Comedian Chris Rock performed in Tel Aviv, Israel, for the first time in his career despite multiple calls for him to cancel his show in support of the Palestinian people and in recognition of their plight under Israeli occupation.
Activists who support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, known as the BDS, a non-violent Palestinian-led movement to bring about accountability for Israel's violations of Palestinian's human rights and international law, called on Rock to cancel his performance in Israel comparing the Israeli occupation to the apartheid-regime in South Africa.
In an open letter written in November by pro-BDS activists, Rock was reminded that as a Black U.S. citizen he is aware of what systematic discrimination and segregation look like. The letter argued boycotts contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa, and to the abolition of Jim Crow laws that sustained segregation in the southern states of the U.S. The parallels were echoed through social media.
However, the pleads were not answered.
Rock is known for criticizing police brutality and racism in the U.S. In fact, during his Tel Aviv show he joked about the issue saying: "You would think occasionally the cops would shoot a white kid, just to make it look good."
This particular joke resonates as Palestinian children are not only shot, but also detained and impisioned by Israeli occupation forces. Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem estimates that over 300 Palestinian children are held in Israeli prison, where they sustain physical and verbal abuse that amounts to torture. In many cases they are held without being charged.
The letter also highlighted another victim of "Israel’s system of institutionalized racism": Jewish Ethiopians and African Immigrants. The first have endured deliberate attempts to reduce their birth rates, while 40,000 African immigrants are currently facing deportation.
In spite of all the information made available for Rock to reconsider the performance, he greeted his audience with “I’m loving this country. Israel, yeah!”
News of his performance came days after comedian Jerry Seinfeld took his family to an “anti-terror” Israeli training camp, where tourists can be trained to kill what they call "terrorists". Israeli government officials have celebrated what they call a terrible week for the BDS movement after the two comedians dismissed calls for boycott.