then fund raising dinners and committee meetings to counter the incessant drip drip of demonizing and delegitimization of israel which has become every day parlance across a wide spectrum of movements and individuals . The Bds / psc together with the islamists are well organized and creative in their attack on israel . Simply stating ah but I'm a liberal , I can rise above it as you do does not hold any credit as far as I'm concerned .
If they harangue our speakers , we will do the same to theirs . If they interrupt Israeli musicians in wigmore hall we will do the same at their carol concerts . If they take Israeli authors off the shelves in Scottish libraries , we will endeavor to boycott Scottish distilleries . If they picket ahava , we will picket lush .
The London Bds shut out unwanted blogs and comments . We , the JC should do the same .
I'd be interested to know what would be your own game changer in your liberal stance


MatthewHarris

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 17:33

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Thank you. We are now getting into whether or not Ivor Dembina is actually any good as a comedian, which is totally irrelevant! I wouldn't have bothered to go and see him myself, as I know that he is on the Far Left and pro-Palestinian, so I very much doubt that I would find his act funny or interesting (I did see him once many years ago and I think he was then quite good, but that was the 90s, i.e. a long time ago).

I have now read the JC's coverage of this in the paper, http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/51991/ivor-dembinas-show-no-joke-prote.... He'll be delighted by the publicity for his Edinburgh Fringe show. To me, this is an example of the system working as it ought to work: Dembina goes to perform, and people who don't like his work organise a demonstration outside the venue.

In view of what Richard Millett had to say on my blog about it being wrong for demonstrators to seek to close down a shop because they don't like the owner's politics (http://matthewfharris.blogspot.com/2011/07/ps-on-boycott-bill.html), then I would be amused if Richard turned out to think it's right for demonstrators to seek to close down a comedian because they don't like his politics.

This is a slegehammer to crack a nut. It's called the Edinburgh Festival "Fringe" for a reason. Ivor Dembina performs in fringe theatres to audiences that largely already agree with him; he is not appearing on national television in prime time. Everybody knows that he is on the Far Left politically and that he is an anti-Israel campaigner. It surprises me that anyone who does not already know these things would bother to go and see him and give him their money.

As a British Jew and pro-Israeli campaigner, I care very much about extremists being invited to speak in Parliament (read this http://matthewfharris.blogspot.com/2011/07/harold-pinters-ice-cream-and-... if you want to know what I think about free speech and extremism). I care about Far Right extremists with a history of antisemitism being elected to the European Parliament. I care about what happens in the three main parties and in the trade union movement.

Do I particularly care about a stand-up comedian who appears in fringe theatres? Not really. We have to pick our battles. We can't be everywhere. I don't think Dembina is high-priority.

We need to stop fighting minor figures like Dembina on their own territory. We need to create our own territory and fight on that, by going where people are and thus reaching the mainstream majority of public opinion in this country. The mainstream majority in this country is not in the audience at Ivor Dembina gigs in fringe theatres, least of all at the LJCC.

We need to get letters published in national newspapers, get our calls taken on Any Answers, and write on blogs that are read by the people whose views we are seeking to influence. I do all of those things, with my other blog (for example) reaching Lib Dem party members who would not otherwise hear a pro-Israeli liberal view.

You ask what would be a "game changer in my liberal stance". In political terms, a liberal is someone who prioritises freedom of the individual. That is why Hitler said that liberalism is the first enemy of Nazism - and he was right. So I do not foresee anything convincing me not to be a liberal. Michael Ignatieff's biography of the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin sums up for me why I am liberal - I recommend it to you all.

Another great riposte to the BDS brigade and people like Dembina is Howard Jacobson's brilliant novel The Finkler Question. Have you read it? If not, I recommend that you do. It won the Booker Prize and is therefore of major significance; many of the British elite will either have read it, or been made aware of its arguments - because it won such a huge, important prize.

Dembina is in fringe theatres, Jacobson won the Booker Prize with a novel that stingingly attacks the BDS movement and a certain type of Jewish anti-Israel campaigner. Howard Jacobson did not heckle in a fringe theatre - he wrote a novel that changed the parameters of debate about these matters among opinion-formers. Go figure!


Rich Armbach

Sat, 07/23/2011 - 11:53

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Is this the same Howard Jacobson that said, " I would tear down the settlements with my own hands if I had strength enough in them " ?


amber

Mon, 07/25/2011 - 11:30

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Armbach, it is the same Howard Jacobson who recognized self haters in his recent book.
Like you.

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