Whip smart, charismatic, creative and hilariously funny are benchmarks of great standup.
Remove the last attribute and this kind of talent seems it could easily be put to good use in Israel’s social media war abroad.
Matan Peretz, the popular Israeli standupist, already realized this a while back.
In 2021, during the 11-day Gaza-Israel conflict, he posted a number of observations on social media and in a later video called out Kanye West’s rabid antisemitism. All in fluent, American-accented English.
What the 35-year-old comedian certainly didn’t expect was the sheer spike in hatred for Israel and antisemitism worldwide following October 7 and the need to combat the vitriol with hard-hitting TikTok and Instagram posts in language and style young people abroad can relate to.
Peretz says he is sure his ongoing anti-woke messages are being heard loud and clear, not only from the growth of his followers (145K on Instagram) but ironically from the tens of threatening messages he receives daily.
“If I only existed in an echo chamber, I know I wouldn’t be getting so many death threats,” he shares with ISRAEL21c.
Here to stay
The handsome, dark-bearded funnyman, well-known on the standup comedy circuit in Israel and a regular in English at Tel Aviv’s Stand Up Factory, doesn’t make any jokes during our conversation. He comes across just as sardonic and direct as he does in his video clips.
The campaign is as much about Jews facing the truth about ingrained antisemitism on US campuses and in communities as how diaspora Jews, in his opinion, need to toughen up.
In quintessential Sabra style, he says he wants to get a message across, “that we are not like Jews who once had trembling knees and the uncontrollable urge to say ‘sorry, sorry that I still exist.’ We are strong Jews who are not apologizing anymore. We are here and here to stay. Am Yisrael Chai. Deal with it.”
Peretz, whose father was born in Morocco, also promoted the “I am a White Colonizer” campaign on his social media pages to encourage Israelis of Middle Eastern, Sephardic or Ethiopian descent to make their own clips debunking this particular myth.
Peretz usually prefers to set his own agenda rather than teaming up. “I want complete control of my material and all my ammo is organized in my head. Besides, I don’t have time to collaborate.”
Back in uniform
On October 7, Peretz was in Mexico enjoying a break in the sun with a group of fellow comedians before the start of the winter gigs.
As soon as he received news of the Hamas massacre, he rushed to find a flight back home and upon landing immediately reported for reserve duty.
This posed a dilemma for the comedian, who was now back in uniform and serving in the West Bank.
“As I needed to film in daylight I had no choice but to wear my army gear. At first I thought it would be a setback but then I thought that it’s a reality people should know. And actually in the end I think it validates what I am saying in a weird way.”
Now, after serving over 65 days and filming dozens of videos, he says people comment that they “love to see boots on the ground talking and with good English.”
Peretz, whose mother is an English teacher, was always driven to speak unaccented and fluent English. While his friends watched local TV comedy skit show Eretz Nehederet, he preferred SNL and slowly even began to “think and dream in English.”
Growing up, he was always the class clown, but decided to study acting and concentrate on his music career. Then he realized that comedy was his calling and began to perform standup in clubs throughout Israel.
His material ranges from drugs to relationships (he is currently single) and does not shy away from politics, although many fellow comedians feel it is risky territory.
Education is all
“Education is at the root of all I do. For the Palestinians I really believe that the land issue doesn’t matter, or the ceasefire. They are born into blind and blazing hatred for us so it becomes generational.”
This even holds true when they emigrate, according to Peretz.
“My dad is Moroccan and the only thing I took from him is the cuisine. I am Israeli. When people immigrate to America it usually takes two generations and they are fully American. But radical Muslims are not the same. They can live in Sweden for 20 years and still bring their children up with the same bitter hatred for Jews and Israel. Why don’t they give their kids a better life?”
As for liberals abroad who have adopted slogans such as “From the River to the Sea,” Peretz says what he sees are “confused and uninformed people.”
In his opinion, one of his most effective videos is calling out what he calls the “privileged little white boy.”
In the clip, a rosy-cheeked, curly-haired Canadian teen reports how “Israeli occupation forces rounded up 100s of Gazan civilians and made them strip in the street in front of their houses.”
Peretz counters this with explaining that these are terrorists who kidnapped, raped and murdered Israelis on October 7 and are now literally holding their guns above their heads and surrendering.
“I give them simple facts to counter the disinformation and hate,” he says.
Despite the current demonization of Israel worldwide, Peretz still says he has hope this will turn around.
“The only thing going is hope; without it we wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be carrying on making my videos day after day.”
Besides, he adds, “we are an amazing people. In all other countries when there’s a war, people stay away. Israel is the only place that when it is under attack people come to volunteer in masses.”