Jon Stewart Is Right About The Israel Debate

About two months ago, when three Israeli boys were kidnapped by Palestinians, I, as a blogger, immediately wondered if I should write about what had happened.

At first I avoided the topic.  My blog is staunchly non-political.  I believe deep in my heart that when we connect to our souls instead of the arbitrary dividing lines the world has created for us, that we will find much more truth and solve many more problems.

But this was different.  These were my Jewish brothers.  And as Israel reached a fever pitch, and the news continued to dominate the air and blog waves for weeks, I rethought my position.

And so I posed a question to my readers on my Facebook page: did they want to hear what I had to say about Israel?  I wanted their input, I wanted to know if they thought I could actually add to the conversation.

The result stunned me.  Practically everyone wanted me to get into the mix.  They thought I would have good insights.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.

And so I heeded their call.  I started to slowly inch out my voice on the topic.

Then more and more, and as the war started to go, I started to write and post on Facebook and Twitter almost exclusively about Israel.

It’s been an interesting experience and experiment for someone who has been trying so hard to stay above the fray and away from the divisive topics of the world.

But mostly it’s been incredibly frustrating.

Today, the Daily Show released a clip where Jon Stewart attempted to speak about Israel and Gaza.  Immediately, a group of people appeared from under his table and started berating him.




Then he tried to assign some responsibility to Gaza.  They all popped out again.


Finally, Stewart just gives up.

Jon Stewart and I probably have almost polar opposite views of Israel and Gaza.  I think he tries too hard to morally equivocate and defend Hamas, who I consider terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction.  But I’ve never so identified with something as a blogger as when I saw that video.

I don’t think Stewart was trying to morally equivocate in that video, or say that pro-Israelis are the same as pro-Palestinians.  I think he was trying to display that it has become almost impossible to have a sane, normal discussion about the conflict anymore.

People have created dividing lines.  You are either completely pro-Israel or completely pro-Palestinian.  And if you try and straddle any line that shows shades of gray, the tone of debate immediately reaches a fever pitch.

It is precisely this: the tone of the debate; that so frustrates me as a blogger.  People encouraged me as a blogger to write about the subject, but I’ve never felt more frustrated, more unheard as a writer, since I started writing online.

And what is even more frustrating is that, despite the tone, despite the rhetoric, there really is this demand to only consume content about Israel and Palestine today.  My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of practically nothing else.

And yet, it seems that this insatiable desire to consume more content has nothing to do with challenging beliefs, with introspection, with deep thinking.

It seems to me that people are looking for mirrors.  They want to find writers, TV shows, Tweeters, bloggers, who say exactly what they are already saying.  The moment someone deviates from the script, they come out from under the table, in the way Stewart so perfectly displayed, and start screaming their with their shrill voices.

The most balanced, normal people I know have taken the position of the people under the table.  And it’s heartbreaking to me, because I feel that unless I am 100% aligned on either side, the yelling will continue.

I hope people will heed Jon Stewart’s call.  This isn’t about the conflict itslef.  It’s about respecting each other, seeing past the rhetoric, and towards something deeper.  Towards a respectful dialogue.  Towards seeing the humanity in each other enough that we don’t turn the world into our PR puppetry.

As a blogger, I am tired of being told I need to be a cog in your machine, one way or the other.  I am tired of being told that pro-Palestinians are not worth my time.  I am tired of being told that because I support Jewish-Muslim unity that I have to denounce everything Israel ever did since the beginning of time.  I am tired of people demanding I speak up and then immediately turning on me the moment I don’t fit their agenda.

In short, I’m sick of the people under the table.  Thank you, Jon Stewart, for helping me realize this.  In you, I feel more connection than all the pro-Israelis in the world.

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33 responses to “Jon Stewart Is Right About The Israel Debate”

  1. Malka Hellinger Forshner Avatar
    Malka Hellinger Forshner

    Who’s Jon Stewart? (and is his name with or without an “H” — you did it both ways….)

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Jon, I originally wrote it as “John”, and corrected it.

  2. Shoshannah Avatar

    Usually I agree with you. Then I wonder….why do I have to start this reply with that? Why do I have to placate you prior to announcing my truth? Bottom line is this. Philosophy is okay but TORAH is truth. What does G-d, Torah, have to say about this? It’s pretty clear. We can wake up and ask ourselves who we want to be popular with – G-d or people? We do not negotiate with terrorists – that’s from Torah not me. We want love but that does not mean creating a love god in our image to fit in. Life is tough sometimes – a lot of times – reality is was matters…not smores and some blah blah love-ya song. We do not try to make peace with G-d haters. And guess what? That’s not falling short of the mark. It’s being a Jew – REALITY.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar


      And I think Torah says two things: yes, you don’t allow killers to kill you or to threaten your very existence. But it also says we value innocent life, all life.

      And it talks about speaking respectfully, watching our language, and all that as well. Huge theme. And that’s really what this post is about.

      1. Shoshannah Avatar

        You are absolutely correct. In fact, this is one reason I follow your blogs – you are not afraid of confrontation. When we left Egypt the angels were happy at the demise of the Egyptians and Hashem was not happy with them. Egyptians were His creation. NOW – destroy the Amelekite – do not even leave an animal alive. Pinchas – was the woman really guilty? There are times G-d says just do it. There is a difference between putting G-d on hold for people and putting people on hold for G-d. I hate war – any death makes me sad. This enemy wants to eradicate all Jews – that’s not ok with G-d. Placing a value on life is utmost – that should reiterate to us that what needs to be done is so painful we should do our best to not let these situations happen. It takes 2 to tango. They don’t care – they use human shields – THEY started this. We are not doormats. And yes, to be sure, I cry over every innocent life lost. But we did not start the fire.

  3. Eliyahu Otis Avatar
    Eliyahu Otis

    This does speak to the Arab/Israeli conflict in particular, but I think you can widen the spectrum to the rest of the divisive issues currently involved in the national conversation. Each side has its outlet to illustrate that it is in the right, and calm, reasonable, sensible discourse has all but disappeared in the country. Instead, we’ve taken on a “you’re either with us or against us” mentality that precludes compromise and denies the true nature of the world: that not everything is black and white. There is nuance to everything, and the national/global conscious has forgotten that. The real question becomes how to foster honest, reasonable, realistic debate between the sides without devolving into hostile camps that can devolve even further from hostile to violent.

  4. anonymouse Avatar

    Umm… how do I put this? There is an undertone that is not being addressed. But firstly, “I agree with you.” Yet, its not just about having an open conversation.

    Israel goes way beyond the expected norm to protect Palestinian civilians while “…(Chamas) draw(s) the fire in the home, precisely to elicit (these) kind of questions”. – John Kerry (I know). It fosters an implied equivalency. Politicians like Moshe Feiglin walk out of interviews that give a forum for open discussion that end up attempting to equate IDF soldiers as terrorists. That is not something to debate about. That is why it is always important to first acknowledge that there is no moral equivalency. I cannot stress that enough.

    On that note, Jon Stewart has not been exactly impartial. It is too tempting to side with the underdog. Hillary Clinton had to lay it out for him on the show. Israel actually wants peace, while the Muslim counterpart would not know what to do with that. All they know is how to appose, which is why Arafat turned down a major opportunity.

    1. DarthYan Avatar

      Uh actually no it doesn’t. they have access to drones fighter planes and advanced hardware. they could easily target civilians or terrorists. they just choose to use methods that kill civvies while only giving pals minutes to evacuate. to quote the dahiya doctrine What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.

      1. anonymouse Avatar

        This guy is joking right… “they just choose to use methods that kill civvies?” If that was true they would be many many more deaths. The problem is having these “civvies” either choosing to be there, acting as terrorist shields, or they are being held by force. Ultimately, Hamas wants more deaths. They welcome it, while the IDF uses great caution when civilians are involved. No other military gets close to the humanitarian consideration of the IDF.

        1. DarthYan Avatar

          They have methods that wouldn’t kill as many civillians. They choose not too. Just google the dahiya doctrine

          Israel does not care about civillian deaths. The right wing of Israel would cheerfully commit genocide if they could get a away with it

          1. anonymouse Avatar

            The dahiya doctrine is not current, and ignores the context of what is happening on the ground. And the right wing isnt calling the shots in Israel… Israel went in because Hammas has been launching rockets for a good while now, but the tunnels bring a new threat that cannot be ignored.
            What methods are you referring to that would be an effective alternative to ensure people leave the area?

          2. anonymouse Avatar

            You forget that Hamas was elected by a vast majority of the Palestinian people… this article makes it sound like war is something Israel wants. I also have yet to hear an improved solution for the IDF to use to prevent casualties.

            As for the 5 points of the article:

            Point 1: Israel wants Gaza to be independent. They disengaged, and invested money and resources for them to build infrastructure for schools and hospitals. Same places they hide in. And they have been using the aid for the tunnels as well, the most underplayed fact.

            Point 2: Israel, nor any other country, would in their right mind allow a hostile territory to attain weapons they intend to use. Of coarse after Hamas was elected there was a siege imposed… they are openly, and recognized terrorists.

            Point 3: Hamas has recently broke every cease fire offered, even their own.

            Point 4: Just because Israel has a better army does not mean they shouldn’t use it. If anything, Hamas should avoid conflict.

            Point 5: This point should throw the whole article out the window. “Israel has yet to prove that Hamas has used civilian infrastructure to store military weapons?” The Washington Post begs to differ. A third U.N. school was found with weapons, and humanitarians there confirm Hamas shoot in the vicinity of hospitals… in the least we can assume they are based close by.

            It is important to note that a reporter confirmed Hamas misfired rockets that hit a Hospital. But after all is said and done, the tunnels present a well planned attack that took years to prepare. I understand the gut reaction to defend the weaker group, but it becomes an emotional foundation for interpreting the information. I am not saying there are no innocent people getting hurt, it is just important to realize who is war hungry. Which brings me back to my original point: it is always important to first acknowledge that there is no moral equivalency.

          3. DarthYan Avatar

            The blockade keeps food out and was stated to starve people to submission. It’s on record

          4. DarthYan Avatar

            The Israelis still controlled water borders trade air space. Hell according to world net daily (a very pro israel site) the palestinians DID try to use the greenhouses israel left behind. Israel prevented them from trading it due to their control over the borders (they blocked them from selling them to Europe)

            Hamas was elected because they emphasized a “we will increase education fight corruption” platform. Also right after about 60% of the gazans wanted them to honor the Oslo accords. Hamas are scum no question but given the corruption of the PLO I can see why they were elected of seen as attractive

            Evidence? I’ve heard arguments that Israel broke the ceasefires

            Way to miss the point. The point was that Israel has methods that can take the bad guys without killing civillians. They just choose not to use them.

            Even if Israel’s claims are plausible international law obligates israel to avoid casualties “that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” What of the point that in 2006 most rockets weren’t launched from villages or populated towns but prepared sites out of town

          5. DarthYan Avatar

            The articles final point that even if there were tunnels under every bit of gaza than by that logic all gazans are human shields who need to die

          6. anonymouse Avatar

            I agree that the civilian population voted for who they thought would be best… but it is pretty clear that is not their priority. And the the article in World New Daily seems to say quite the apposite. It is widely reported that it was looted right away, against the PLOs efforts. Maybe you can link me?

            It is also important to realize that “Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack — the legal definition of a human shield under international law. But it is indisputable that Gaza militants operate in civilian areas, draw return fire to civilian structures, and on some level benefit in the diplomatic arena from the rising casualties. They also have at times encouraged residents not to flee their homes when alerted by Israel to a pending strike and, having prepared extensively for war, did not build civilian bomb shelters.” -NY Times

            That is why the IDF attacks very specific targets, sometimes aborting missions altogether. Again, no country comes close to the care they are taking, and I have yet to hear what they can do to be more careful. But just to be clear, here is more information about how to respond to human shields

            I wouldnt trust the sources that claim Israel broke the ceasefires…. it is pretty clear the rockets keep coming. If there were no rockets there would be no trouble in the first place. I usually do not engage in such debates, as the gut reaction to defend the weak tends to cloud over the fact that Israel cant stand by idle. The Gallup made a poll showing that the closer (and older) people that fallow the situation in Gaza, the more they support Israels actions. Even some Arab countries are now anti Hamas. It’s too easy to condemn Israel for not doing enough. Ironically enough, that is what Hamas is counting on.

          7. DarthYan Avatar

            It was also hareetz. Im not sure you’re properly interpreting the Gallup poll. In my experience older sources ignore information that doesn’t suit them (as do pro Israeli sources.)

            And if Israel have the palestinians control of their water supply ability to trade roads foreign policy there wouldn’t be as many rockets. According to the who gaza will be unable to support life by 2020 if the blockade is kept up.

            In 2000 Israel’s “generous offer” would have denied palestinians control over their own water supply borders roads foreign policies air space…. Basically they would have been a bantustsn. The deal in 2005 left israel in control of everything that mattered. When palestinians tried to use the greenhouses…..Israel kept them from trading it. Israel needs to give them their own water supply.

            Also those settlements are an even bigger problem. They hoard 80% water for 1% population, they are inhabited largely by ultra orthodox xenophobia (there have been cases where settlers have murdered palestinian civillians in cold blood). Given that these are the closest things to jewish civillians they interact with it’s no wonder that palestinians are able to demonize them (I’ve known an Israeli who was perfectly nice. He considers the ultra orthodox to be assholes.) also here’s an article on the subject

            And a rather charming link of an idf soldier boasting that he murdered children

          8. anonymouse Avatar

            Russia also controls the gas for its neighboring countries. If Gaza could get water from Egypt no one would appose…
            As for the these sad cases, they are very isolated and condemned by Israel – unlike what is happening in Gaza.
            There is just no moral equivalence.

          9. DarthYan Avatar

            Uh why cant gazans have their water supply? Why are they denied water so settlers can have swimming pools? Netenyahu supports settlements. Why do the Israelis only offer deals the m’kar palestinians bantustans

          10. anonymouse Avatar

            They do get water, in fact their water and electricity is provided at no cost. That is why it is controlled.

          11. DarthYan Avatar

            Explain why jewish settlers hoard most of the water for swimming pools and gardens. Explain why Israel builds settlements even though they are illegal provide no security benefits and why the people in settlements are allowed to vote but palestinians are blocked
            Explain why palestinians are always denied permits to build wells. Explain why Israeli settlers consume 70% more fresh water than the arabs despite the settlers being one percent. Sharon admitted himself he didn’t intend to fully give it up

          12. anonymouse Avatar

            Give what up? And I have yet to hear the better methods to minimize casualties.

            First, lets be clear that anyone who does not pay their utility bills will get cut off. That is in any country. Gaza owes a lot of money and are taking advantage of their situation. Hamas and the PA can surely afford it, in the least make a payment plan. But that is really beside the point.

            The Palestinians really have made little to no effort to build their own infrastructure.
            -They have drilled one-third of the sites that were granted to them from the Aquifer mountain… and there is plenty of aid available. This alone would provide them with enough water.
            -They lose over a third of their water from leeks they are unwilling to fix.
            -They refuse to build water treatment plants, which they are required to under the Oslo agreement
            -The international community offered to build desalination plants, which again, they refuse.

            As a result, Israel citizens pays %20 more to subsidize them while they try to bootleg Israeli water. There is no hoarding going on. Its clearly not about resources, they use water as a weapon, just as they use civilians. They hoard the international aid they receive, investing in weapons and tunnels – terror. It is a pathetic situation they put themselves in. Self victimization and willing dependence on Israel…

          13. DarthYan Avatar

            Israel keeps demolishing wells. Sky news did a report and it’s found that for the aqua fire that is the main West Bank source of water israel gets 80%. Yes part of it may be what you claim but that doesn’t change that Israel has willingly denied them the ability to build wells and cisterns while illegal settlements get 80% of the water despite having 1% of the population.


            What of the settlers? There have been protests by Israeli groups about them and there have been cases when settlers have murdered civillians in cold blood (even children babies etc). Those settlers are part of the problem. They’ve destroyed olive trees crops poisoned livestock and in a few cases have poisoned wells (before you accuse me of lying the Israeli police agreed it was the settlers who did it.)


            Hamas actually does spend 90% of its money on infrastructure. What I meant was that Israel willingly denied them the ability to control what was important deliberately doing so so that they would maintain effective control.

          14. anonymouse Avatar

            Hamas is clearly putting their efforts in other areas… and deny the help to build essential facilities. They have serious sewage problems. The last thing Israel wants is to babysit Gaza, you think leaving was not a serious move? It probably made their lives worse.

            I can only assume they are not creating wells where they should be, in the east Aquifer hills. They want the wells that hold the same water as Israel… in the west. This was all dealt with in Oslo.

            Its a joke. This is what Hillary said about Arafat, she was right there. Same applies here, the leadership doesnt know how to run a government, they stick to terrorizing and self victimization.

            Since you brought them up, the UN is also a joke. How could so little attention be given to what is going on in the world? Syria alone… dont get me started. Hamas is losing its support, and for good reason. It will either have to grow up or move out. Have we forgotten it is a terrorist organisation?

  5. Ruhina Avatar

    Thanks a lot for this post! Its pretty spectacular and hits close to home. I’m Muslim but my family is Jewish, so as you can imagine, I’m really conflicted at the moment. And my Facebook feed just makes it that much worse.
    Your post put into words what I’ve been thinking for, really, the past few years. Whenever the conflict flares up, everybody is ready to point fingers and go to rallies and criticize basically everyone in power.
    Instead of that, we should really do the only thing that works, which is pray for this particular flare-up to end. And when it does, dialogue is key. You’re absolutely right, this is about humanity. Not about who can post the most disturbing videos on Facebook.
    However much we talk about dialogue though, the effort has obviously amounted little, 50 years later. God willing, we don’t have to wait 50 more.

  6. Dash Avatar

    Thanks for the post Elad. No one should be silenced. We should feel safe to bring up points and ask questions without people making assumptions about us based on one idea we presented. We have a better chance of getting to the bottom of things if we listen and talk with love and acceptance rather than fear and projection. I see this problem in many heated debates. It is a very human problem, one that we should strive to correct.

  7. daniel.saunders Avatar

    You might like to look at George Orwell’s essay Writers and Leviathan in which he argues that writers can not avoid politics, but can not easily join one particular side either for fear of compromising their independence by refusing to acknowledge complexity:

    “To accept an orthodoxy is always to inherit unresolved contradictions… in politics one can never do more than decide which of two evils is the less, and there are some situations from which one can only escape by acting like a devil or a lunatic… If you have to take part in such things – and I think you do have to, unless you are armoured by old age or stupidity or hypocrisy – then you also have to keep part of yourself inviolate.”

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Just saved it to read later. I’m looking forward to being incredibly depressed.

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