Over the last two weeks, I’ve been attempting, and failing, to articulate how I feel as a Jew. Using words like “horrified,” “grief-stricken,” “overwhelmed” or “angry” simply don’t do my emotions justice, nor do they capture the added exacerbation of being a Jew online right now. And then I realized that how I feel right now isn’t a word.
It’s actually this clip from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
The segment, “We Need to Talk About Israel,” initially aired in July 2014 in the midst of the 2014 Gaza War. Then-host of “The Daily Show” Jon Stewart tried to start out the show by discussing what was happening in Israel and Gaza. However, at the mere mention of Israel, “Daily Show” correspondents Jordan Klepper, Jessica Williams, Jason Jones and Michael Che pop up from behind his desk to yell at Stewart about terrorism, Israel’s right to defend itself and its claim to the land. To finish off the onslaught, Jordan Klepper calls Stewart a “self-hating Jew.”
“That was weird,” a befuddled Stewart says, before trying again. Once more, his co-workers burst up from behind to berate him about civilians, human shields and Hamas.
“Um, holy shit,” Stewart rubs his eyes, before starting again: “Look, obviously, there are a lot of strong opinions on this issue, but just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
With that, the correspondents come up again, this time yelling about Free Palestine and occupation. Jordan Klepper once again finishes everything off calling Stewart a “Zionist pig.”
“You know what? Fuck it,” Jon concedes, crumpling up a piece of paper on the desk. “Why don’t we just talk about something lighter like, uh, Ukraine?” Jon says, referencing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Then, Jon nervously waits for the correspondents to yell at him, before Jordan Klepper returns and agrees to that segment.
Anyone else feeling like that hits a little too close to home?
I remember watching this bit from “The Daily Show” when it first aired on TV, but this past weekend the clip resurfaced and went viral after a Twitter user pointed out that it could air today without a single change. Like many others, I found that the segment resonates with me today because of how frustrating it is that the situation in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and the conversations we have around it are essentially the same as they were nearly 10 years ago.
In that way, I also couldn’t believe how well this clip captures what it’s like to be a Jew, especially in online spaces, right now. (The clip could very well also capture what it’s like for other identities right now too, but obviously I can only speak for my own.) Regardless of political beliefs, being Jewish right now means bearing witness to or being a part of countless fruitless conversations about Israel and Palestine, many that devolve into name-calling which only serves to invalidate others’ Jewish identities, dehumanization across the board and, as a result, feeling pure stress.
I understand that human (and comedic) impulse to just give up and talk about something else, like Jon Stewart ends up doing. But, looking at this clip, I hope you will take away the message that I do: More than ever, it’s important to have difficult conversations about Israel, Palestine, antisemitism and Islamophobia with your friends and family, Jewish or not. But the only way that those conversations will be meaningful or helpful is if we approach them without misinformation, and with empathy and above all, shared humanity and respect.
If we do that, hopefully one day, Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” will be a little less relatable.