On Frankie Boyle, Jews and Israelis

It’s now common-place for people who think they’re being to-the-point about matters concerning Israel to then go on to confuse Jew, Israeli and Zionist, implicating them interchangeably in Israel’s policies, often with intense hostility.

You might assume an honest mistake but if, on being corrected, they become indignant and start going on about being gagged, speaking truth to power and so on, then you have to entertain the idea that they’re labouring under an aversion to Jews imperfectly contained in a more socially-acceptable aversion to Zionists and Israel.

Frankie Boyle, dispensing with the figleaf, proposed that his audience should think of Palestine as a cake punched to bits by a Jew and then, when lightly reprimanded after a complaint was upheld, accused the BBC of capitulating to a “lobby” and with startling sincerity disclosed that he had written the jokes in support of Palestinians.

A Richard Herring tweet got me to this by The Man Who Fell Asleep.

He talks about the difficult relationship many Jews outside Israel have with Israel, exacerbated by Israel’s policy towards Palestinians, and continues:

“What really annoys me about Boyle’s letter to the BBC is the tone. This is the pathetic self-pity of a man who courts controversy, who happily laughs at down-syndrome kids but feels that he can take the moral high-ground when the BBC rebukes him for villifying a minority. He continues his letter by explaining that he once watched a documentary about Palestine, sounding like nothing more than David Cameron explaining that he once met a black man. Well, you’ve watched a documentary about Palestine! Brilliant! That certainly makes you an expert, or at least cool enough to stride around Dalston in a Palestinian scarf, high-fiving those who wish the destruction of Israel.

Oh, and of course he talks of “well-drilled lobbying,” which plays into the hands of those who believe the Jews control the media. Is there are pro-Israel lobby? Of course there is, just as there’s a pro-Palestinian lobby and a pro-Iranian lobby and a pro-American lobby. All sides have their lobbies.

He continues with more self-pity: “…I cried at that [the documentary] and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.””

There’s something really ugly about seeing a person’s sense of their own cosmic impotence curdle into vindictive blame.

Hat tip: my other half (who must be Richard Herring’s most devoted fan).

8 Responses to “On Frankie Boyle, Jews and Israelis”

  1. modernityblog Says:

    Anyone that has seen Frankie Boyle’s continued appearance on Mock the Week, as I have, would surely come away with the view that he is constantly holding his bigoted views in check, lest he be fired from that lucrative programme.

    I didn’t know about the complaint on the BBC, but watching Mock the Week there was something out of place in the way he approached humour and how he attacked people, with the occasional sneering remark concerning “foreigners” etc etc

    I often felt his type of humour was from a bygone age of bigotry and racism ( the 1970s)…

  2. Absolute Observer Says:


    Boyle is typical of the irony that was an essential part of 1980’s alternative comedy but has ended up as nothing more as repeating the very attitudes that the earlier generation were being ironical about. Indeed, robbed of any serious content, a lot of current “alternative comedy” has been reduced to nothing more that empty forms of “shock”, “outrage” and “taboo breaking”; hence, the vacuity of Boyle’s “jokes” about Downs Syndrome’s children and an “angry Jew”, Jimmy Carr’s abuse of the Roma, Gervais personal attack on a the appearance of a disabled woman on his radio show, and, no doubt, Doyle’s (?) “advice” to a guy dumped by his girlfriend to scar her face.

    True alternative comedy needs to be smart and critical, instead, it now merely reproduces the racism and bigotry of the lowest order and justifies itself as radically challenging “political correctness” (i.e. the belief that racism, antisemitism, misogony, etc. has no place in a civilised society).
    It is no wonder that that most wonderful play “The Comedians” has recently been resurrected. It captures the moment perfectly.

  3. zkharya Says:

    I actually find Frankie Boyle consistently funny. I laughed at one of his jokes on the 2006 war. I found his depiction of the Israeli army as ‘an angry Jew’ less troubling then his essentilalising the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as that of Israeli Jewish male (rapist?) abuser to Palestinian female victim.

    And if he is allowed to so essentialise, one may the converse: my dad was a working class Glaswegian, born and raised in the Gorbals, and, like most Glaswegian Jews, upped and left, when they go the chance, partly to escape ignorant yobs like Frankie Boyle; who sometimes pronounce forth upon that of which they know little to nothing to less than nothing with all the authority of the corner boys that used to mock my dad’s congregation on the way to Shul.

    The only language the yob understands is that of a yob.

    Stuff him. If he had said it to me, I’d have clocked him.

  4. Shauna Says:

    Frankie Boyle says it like it is. Leaving aside the fact that he’s RIGHT about the topic, you people clearly wouldn’t know humour if it slapped you in the face. There’s a beautiful thing Charlie Chaplin brought about, called comedy-tragedy… taking your pain and playing with it.. He said, life close up is a tragedy, but step back and it is comedy.
    Frankie Boyle did not make fun of a Down Syndrome child, he made a general statement about parents of children with DS which was on the ball to be fair.. My sister has Downs and I laughed, he wasn’t shooting at my sister or my parents’ abilities to raise a child, just playing with the stereotype. He’s a comedian, comedians make jokes, therefore, he’s joking. Do not criticise what you can’t understand, as the late great Bill Hicks said, if you don’t think it’s funny- don’t laugh, but don’t go making comments about humour you don’t understand.
    Really, if you don’t think it’s funny, it’s none of your concern, Frankie is a joker, not a politician, vent somewhere else about someone else, not a good person who is playing with the tragedies of the world to make it seem just a little less depressing and tragic than it is.

  5. jimmy choo Says:

    zkharya – most jews have not left Glasgow. You are clearly the “yob” here

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