Friday, August 20, 2004


By William Fisher

Jackie Mason has always been one of my favorite comics. But I have also recognized that his stereotypic ethnic humor is funny only to those whose own ethnicity makes them targets.

So I laughed into tears at his depiction of Jews as more interested in bagels than in Hiroshima, Protestants who would rather ‘have a drink’ than eat a meal, Italians who put bullets in your knees rather than forgiving a debt, and New Yorkers who take vacations to Puerto Rico to visit their (stolen) hubcaps.

No more. My love affair with Jackie has come to an abrupt and melancholy end.

Here’s why:

Mason was a guest-host on Jim Bohannon's nationally syndicated radio show during the summer and, as Tom Regan reported in the Christian Science Monitor, “went on a tear against Islam.”

Mason reportedly said: "In plain English, the whole Muslim religion is preaching and teaching hate, terrorism and murder, and nobody knows it, and it's about time they found out about it. I don't know how we can call it a religion in the traditional sense. It should be called a murderous organization that's out to kill people."

Mason's guest that evening, New York lawyer Raoul Felder – who co-authors pieces for Jewish World Review with the comic – called the prophet Muhammad a "pedophile." Regan reports that Mason couldn't be reached, but Felder said the remarks were based on the Koran and denied broad-brushing the religion.

This is not comedy, it is tragedy. For three reasons. First, Mason is a Jew. He should be the absolute last person on earth to assign collective guilt to any religion. That’s what Auschwitz tells us.

Second, thumb through any Bible of any religion in the world and you will be able to find exactly what you want. Politicians and demagogues since the beginning of Bibles have used the Good Book to justify whatever conclusion they wish to reach.

Third, I doubt whether Mason actually knows any Muslims – he once refused to perform in the same club as a Palestinian-American. He ought to go talk with the some of the millions of Muslim-Americans whose lives have been turned into exactly the same nightmare the Jews faced in Germany in the period before Chrystalnacht.

These people are American citizens, and overwhelmingly loyal Americans. Most of them found 9/11 just as unbelievable and outrageous as the rest of us. Today, they are having to fight to maintain the Constitutional rights Mason takes for granted.

Collective guilt is bad enough when it’s embraced by ordinary, if uninformed, citizens. It’s much worse when celebrities like Jackie Mason – and Pat Roberts -- get on board that no-nothing train.

As a Jew, Jackie Mason should know better than anyone that he could be next.