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.


By William Fisher

I am sick to death of meaningless election-year rhetoric that insults the intelligence of American voters.

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the 2004 election will be the first since the Vietnam era in which foreign affairs and national security issues are a higher priority than the economy.

So why are we talking about Vietnam? Why, when our nation faces huge problems and an uncertain future, are we fixated on a war that happened thirty years ago? Does anyone really care about what Messrs. Bush and Kerry did or didn’t do during Vietnam?

Evidently, the geniuses who manage their political campaigns care – or think the voters care. Well, they must have a way below low opinion of all of us. Or the certain knowledge that it’s easier to create mass hysteria than to discuss real issues or propose real solutions to problems.

The TV talking heads tell us the parties are simply trying to ‘energize’ their respective bases. But I don’t think the professional ‘electorati’ should be all that certain that their endless Vietnam drumbeat will ‘energize’ anything. In fact, it may well have unintended consequences: It may turn off reasonable members of both major parties, and further reinforce the already widely-held view that public service is a sham and that candidates will say and do anything to get elected.

We shouldn’t be choosing our president because he’s good at ’gotcha’ politics. Because once in office, gotcha won’t play. Who will best deal with terrorism, homeland security, Iraq, Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation in Iran, Israel and North Korea, health care costs, job creation, our country’s relationships with its allies, and its place in the world?

These are the issues we should demand that presidential candidates address. The longer we permit them and their advisors to change the subject to Vietnam and other irrelevancies, the less likely we are to vote at all.