Roll 212! Open Letter to Jon Stewart

Dear Mr. Stewart,

I guess I should start this letter with an introduction, tell you who I am and what I do, otherwise it’s just going to be weird and rude. My name is Ran, I am a 33 years old Israeli currently living and working in Beijing China. Also, I am a big fan.

As you probably know, your segment about Israel and Gaza which was aired last week upset many Israelis and Pro-Israelis. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but there’s no point in denying it was funny, to the point and perfectly delivered. You did circle around the ‘why’ and ‘how’ minefield, but that’s totally understandable. After all, you are on Comedy Central and you do come on after puppets making prank calls, don’t you?

Anyway, I am not writing this letter to Jon Stewart the comedian. I am writing this to Jon Stewart the person. The man who so adequately and accurately pinpointed one of the major problems in American society today. The man who blew the whistle on one of the most corrosive forces which was (and still is) eating its way through American media and politics.

Jon Stewart - Sanity

You know, I learned the words ‘hyperbolic’ and ‘discourse’ by watching your show. Year in year out, show after show I saw you elegantly deconstruct irrational arguments and false claims. I saw you take on people who had said awful things under the false pretense of truth and freedom, exposing them as the bigots and hypocrites they really were, media and politicians alike.

You did that not because it was funny, but because you know your country doesn’t stand a chance when people call a democratically elected president a dictator and a tyrant. You know that every second elected officials spend doing anything in their power to demonize and delegitimize a president instead of working with him, means your country is a step closer to a very dangerous place, from which there might be no return.

This may sound funny to you but I think no one understands Obama better than Israelis. Ever since we got here people have been asking for our collective birth certificate, claiming we don’t belong. They have a problem with our faith; we have to beg them to deal with us directly while they basically decided to wait us out and in the meantime do everything in their power to demonize us and delegitimize our presence here. You think “king” and “monarch” are hyperbolic? How about “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”? You know as well as I do that people who use this kind of strong words have no intentions of making peace with you. They are just preparing the moral grounds to terrorize you politically, financially and in Israel’s case also physically.

What I find the most mind-boggling is how a brilliant man such as yourself could see the “hyperbolic discourse” syndrome in one place yet completely fail to notice it in another, even when it was right under your nose. With your permission I would like roll 212 and show you a clip of your show from October 28th 2009 (Part 1, Part 2). I am sure you remember that show because it was the first time (and as far as I can remember the only time) you got heckled.

Bassem Yussef has once told you about his Jon Stewart fantasy. Now let me tell you mine. In my fantasy I have a time machine and I go back to sit in the audience of that episode. Your guests that night were Dr. Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer and the reason I remember this episode so well is because the interview made my blood boil in my veins. Dr. Barghouti did most of the talking and one of the things he said was something like “only 1% of the Palestinian resistance is violent” (The video doesn’t open so I can’t give you the exact quote – you guys really need to fix the new website). In my fantasy I remain calm and wait until the interview is over before I speak my mind but I seriously doubt I would have been able to control myself.

At that time Gaza rockets were already raining down on Israel regularly and we didn’t even have Iron Dome to protect us (it became operational in March 2011). So there I was, sitting frustrated in front of my screen waiting for you to reply with the most obvious question and ask how one quantifies violence, or at least ask to see the formula. But you just accepted it and nodded, and so did everybody else.

The only thing I found more upsetting than you not even trying to challenge Dr. Barghouti, was what you said to the heckler as he was leaving the studio: “You’re are welcome to join our Seder next year”. Ha ha! You see it’s funny because he’s probably Jewish, otherwise what other reason could he possibly have to support Israel, right?

I kept watching your show after that. But I did it knowing there is virtually no chance I will ever get to see you help defuse the hyperbolic discourse bomb of the Middle East. Then again, what right do I have to ask you to do so? All I know is that if you held a rally to restore sanity in the Middle East tomorrow I would hop on a plane before you could say “here it is – your moment of Zen”. Well, maybe “restore” is not the right word but you get what I’m saying.

Sincerely yours,