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Dave Chappelle says there’s a ‘genocide’ in the Gaza Strip

Comedian made comments on Israel-Hamas war while performing in the United Arab Emirates
FILE - Comedian Dave Chappelle performs at Madison Square Garden during his 50th birthday celebration week on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, in New York. American comedian Dave Chappelle called the Israeli war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip a “genocide” Thursday, May 23, 2024, to cheers while performing in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, while urging Americans to fight antisemitism so Jews don’t feel like they need to be protected by Israel. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

American comedian Dave Chappelle said a “genocide” is striking the Gaza Strip amid the Israel-Hamas war to cheers during his performance in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, while urging Americans to fight anti-Semitism so Jews don’t feel like they need to be protected by Israel.

Chappelle’s comments come as Abu Dhabi has maintained its diplomatic relations with Israel even as it has increasingly criticized its conduct in the seven-month war.

Meanwhile, while pro-Palestinian marches have swept across the wider Middle East since the war began, protests and speech remains tightly restricted in the Emirates, a federation of seven sheikdoms on the Arabian Peninsula.

Even before coming on stage, the full 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 there agreed to place their switched-off mobile phones in locked pouches for the performance — a standard feature of Chappelle’s shows.

About halfway through in a wide-ranging comedy set in Abu Dhabi, Chappelle, a Muslim, initially 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 amid rising cases of antisemitism would make them realize they don’t need Israel as an ultimate protector.

Another moment also displayed just how diverse the crowd was in the Abu Dhabi. In telling another joke about how Jews cheer while drinking, Chappelle said “l’chaim,” or “to life” in Hebrew, which another man shouted back from the audience.

But when touching on the upcoming U.S. election, Chappelle’s mention of President Joe Biden — who has promised “ironclad” support for Israel — drew widespread boos throughout the arena. Donald Trump drew scattered cheers.

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 also came out on stage with a falcon on his arm — a symbol for the UAE.

Chappelle, 50, won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2019. He performed at the Abu Dhabi Comedy Week.

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Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press