As an American author and writer who happens to be Jewish and who once had his Bar-Mitzvah in Jerusalem, my views pertaining to Israel are always tied to love and special affection for the Jewish state. I've had the opportunity of being published in The Jerusalem Post regarding the Ground Zero mosque story several years back as well as a recent piece on the importance of American public opinion polls regarding Israel. I've also had the pleasure being published in The Times of Israel about certain flawed aspects of the Gaza war, as well as the fact that honest critique of Israel can't rationally be equated with being "anti-Israel." Sadly, I know very well how it feels to be chastised by my own community for having the audacity to question certain aspects of Israel's foreign or domestic policies, or having the audacity to try and see certain things from a Palestinian perspective. Almost always, the vapid accusations aimed at honest, genuine critique with the intent of focusing on long-term Israeli security is the reflexive claim of being "anti-Israel," or not "standing" with Israel, or not "supporting" Israel. In a world where euphemisms like "support" and "stand with" have also meant "accept everything without question" and "ignore relevant criticism," Jon Stewart and The Daily Show represent the best in American Jewish thought, as well as honest and genuine support for Israel. Mr. Stewart sheds light upon the insanity of war and politics through his talent and comedy, and the day Jewish comedians are too afraid of commenting on Israeli current affairs is also the day that Jewish people around the world lose a quintessential Jewish voice: thought provoking comedy.
Comedy is a natural antidote for euphemistic, political jargon aimed at stifling debate and far too many people in the Jewish community today confuse criticism with malicious intent. Stewart's recent Daily Show segment highlights the sad reality faced by many in the American Jewish community. From my own experience, one example of this mindset is the belief that if you question the number of civilians or children who die in Gaza, or explain why certain short term tactics don't correlate to long-term Israeli security, then you're inevitable met with accusations of being "anti-Israel." Of course, questioning the number of civilian deaths, especially the death of women and children, during the recent Gaza war isn't "anti-Israel" nor does it help Hamas in any manner and I've had my share of nonsensical comments aimed at me from articles I've written on these issues.
Also, it doesn't help the only democracy in the Middle East to silence any criticism, even from Jews. Such emotionally charged and childish attempts to "hush" any sane or rational dialogue is dangerous, and sometimes leads to hazardous attempts at correlating even the Holocaust to justification for any and all tactical endeavors. Yair Lapid's recent article is an example, and although I view him to be a brilliant man, his attempt at equating a war with Hamas to defeating Nazi evils borders on heresy in my mind. When the death of six million Jews and over one and half million Jewish children is used by certain Israel politicians to justify their politics (as well as the reality of children in Gaza dying from airstrikes), propaganda has entered into a dangerous realm where even the most hallowed pain is no longer off limits to semantic manipulation.
Luckily, Jews, African-Americans, and others have comedians to make painful subjects less painful and allow both a healing process and intellectual dialogue to flourish. Like Richard Pryor's commentary on the N-word, or Chris Rock's commentary on a number of issues affecting the black community, comedy is an amusing, but also an incredibly thought provoking way of tackling sensitive subjects. Similarly, there's a reason why when Sarah Silverman pokes fun at the stereotype of Jews being cheap, or Mel Brooks dresses up as Hitler, that Jews around the world laugh hysterically. Larry David's Palestinian chicken restaurant episode is a brilliant example of how Jews have historically turned turmoil into thought provoking laughter. Laughter and comedy unlock insecurities so that prejudices and hatreds are undressed; naked for all of humanity to see their irrational foundation. Also, when Jon Stewart explains what it's like to offer a differing viewpoint on Israel or its battle with an evil terrorist group in Hamas, he uses comedy to shed light upon a complex issue that needs genuine discussion, not mindless euphemistic banter.
For a nation of people who've suffered from centuries of deadly pogroms, false accusations, and even blamed for the death of God, it's ridiculous to scapegoat Jon Stewart for the intellectual and moral laziness of certain people who stand solely through euphemisms like "stand with" or "pro." Jon Stewart cares for Israel just like I do, and perhaps just like the person who isn't Jewish reading this article, and it makes no sense to marginalize anyone's affection for Israel by the tired rant of "anti-Israel." Furthermore, I liken the phrase "self-hating Jew" (although not in direct equivalency) to words like the N-word or "white trash" or "gook" or any other insidious attempt at demeaning another human being's humanity. Sadly, Mr. Stewart has been accused of that, and such accusations are not only baseless, but also a testament to the irrationality of those who'd make these remarks. Truly hating oneself means blindly following the herd, without voicing relevant concerns or genuine critique, for fear that emotionally challenged opponents of your viewpoint might disagree. When Jon Stewart pokes fun at Obama, or Bush, or Ted Cruz, or anyone in the public eye, he does so because politics is often times insanely irrational; hence the basis of most comedy.
The foundation of antisemitism lies in the ratings of right-wing radio host Mark Levin towards Jon Stewart:
Have you f'ing seen Israel, you little twerp?! Have you f'ing seen what surrounds Israel, you little twerp?! Is Hamas giving warnings to Jews in Israel, you little twerp?! What about the fallout shelters, you little twerp; have you looked at those and the gas masks and the sirens day-in and day-out, you little twerp?!
So, you get a good idea of what some Jews will do to other Jews when they hear something they feel is "anti-Israel." To be fair, if you've ever heard Mark Levin's high pitched, squeaky voice on the radio equating Obama to Karl Marx and pontificating on how the Founders would hate Democrats, you'd truly understand the meaning of the word, "twerp." Also, Levin's nonsensical diatribes against Stewart highlight what many Jewish Americans have to endure when offering a sane and rational viewpoint in an insane and irrational world. Who needs Nazis when you have people like Mark Levin not necessarily burning Jewish books, but semantically burning any thoughtful critique of serious issues affecting Israel and the Jewish community? The Nazis, like the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide and every other genocide in the 20th Century, first killed and imprisoned intellectuals, orators, or writers who could offer any reasoned dissent to their madness. Like Levin, and several other right-wing pundits and ideologues, dissent and especially comedy, present a serious challenge to their reliance on ideology over civil discourse.
Haaretz recently ran an article explaining that "Israel's defense establishment will recommend to politicians that they show generosity in indirect negotiations with Hamas when discussing the conditions for a permanent cease-fire, in order to forestall renewed hostilities at the end of September." I guess Israel's defense establishment is filled with "self-hating Jews" who love Hamas according to the mindset of people like Mark Levin. Furthermore, issues of morality and the death of Palestinian children must never be silenced by hardliners or people who'd claim they are "pro-Israel," because moral consideration and debate are foundations of Jewish thought; to stifle such discussion is the opposite of being Jewish and hurts Israel's democracy.
I urge Jon Stewart to always voice his mind, always use his comedic talent to provide relevant commentary about Israel, and always ignore childish criticism from angry and indignant people. The majority of younger Jews in the world side more with Jon Stewart than irate or indignant conservative ideologues. Highlighting the insanity of perpetual war among two peoples who will always live alongside one another isn't "anti-Israel" and advocating perpetual war against "terror" without any hope of peace isn't "pro-Israel." If people like Mark Levin and others are ever heard louder than the Jon Stewarts of the world, then the Jewish people, and Israel, will have lost what they've fought centuries to attain: the ability to speak and think without intimidation.