The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians was a laughing matter last night at Hillel’s “Stand Up for Peace” comedy night.
A full house crowded the Hillel social hall at 781 Embarcadero del Mar to listen to the political, religious and cultural jokes of Jewish comedian Scott Blakeman and Palestinian-American comedian Dean Obeidallah. Each comedian poked fun at his own background and left the audience laughing. Their jokes focused on political icons such as President Bush, President Clinton and Saddam Hussein, as well as the war in Iraq and gays in the military, among other issues.
Obeidallah said his goal for the performance is twofold.
“One, to force some kind of dialogue between Arab-American students and Israeli students, and two, to dispel negative stereotypes of Arab-Americans,” Obeidallah said.
Blakeman said his goal is accomplished before he gets on stage.
“[The main purpose of the performance] is to see Jewish and Arab students together before we even speak.”
Tami Wheatley, vice president of UCSB Hillel, said the event was unlike any other because it represented both sides of the current conflict.
“[These are] two different people who are able to criticize their assumed political standpoints and stereotypes,” Wheatley said. “I get really frustrated going to pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian events that are one-sided. That is not going to change anything. I don’t think that peace will ever come out of something that is one-sided.”
Emily Duran, a junior political science and international relations major, said the duality of the performance was refreshing.
“I have both Arab and Jewish friends. It’s very touching to see them come together and laugh together in an environment such as this,” Duran said.
Neer Lerner, a second-year history major and board member of American Students for Israel, said the forum emphasized what Israelis and Palestinians have in common rather than their differences.
“Political differences aside, Israelis and Palestinians have a lot more in common than they care to admit. One of these commonalities is appreciation of good humor,” Lerner said.
Obeidallah said the conflict hits close to home because he has cousins who live in the West Bank.
“We should embrace a two-state solution in order to begin a new generation of Palestinian doctors, scientists and professionals achieving their dreams, as opposed to the struggle being a priority,” Obeidallah said.
Blakeman also said he advocates a two-state solution to the conflict.
“Violence on either side is morally wrong and ineffective,” Blakeman said.
Obeidallah has written jokes for “Saturday Night Live” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.” He has also appeared on “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
Blakeman has appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman” and teaches a stand-up comedy workshop.