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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Comic Mason in 'racism' row
US comic Jackie Mason
Mason said he had nothing to do with the decision
Veteran US comic Jackie Mason has been accused of racism after his manager said a warm-up act was taken off the bill at a Chicago club because of his Palestinian descent.

Ray Hanania, a Palestinian-American funnyman and writer, had been due to open for Mason.


It is an act of hate and racism against Palestinians, and we demand an apology

Ali Alarabi
United Arab American League
But he was told that he would not be required a few hours before he was due to go on stage.

"It's not exactly like he's just an Arab American. This guy's a Palestinian," Mason's manager Jyll Rosenfeld said.

"Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him. Right now it's a very sensitive thing, it's just not a good idea."

Ray Hanania
Hanania said he wanted to be judged on how funny he was
The United Arab American League said it was outraged at the decision.

"It is an act of hate and racism against Palestinians, and we demand an apology," the league's president Ali Alarabi said.

Mason, who is Jewish, denied he had anything to do with the cancellation, saying the club had received phone calls in protest at the appearance of a Palestinian comic.

"I have nothing but love in my heart for Palestinians," he said.

Mr Rosenfeld said it was not a racist issue - but that "it is not a good idea at this time".


I'm upset because I deserve to be on stage and it was a big break for me

Ray Hanania
Hanania, a former journalist, said he took up comedy after 11 September to try to bring people together and lighten the mood.

His jokes include digs at Yasser Arafat and President Bush's relationship with the Israelis, and he has written a book called I'm Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing Up Arab in America.

"I'm upset because I deserve to be on stage and it was a big break for me," he said, adding that he wanted to be judged on how entertaining he was.

If the decision was because he was a "lousy comedian" then he would be satisfied, he said.

Hanania was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for a series of reports on Palestinian treatment under Israeli occupation while he was working for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Unknown

The manager of the club, Zanie's, said the decision was down to Hanania's lack of experience.

"It's just the fact that he is an unknown," Linda Moses said.

"[Mason] is just not comfortable with having an unknown act. It's understandable."

The club adhered to Mason's wishes on such matters, she added.

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