The Beeb backs off but the Show goes on
IF a buffoon can clown his way into the top job at London's City Hall, with help from the capital's monopoly evening paper, why shouldn't a professional comedian with something sensible to say be allowed a moment on air?
Comedian Ivor Dembina has performed in some funny places, and found humour from some grim situations. Tomorrow morning Ivor was due to answer some questions on BBC Radio Four's SUNDAY programme.
A well-known figure on the London club scene, the Jewish comedian has performed his way from Ramallah to the Edinburgh fringe and back, with gigs in Australia, Israel and the USA. A visit to the occupied Palestinian territories with the International Solidarity Movement led to his act "This is not a subject for comedy".
This coming Thursday, May 8, Ivor is due to compere a show at the old Hampstead town hall entitled "60 -What a state!"
Featuring top names like Mark Steel, Jeremy Hardy, Reg D.Hunter and Shazia Mirza, it is timed to coincide with the official Zionist Federation's gala in Wembley celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary. The Zionist show is graced by American comedian Jackie Mason, who once refused to take part in an event because the bill included a Palestinian. The Zionists will be celebrating as Palestinians remember the Nakba, the catastrophe which dispossessed them of their homeland.
Ivor is inviting people to show they support a just peace, freedom and a better future for both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian; as well as coming to enjoy a good show with top comedians.
The Hampstead show is hosted by the Jewish Socialists' Group, and proceeds will be divided between the respected Israeli human rights group B'Tselem; the Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bil'in, occupied Palestine, who are involved in civil resistance to the Israeli annexation wall; and the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, which defends immigrants and asylum seekers here in Britain.
That's appropriate too. It was the slamming of most countries' doors to Jews escaping Nazi Europe that reinforced the Zionists' project in Palestine, creating in turn a new refugee problem. Today the inhuman policies which drive people from one place, whether by hunger, mass murder, or ethnic cleansing, then deny them refuge in another are a global issue. We even have a Nazi taking his place in the Greater London Assembly.
Besides the comedians, poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen, declared "Children's Laureate", is on the bill for the Jewish Socialists' show, and author Mike Marqusee, whose 'If I am not for myself' has attracted wide attention, is also due to make an appearance.
Ivor was due to be interviewed today by the Beeb, for Sunday morning's programme, about his reasons for putting on the show. With their usual concern for "balance" they also invited the Zionist Federation(ZF) to send someone to put its view.
Alas, the ZF said it could not send anyone because today being Saturday, it is the Jewish Sabbath. What kind of Zionists are these refusing to defend the State of Israel for the day of rest? Will the Israeli army cease operations, and close its roadblocks, for shabbos?
Are the Zionists really so religious? I remember a rabbi friend who used to say that meeting to discuss human rights, justice and peace was a positive mitzvah, a good deed, and a positive blessing on the sabbath.
If need be the Zionist Federation could surely have asked their Christian Zionist friends to act as shabbos goys? There's the bunch they had turn out last year for a counter-demonstration to the Palestinian anti-occupation march. Or the Anglican Friends of Israel. On second thoughts perhaps they wisely figured hearing some of these fanatics up against a Jewish person like Ivor might have the opposite effect than they wanted on the Sunday programme's decent liberal listeners.
Anyway, it turns out the Zionists' use of the sabbath as an excuse for their no-show was sheer and utter bullshit. You might almost say it was a chilul hashem, a misuse of religion's name in vain.
Ivor tells me that while he was to be interviewed today, the programme makers had offered the Zionists the chance to come in and comment live tomorrow on what he said - which would surely have given them an advantage?
But apparently even this was not enough. They did not want a discussion about the two shows.
("What chance then for a two-gig solution?!" quipped Ivor).
This said, why couldn't the programme makers have gone ahead without them? Quite frequently on BBC radio and television programmes the presenter interviews someone with something to say, then adds "We did ask if someone from the Ministry could comment, but no one was available". They don't cancel the interview with the person who has turned up.
So it seems we won't hear Ivor on our radio tomorrow. But you can still find out about his his show, '60 -What a state', and how to book tickets, by visiting www.jewishsocialist.org.uk.
Only if you have not already booked you had better hurry - latest I hear is tickets have been selling fast, with or without the BBC publicity. And you need something to cheer you up after the London elections.
60 -What a State!
Thursday, May 8. 8pm for 8.30pm
Hampstead Town Hall.
213 Haverstock Hill
London NW3 4QP
(tube Belsize Park).
for more information and to buy tickets: