October 7, 2021
Photo by: John Bauld / Flickr
Comedian Dave Chappelle made a couple of jokes about a movie idea he had called “Space Jews” in his latest Netflix special “The Closer.”
Chappelle said that he has seen various videos about UFOs coming to Earth that prompted him to come up with the idea. “In my movie idea, we find that these aliens are originally from Earth, that they are originally from an ancient civilization that achieved interstellar travel and left the Earth thousands of years ago. Some other planet they go to, and things go terrible for them in the other planet, so they come back to Earth and decide they want to claim the Earth for their very own. It’s a pretty good plotline huh? I call it: ‘Space Jews.’”
He later told a story about how during the United States’ era of slavery, a slaveowner granted a Black man, one of his slaves, freedom; that man went on to own farmland and bought slaves of his own. “Not only was he a slave owner, he became a slave breeder and employed tactics that were so cruel even white slave owners were like, ‘Yo, my man.’ He was a wild dude, but he did it because that’s what successful people did at the time.” Chappelle asked how someone who had been a slave could “perpetuate the same evil on a person that looks just like him. It’s mind-blowing. And shockingly, they’re making a movie about him. Ironically, it’s called… ‘Space Jews.’”
In an October 7 Twitter thread, StandWithUs acknowledged that while Chappelle’s schtick is offending everyone, his comments provide a “teachable moment.” “In his bit about ‘Space Jews’ he implies Jews collectively left their homeland by choice (because they had ‘achieved interstellar travel’),” the pro-Israel education organization wrote. “If the joke had been rooted in historical facts, the ‘Space Jews’ would have left because they were forced out by oppressive empires.”
They added that the part about the “Space Jews” leaving for another planet is not the “full story” because “Jews were defeated by an oppressive colonial force, gradually scattered across the world, and continued to suffer persecution across Europe and the Middle East… After 1,900 years of life as an oppressed minority, Jews would indeed claim their homeland as their own, and rightfully so.”
As for the second part of Chappelle’s “Space Jews” joke about the former slave turned slaveowner, “he seems to imply that ‘Space Jews’ are now perpetrating the worst crimes that were previously committed against them (i.e. the Holocaust),” StandWithUs tweeted, proceeding to link to an Instagram post where they explain why it’s a “dehumanizing and slanderous accusation.”
“Jokes tend to be funnier when they reflect reality on some level, rather than awkwardly distorting it,” the thread concluded.
Former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who heads the Americans Against Antisemitism watchdog released a video saying that while he is a Chappelle fan, he is “very, very disappointed” with Chappelle’s “Space Jews” bit. “It implies that these people from outer space came back to the world and they basically took something away from someone else. What you have done is going to contribute to further hate against the Jewish people.”
Hikind pointed out that members of the audience shouted, “Free Palestine!” during the “Space Jews” bit. “They got your message. They understood. It wasn’t funny. It was commentary, it wasn’t comedy.”
Brian Koppelman, Co-Creator of “Billions on Showtime,” didn’t appear to be offended by the “Space Jews” bit. “Have you sold the rights to Space Jews yet?” he tweeted to Chappelle. “If not, let’s hondle.” Hondle is a Yiddish word for “bargain.”
Nathan Wurtzel, who describes himself as a proud Jew and Zionist, tweeted, “Half the audience didn’t laugh on Space Jews. And [ realized it right away. I think maybe he got it right there. Otherwise, he has the right to be horribly wrong. If Dave Chappelle ever wants to know how it actually went down, we’d be happy to talk. But he’s wrong.”
He added in a subsequent tweet: “But the special is funny as f otherwise and I ain’t cancelling the guy for being wrong.”
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