I recently wrote an article in The Huffington Post titled, Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’ Represents the Best in Jewish American Thought And True Support for Israel. I knew almost immediately it struck a nerve with a certain rightwing radio host in Los Angeles and his small legion of devoted followers. Why? A hilarious barrage of Twitter messages in the form of “Another self-hating liberal nut” by none other than the Mark R. Levin Radio Show and indignant fans. The rantings went from amusing accusations of being Marxist to the childish phrase “libtard.” Apparently, I’m now also on a liberal writer “watch list” or something of that nature, I didn’t read the Tweets intently. Then I get into an amusing debate with one of his listeners about why no Jew has to prove his Jewish credentials, and this debate started by a message of “hilarious how all of @HAGOODMANAUTHOR “Jewish” bona fides has anything to do w/anything actually Jewish!”
It used to be that Jews would have to prove they weren’t Jewish to live; nowadays they have to prove they are Jewish to voice a sentiment, as if any Jew has the authority to rate another Jew’s “Jewishness.” It’s telling when an article is published defending a comedian and the supporters of a right wing talk show host write all the funny lines. As a writer, to earn instant criticism from an indignant pundit is quite gratifying, especially when defending a comedian that Jewish Americans respect, admire, and love, as do millions around the world.
Most importantly, Jon Stewart cares not only for America, but also for Israel, and his Daily Show simply offered a view that a great many Jewish Americans share about the Gaza War. Instead of reasoned dialogue, many Jewish conservatives mistook Stewart’s position to be something it’s not. When defending Mr. Stewart’s human right and obligation as an American citizen and Jew to speak his mind and voice his thoughts, I mentioned the words of a radio host with a very high pitched, angry tone on the airwaves. I believe Mr. Levin was offended by his own quote about Jon Stewart, cited within my Huffington Post article:
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 there you have it, calling a fellow Jew a “twerp” simply because Jon Stewart had the audacity to offer a different opinion on the asymmetric warfare exhibited in the latest Gaza war, in addition to the loss of civilian life. Had Mr. Levin not gone on a maniacal rant, there would have been no need to quote his venom, but alas, some radio personalities need to attack people personally in order to circumvent the rationality and logic of their arguments.
How does Israel gain from calling anyone who presents reasoned critique, that could in the future be deemed the correct analysis, a “twerp” or a “self-hating Jew?”
On the completely other end of the spectrum, David Horovitz of the Times of Israel offered a reasoned critique, and instead of personal attacks on Stewart, simply wrote the following reasoned viewpoint:
Sigh. Again, my trouble here is that while this part of the routine may be amusing, it’s deliberately skewing the point to get those laughs. Israel has maintained a security blockade on Gaza to try to prevent Hamas from smuggling in more of those rockets, and worse. That’s why it blocks the border. Egypt, which you might think would be more sympathetic to its fellow Muslims, has blocked its end of Gaza to prevent Hamas leaving the Strip to engage in terrorism inside its territory. Much less funny. But true.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s hell in Gaza right now, and pretty awful most of the time. But it’s largely a Hamas-created hell.
See the difference? One man’s piercing voice yelling obscenities simply because he disagrees with a viewpoint and another man eloquently stating his case, without vitriol, about why Mr. Stewart is incorrect in his opinion. Furthermore, what happens the day Netanyahu speaks to Tzipi Livni in the manner Mark Levin addressed Jon Stewart? Would you rather have a Mark Levin Radio Show discourse, or a Jon Stewart Daily Show analysis of events in the world?
One uses profanity and personal insults and the other uses comedy to highlight world events. Which one is better for Israel’s democracy?
The difference between anger and reasoned dialogue is the primary reason Israel needs, and should always desire, hearing the viewpoint of a man like Jon Stewart. If a Daily Show segment like this one ever offends the entire Jewish community the way it offended many conservatives in the Jewish community, then Jews around the world, and especially in Israel will live in an intellectual prison. Euphemisms like “self-hating Jew” will rule the day, labels like “libtard” and “Marxist” will replace genuine arguments, and freedom of thought will only be allowed within a certain conservative prism of thinking. Childish phrases like “liberal nut” from grown men reacting to another man defending a comedian, as well as the vile phrase “self-hating Jew” should never be the ammunition of supporters who view the Middle East crisis through black and white, good and bad, and complete and utter moral clarity.
Jon Stewart was never anti-Israel for offering a reasoned critique. Go ahead and disagree with him, but don’t judge his intent because you don’t like his opinion. People like Mark Levin, although they mean well as “supporters” of Israel, actually end up hurting democracies because of tactics used by totalitarian regimes: insults, labels, euphemism, and logic stating that if you criticize, then you must be for Hamas. If you’ve never been to the United States or have family in the U.S., then ask your younger cousins or nieces and nephews who they enjoy more, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show or Mark Levin’s Radio Show. Most likely, they’ll only know one of them, and most likely, they’ll view the Daily Show as entertaining, and perhaps thought provoking.
Israel and Jews everywhere need comedy to heal the mind, spirit, and evoke new ways of looking at a crisis. Luckily for conservatives, the Anne Coulters and Sean Hannity’s of the world are in abundance and would never utter a peep even if they saw Israel walking towards a cliff. Doing so to them would be “anti-Israel.” In the ideological battle between the Stewarts of the world and the Levin’s of the world, Jews should remember that the insult, “self-hating Jew” is a cancer to Israel’s vibrant and flourishing democracy.