In Abu Dhabi, 'Genocide' Draws Cheers for Chappelle

Comedian gives his reason to make Jewish people feel safe in US
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 23, 2024 5:50 PM CDT
For Dave Chappelle, 'Genocide' Is Applause Line in Abu Dhabi
Dave Chappelle performs at Madison Square Garden in August in New York.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Comedian Dave Chappelle said Thursday a "genocide" is striking the Gaza Strip during the Israel-Hamas war—a comment that brought cheers during his performance in the capital of the United Arab Emirates—while also urging Americans to fight antisemitism so Jews don't feel like they need to be protected by Israel. Abu Dhabi has maintained diplomatic relations with Israel even as it has increasingly criticized its conduct in the seven-month Israel-Hamas war, the AP reports. Meanwhile, while pro-Palestinian marches have swept across the wider Middle East, and speech remains tightly restricted in the Emirates, a federation of seven sheikdoms on the Arabian Peninsula.

Even before he came onstage, the crowd at Abu Dhabi's Etihad Arena cheered as DJ Trauma, who accompanied Chappelle on the trip, played the song "My Blood is Palestinian" by the Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf. The thousands of attendees agreed to place their switched-off mobile phones in locked pouches for the performance—a standard feature of Chappelle's shows. At one point during his wide-ranging comedy set, Chappelle, a Muslim, said he had been told by his friends either to discuss the war or not. From the audience, a woman screamed: "Free Palestine!" The crowd cheered.

Chappelle then said the Gaza Strip faces a "genocide." He also said that making Jews safer in America as cases of antisemitism increase would make them realize they don't need Israel as an ultimate protector. Chappelle, as other artists during the performance, told some racy jokes and swore. But they largely avoided discussing local politics—though Chappelle did make a sly joke about the UAE's widespread surveillance network and another deadpanning about "how difficult is it to be gay" in the country as homosexuality is illegal. But he came onstage with a falcon on his arm—a symbol for the UAE.

(More Dave Chappelle stories.)

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