Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” riff on the Gaza conflict was praised to the skies by anti-Israel pundits, like MSNBC’s Cenk Uyger and the Daily Beast’s Dean Obeidallah as providing some kind of much needed moral clarity. In truth it was exactly the opposite, with the Obeidallah column unintentionally showing exactly what’s wrong with Jon Stewart.
Knowing that a disturbing number of Millennials (and an even more disturbing number of ignorant, impressionable older viewers who should know better) see the comedian as a truth-teller, Stewart makes no allowances in his comic routines for that fact. He intentionally encourages the idea that he is a legitimate pundit, then retreats to the convenient bunker of “Come on! I’m a comedian! Don’t take me so seriously!” when he is called out for lazy, misleading and biased—but funny! commentary. (Stewart criticizes Democrats with approximately the frequency of a lunar eclipse, which would be just fine for a comedian who didn’t pose as an objective critic of American politics.)
The Gaza bit was a classic example of Stewart at his irresponsible, cynical—but funny!— worst. He intentionally—oh, just for laughs, mind you, because Stewart never has a political agenda!—misrepresented the Gaza bombing and the conduct of Hamas and Israel as an instance of deadly bullying by Israel, which, in Stewart’s carefully manipulated false narrative, is in no danger whatsoever from Hamas, but is killing civilians nonetheless. The “smoking gun” was Stewart’s false claim that the only way Israel was warning civilians that a bombing was imminent was with “warning bombs,” a lie that was shown to be such in the very same segment, which referred to warning phone calls to endangered Gaza households. (Israel has also been dropping leaflets.) Stewart highlighted the “warning bombs” because they are funny, you see. I’m sure that would be his answer to any criticism. Did he mention that warnings or not, Hamas has directed civilians not to seek cover from the attacks? No, of course not…that’s not funny. Did he mention the provocation for the Israeli assault, the constant bombardment of Israel by Hamas? The tunnels into Israel to facilitate terrorist kidnappings? No…that’s definitely not funny. Did he educate his young, cynical audience about Hamas intentionally attracting bombs to civilian areas by placing missiles and arms in hospitals, schools, and residential areas? Did he even point out that Gaza’s civilians intentionally placed a terrorist organization, which has pledged to destroy Israel, in charge of its government, and is getting exactly, precisely what it voted for? Come on! Who would laugh at that?
In short, Jon Stewart, a smart man, intentionally misled his audience, knowing that it would be misled, and played directly into the Hamas propaganda strategy of seeding anti-Israel sentiment world-wide. Thus the eruption of Twitter hashtags supporting Hamas and condemning Israel on Twitter, sent by passionate young citizens and celebrities whose knowledge of history and the Palestinian-Israel conflict is based on reckless jokes.
Mark Levin is also smart. He is a voluble, caustic, occasionally whimsical conservative lawyer, author and talk show host on the far rightward end of the spectrum of such radio fare. He attacked Stewart’s Gaza bit on his radio show in typical Levin fashion, which is to say excessive and uncivil, making accurate points but undermining them with lines like “I don’t trust Jews who change their names! There, I said it!!” (Stewart is really Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, and so what?) This is swell stuff for the red-meat right-wing crowd Levin preaches to, but below-the-belt rhetoric–and that’s Levin all over.
He was more circumspect—a bit—when he appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. A right-wing radio host appearing on another right-wing radio host’s show on Fox News is the exact equivalent of a tree falling in a forest when nobody is around as far as reaching the audience poisoned by Stewart’s bias, but nevertheless, Levin was spot on, saying,
“I watched this segment on the Internet, and the disinformation and the propaganda he was putting out in the form of jokes was outrageous.And I would just tell Mr. Stewart that it really doesn’t take a lot of courage to criticize Israel and trash Israel. It’s done all the time. It’s done by Israel’s, quote, unquote, “neighbors.” It’s done in Europe right now, where Jewish stores and so forth are being burned down and there’s riots. It’s done in Boston and New York, where the police have had to come out and protect pro-Israeli rallies and so forth. So you’re not really a tough guy. You’re not really cutting-edge.
And the fact of the matter, Mr. Stewart, is that if Hamas had the weaponry that Israel had, nuclear weapons and other weapons, Israel would cease to exist. And if Israel wanted to take out whole communities in Gaza, or the whole Gaza strip, they could do so in about 30 minutes. And it doesn’t.
This is the only country I know of that has thousands of missiles rained in on it, missiles coming from Iran through Hezbollah to Hamas, a country that agrees to a cease-fire that was negotiated by Egypt and the Arab League, and still has to tolerate these attacks…. it is morally clear. That’s why those who now pretend there’s a moral equivalency or moral relativism are absolutely fools. And they’re to be ignored or to be shamed.
The fact of the matter is, Israel’s not at war with Egypt because Egypt isn’t shooting missiles into Israel. It’s not at war with Jordan. Jordan’s not shooting missiles into Israel. It’s not a war with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s not shooting missiles into Israel. Israel waited and waited and waited, missile after missile after missile, and even after this cease-fire, it agreed to it, and then it warned Hamas, you continue this, you can see we’re building up our ground troops. This is the only country I know that’s not allowed to win. If they don’t wipe out Hamas and the Hamas missile sites, it’s never going to end.
And I would like to educate Jon Stewart and his clapping seal studio audience to let them know Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas also was part of the PLO. The PLO’s history goes back to the mufti, goes back to the Third Reich, the Final Solution. Read up, Ivy League boy! Try and figure out exactly what’s going on before you cut your stupid jokes!”
Levin was wrong about Stewart in one respect: he’s not an Ivy Leaguer. The rest is correct, however.
And it’s not funny.