Comedians fall out over Israel charity boycott


A group of Jewish comedians will not be performing at an annual festive show this year after being boycotted because of their support for a pro-Israel charity.

Veteran performer Ivor Dembina has told his fellow stand-ups that he will not book them for his Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show later this month if they perform at the JNF's annual Kosher Komedy Night.

Comedian Mark Maier, who appeared in last year's Xmas Eve show, said Mr Dembina had told him he would no longer be welcome.

"He said that, if I continued doing the JNF show, I couldn't be on the bill at his gigs. Ivor's critical views on Israel are well-known, but it was the threatening manner in which he spoke to me that I objected to," he said.

Mr Dembina, who is Jewish, runs regular shows at his Hampstead Comedy Club in north London. Mr Maier questioned whether his audiences were aware of his stand
on the charity.

"Ivor runs quite a lot of Jewish shows with Jewish audiences and he doesn't tell them his view of JNF. He's happy to take their money. It's a complete double standard," he said. His view was echoed by fellow comedian Steve Jameson, a regular performer at the Jewish Xmas Eve Show who had counted Mr Dembina as a close friend.

He said: "I will not be told who I can and cannot work with, so I told him to stick it. It has affected our friendship. I don't like bullies - he is trying to intimidate me."

But Mr Dembina stood by his policy, explaining that he regarded the JNF, which funds environmental projects in Israel, as guilty of racism.

He said: "I have always had a policy of not booking acts who publicly endorse racist organisations. I regard the JNF as discriminatory against Palestinians in its practice, and I believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it is racist in its outlook.

"The JNF is not being singled out. I would not book anyone who publicly supported an organisation that I regarded as racist. That would include the EDL with its anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the BNP who express antisemitic views.

"JC readers and the wider comedy audience know my politics, and that I take my long-held anti-racist beliefs very seriously."

The JNF did not respond to a request for comment.

In response to Mr Dembina's policy, comic Bennett Arron has set up a rival Jewish seasonal show.

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