Jon Stewart’s Triple Threat

Israel/Palestine
on 40 Comments

This Monday and Tuesday, Jon Stewart dedicated three segments of The Daily Show to Israeli belligerence and American intransigence in the Middle East.

The first was an interview of Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour that took jabs at the US government’s determination to veto Palestine’s application to the UN for statehood. The second made fun of the US, Iran, and Israel equally for their warmongering during an election season. And the third took on the Israel lobby, and the fact that no American politician dares criticize Israel while politicians in Israel itself are allowed a much broader spectrum of dissent.

I think it’s another blow to the silence and complicity surrounding all these issues in a major vehicle of American liberal culture.

Feel free to judge for yourself. Below are the clips and partial transcripts.

Who wants to be a member of the UN? Palestine

John Oliver [voiceover]: “For seventy years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been utterly intractable. President after president has tried and failed to propose a lasting solution. But recently the Palestinians attempted a new tactic.”

Candy Crowley on CNN: “Palestine wants full membership from the United Nation.”

Fox News: “Palestinians now want the UN to recognize them as the state of Palestine.”

John Oliver [sitting down to do an interview with Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour] : “I think first it’s important that we agree to some pre-conditions for this interview.”

Ambassador Riyad Mansour: “I will be willing to hear it, yes.”

John: “First, this entire interview must be conducted with a 1967 vocabulary. Is that groovy with you?”

Riyad: “Groovy? It is agreeable to me, yes.” [Is this poking fun at the Palestinians’ insistence on pre-conditions or Israel’s refusal to consider them?]

John: “Moving on… Actually, before we do, is it hot in here?”

Riyad: “It’s fine.”

John: “So you’re not hot? Because I’m definitely hot.”

Riyad: “I am not.”

John: “OK, look, Ambassador, I think before we do anything, we are gonna have to come to a provisional status agreement on the temperature in this room.”

Riyad: “If you want to lower the temperature, it’s fine with me.”

John: “But who’s going to control the thermostat?”

Riyad: “The thermostat… should be shared by all of us.”

John: “Don’t even think about dividing this thermostat.”

Riyad: “We will not divide the thermostat, but it should be accessed by all those who cherish it and think that it is a holy place that should be accessed by everyone.” [Is he implying the PA doesn’t want to divide Jerusalem, or that Palestinians don’t want to divide Palestine?]

John Oliver [voiceover]: “After three and a half hours of laborious negotiations, we finally came to an agreement.”

John: “We agree that at an unspecified time in the future, we will announce a summit to discuss the possibility of discussing a negotiation towards an agreement on temperature. Yes?”

Riyad: “Yes.”

John: “Shake hands for the camera. Thank you, Ambassador, this is a historic day.”

Riyad: “Yes indeed.”

John [Quietly]: “You’re not touching that thermostat.”

Riyad: “We’ll see.”

John Oliver [voiceover]: “So progress is possible. Unfortunately, the Palestinian UN application has one little star-spangled obstacle.”

Fox News: “The Obama Administration has pledged to veto any move toward statehood.”

John: “That’s right. We’re vetoing an application to an organization that even has Libya, Syria, and North Korea as members. But the Ambassador just doesn’t get it.”

Riyad: “We have 131 countries recognizing us as the state of Palestine.”

John: “But how many that matter?”

Riyad: “Well, all countries to us are important. We are not in the business [of] differentiating between small countries and big countries.”

[The whole time he’s talking, John is holding up one finger, implying that only one country matters.]

Riyad: “We know, one country, one country, yes. We understand. We understand. Even the one country, the United States of America, in principle they support the recognition of the state of Palestine. They’re just saying it’s only a question of timing.”

John Oliver [voiceover]: “And that time is emphatically not now. But perhaps there was one other way we could get them in.”

John: “So you definitely want to become a member of the UN.”

Riyad: “Yes. We don’t want to be the exception to the rule. We are like the rest of humanity.”

John: “OK. That brings us to the game show portion of this interview: Who wants to be a member of the UN?”

At this point there’s a bit with a trivia question and a bonus round, and the ‘prize’ is a US veto.

Riyad: “If we are vetoed once, we will come back again until we prevail… We are determined to be a member of the UN.”

The show ends with a disclaimer-type voiceover: “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is not responsible for the outcome of this contest. All ‘mystery box’ results have been pre-determined by the US Department of State.”

Words of Warcraft

Jon Stewart [after playing a clip of preposterous Netanyahu fearmongering about a ‘nuclear duck’ and Iran calling Israel a cancer]: “Israel and Iran are taunting each other with overheated war rhetoric. America, can we get a responsible party to break up this schoolyard fight before someone gets hurt?”

[Clips of Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich threatening Iran.]

Jon: “So in other words, simmer d— Wait, what? Oh, right. It’s an election year. Candidates are obviously talking tough. I’m sure Iran knows not to take those guys literally. They would know that, right…?”

Jon turns to Camera 3 to speak with Iran: “Here’s the thing. You’ve probably been hearing a lot of talk about America and bombs… on you. Um. Let me explain to you why we’re saying this. Are you familiar with Florida? It’s a region in the South that we’ve filled with old Jews and young Christians. And whoever wins it wins the presidency. And in Florida, they would like to bomb you if they could. So the talk of war is not actually meant for you, it’s meant for Florida. It’s an election season. Our rhetoric gets somewhat distorted, hyperbolic. Probably a cultural thing.”

[Fox news reveals that Iran is having elections of its own soon.]

Jon to Iran: “This explains your rhetoric! You’re having an election, too! … Israel, meet me at Camera 2.”

To Israel: “I don’t think Iran’s really gearing up to nuke Tel Aviv. It’s just crazy overblown election rhetoric. … The United States and Iran are slaves to their electoral calendars… So it’s up to you guys not to get caught up, and perhaps muffle the drums of war a little bit, Israel.”

Then Jon realizes: “Netanyahu could be calling parliamentary elections as soon as this fall? So your over-heated rhetoric is all just pre-election schvantz-waving, too? Son of a… America! Camera one!”

Jon addresses the United States: “Dude. Iran and Israel are also in an election year. We’re all just overhearing each other’s stump speeches and freaking out! And if we’re not careful, these to dickheads are gonna drag us into another war.”

Jon turns to Israel: “Did I say dickhead? I meant respected ally!”

Jon turns to Iran: “I didn’t say dickhead, I said proud and ancient culture that has much to teach us!”

Back to America: “Look, we gotta stop this before it gets out of hand. Because if Israel starts a war, you know we’ll have no choice but to dive into it with them.”

To Israel: “Which doesn’t mean you should start a war!”

To America: “Did I just commit our troops to Israel? Because I think I f—ked that up. A war would only strengthen the Iranian dictatorship.”

To Iran: “Not that you should start one!”

Finally Jon gives up and starts singing to everyone, then appeals to God to sort it all out. God does not reply. Perhaps he’s in an election season, too.

Hebrew Nationalist

Jon: “Super Tuesday [is] a political event… with ten states up for grabs in the highly-contested Republican primary, the top three candidates paid special attention to apparently the most important state: Israel. That’s right. Each one took time out today, from the biggest primary yet, to address the American-Israeli Political Action Committee [AIPAC actually stands for American Israel Public Affairs Committee—a common mistake]. They love Israel. Not like that other guy they’re running to replace…”

[Clips of Fox News pundits talking about how hostile Obama is to Israel.]

Jon: “That’s why it was kind of surprising that Barack Obama also appeared at AIPAC. I guess he’s gonna tear them a new one, ugh… This could get ugly!”

Obama is shown at AIPAC spouting the usual tropes (albeit with a clenched and angry expression):

“Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.”

“My administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented.”

“There will be no lasting peace until Israel’s security concerns are met. When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.”

“I’m so in love with you.” [OK, this one was taken out of context a bit...]

“I’ve said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table… That includes all elements of American power. A political effort… a diplomatic effort… an economic effort…”

Jon: “Is he gonna say it?”

Obama: “And yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”

Jon: “There you have it. That’s the guy who hates Israel. Basically the parameters for debate in the United States about Israel range all the way from ‘I unequivocally support them and might bomb Iran’ to ‘I unequivocally support them and will definitely bomb Iran.’

“Although to be fair, there are some prominent politicians willing to criticize the Israeli government. Even willing to say stuff like, ‘Israel is not about to be destroyed… with his crazy analogies, the Prime Minister is diverting attention from Iran to his fearmongering.’ Or, ‘(Netanyahu’s words on Iran) sound like a calculated preparation for a reckless adventure.’ Or, ‘Israel is making a mistake in its unwillingness to recognize a Palestinian state.’

“Oh man, I’d love to play sound bites of those quotes for you. But they’re in Hebrew. Because they were said by members of the Israeli Knesset. Because apparently in Israel, you are allowed to criticize Israel and still hold public office.”

About Pamela Olson

Pamela Olson is the author of Fast Times in Palestine. She blogs here.

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40 Responses

  1. Les
    March 7, 2012, 3:18 pm

    It’s easy to see why Mr. Leibowitz is the popular reporter that he is.

  2. radii
    March 7, 2012, 3:28 pm

    if the Lobby is going to retaliate against Stewart they will do so within months – if they do not then it means they cannot, which would mark yet another milestone in the fracturing of israeli control over the narrative … Mansour was certainly a good sport, and this humor bit did more to advance the cause of a free Palestine than anything else has in ages

  3. Dan Crowther
    March 7, 2012, 3:36 pm

    I, we, have criticized Stewart before — but man, his Hebrew Nationalist one especially was spot freakin on – and hilarious. Cheers to the Daiy Show.

    • Daniel Rich
      March 7, 2012, 5:58 pm

      @ Dan Crowther,

      Q: Cheers to the Daiy show.

      R: Sorry, bud, but that sound kinda ‘cheesy’ lol.

  4. Hostage
    March 7, 2012, 3:57 pm

    John Stewart and John Oliver aren’t the only ones weighing-in lately on the recognition of Palestine and the 2ss.

    MK Hanin Zoabi endorses the two state solution:
    link to subber.com

    Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of the Central Command on the renewal of an Israeli-Arab drive for peace based on a two-state solution:
    link to haaretz.com

  5. pabelmont
    March 7, 2012, 5:05 pm

    Nice to make a long, protracted joke out of these serious things, so people can see how nonsensical they all are. At least, that is how I hope people watch the comedy-news.

  6. Mndwss
    March 7, 2012, 5:16 pm

    Good.

    Now if only the scribes of the court would follow up and tell the emperor that the jester has a point:

    Put on some clothes!!!!

  7. eGuard
    March 7, 2012, 5:46 pm

    I didn’t laugh. Probably because I know: in the end, Jon is there to help Israel. In the end, he doesn’t take a risk for a good joke.

    Now what did I say? Did you read the last paragraph? I didn’t know the hasbara stuff “In Israel you can criticise Israel” is his copyrighted text. And to set the analogy right: if your point is ‘In America you cannot criticise Israel’, the Hebrew quotes should be: Israelis criticising America. Duh.

    • eGuard
      March 8, 2012, 5:37 am

      Can someone explain the joke in this part:
      [Talking] to America: “Look, we gotta stop this before it gets out of hand. Because if Israel starts a war, you know we’ll have no choice but to dive into it with them.”

      [Talking] To Israel: “Which doesn’t mean you should start a war!”

      To America: “Did I just commit our troops to Israel? Because I think I f—ked that up. A war would only strengthen the Iranian dictatorship.”

      These are just AIPAC talking points. Keeping the war on the agenda, pushing the nonsense “If Israel goes, we have to go along” without a joke or pun. Jon Stewart will not grill or expose the Israel Lobby. This three-way rant, chaotic by script and by Jon’s position in this, is his solution to his problem: he cannot address the neocon/Israeli war lobby freely. And that shows.

      • teta mother me
        March 8, 2012, 9:58 am

        I agree eGuard, the Iran bit was not funny. There is no equivalence between the actual, present, on-going punishments being carried out against Iran by Israel and the US, with the goal of starving Iranian children, and name calling in defense.

        If callers to C Span are any barometer, Stewart’s lame humor had its effect: a majority of callers who mentioned Iran thought Iran is evil and should be ‘taken out.’ “We can put a bomb in the ayatollah’s pocket.”

        Stewart was either irresponsible, or he knew exactly what he was doing.

      • Hostage
        March 8, 2012, 10:29 am

        These are just AIPAC talking points.

        No, AIPAC has never said that it would be a f*uckup to commit US troops to assist Israel or that an attack on Iran would strengthen the dictatorship. That is Stewart’s backhanded delivery of an anti-war editorial. You guys really need to get a grip if you think that somehow supports AIPAC.

      • LeaNder
        March 8, 2012, 11:20 am

        Hostage, I may not like this: I know: in the end, Jon is there to help Israel., but I loved the first and thought the second one was somehow lame, too. Very, very urgent, but ultimately only about elections everywhere, so not so urgent after all, and the Iranians, well yes, who likes Ahmadinejad & the Mullahs, that includes me. That definitively works against the superficial balance by having all three parties and elections.

      • eGuard
        March 8, 2012, 5:34 pm

        Hostage: AIPAC has never said that …
        so it doesn’t exist.

        Great.

  8. atime forpeace
    March 7, 2012, 5:59 pm

    so i guess Pat Buchanans statement that congress is Israeli occupied territory is true.

    “Oh man, I’d love to play sound bites of those quotes for you. But they’re in Hebrew. Because they were said by members of the Israeli Knesset. Because apparently in Israel, you are allowed to criticize Israel and still hold public office

  9. Daniel Rich
    March 7, 2012, 6:01 pm

    A Palestinian State?! No, no, no, no, no!!! That means they can go to The Hague, the ICC or ICJ. We’re all victims here…, the holocaust…, frigging bomb Iran already [darn. Bad time to lose my hasbara handbook. WTF's Bibi?!].

  10. DICKERSON3870
    March 7, 2012, 6:14 pm

    RE: “Because apparently in Israel, you are allowed to criticize Israel and still hold public office.” ~ Jon Stewart

    MY COMMENT: Not for much longer!

    SEE: Weimar Revisited, by Uri Avnery, Antiwar.com, 11/21/11
    LINK – link to original.antiwar.com

    AND SEE: Anti-Democratic Knesset Bills, by Stephen Lendman, OpEdNews.com, 10/25/12
    LINK – link to opednews.com

    AND SEE: Avnery on McCarthyism Israeli-style: “Hi, Joe!”, by Uri Avnery, mwcnews.net, 1/08/11
    LINK – link to mwcnews.net

  11. Elliot
    March 7, 2012, 6:28 pm

    I get that this counts as progress but I’m gonna rain on the parade.
    I didn’t find this funny or respectful of the Palestinian ambassador. I’m not sure how much the Palestinian ambassador was in on the joke and how much was clever editing.
    Kinda sad that a Palestinian diplomat needs to play along with this silliness just to get some media exposure.

    • Exiled At Home
      March 8, 2012, 1:34 am

      On the one hand, this is the Daily Show formula for all their interviews. I’ve seen many serious, and annoyed, people sit through the Daily Show interviews. So, this wasn’t something especially crafted for the Palestinian ambassador. Also, there is something to be said for an absurd interview of this style demonstrating the absurdity of Israel’s demands. Perhaps the ambassador found it refreshing. Probably not though.

      I also believe, on the other hand, that unless the ambassador was 100% aware and supportive of the interview before hand, then this was distasteful fun that cheapens the struggle this man and his fellow Palestinians have endured.

      • eGuard
        March 8, 2012, 5:28 am

        Yes, the interview may be tricked. Even the over-the-shoulder shots can be manipulated, adding questions that were not asked during the interview.

        Worse is that the ambassador was used to “balance” information (and seriously, that was not part of the joke at all). Even Pamela Olson here fell for it. She added: [Is this poking fun at the Palestinians’ insistence on pre-conditions or Israel’s refusal to consider them?].

        Stewart had his goal: it mentioned the “Palestinian pre-conditions” as a fact, subliminal and undiscussed nor joked about. (Also note that he used “Iran to nuke Tel Aviv” (Iran doesn’t even have these boms, remember), but “a lot of talk about America and bombs… on you” (no nuking mentioned here), and about Israels nuclear arms: not a hint).

      • Hostage
        March 8, 2012, 7:28 am

        I also believe, on the other hand, that unless the ambassador was 100% aware and supportive of the interview before hand, then this was distasteful fun that cheapens the struggle this man and his fellow Palestinians have endured.

        Ambassador Riyad Mansour gets American culture. He has served as Litigation Consultant with Leventhal & Slaughter; earned a PhD in Counselling from the University of Akron, an MA in Education Counselling, Youngstown State University, a BA in Philosophy from Youngstown State University and has served as Adjunct Professor, Political Science, at the University of Central Florida.

        He was quite obviously in on the joke about the thermostat/Jerusalem:

        Riyad: “We will not divide the thermostat, but it should be accessed by all those who cherish it and think that it is a holy place that should be accessed by everyone.”

        John [Quietly]: “You’re not touching that thermostat.”

        Riyad: “We’ll see.”

  12. Pixel
    March 7, 2012, 7:38 pm

    Thanks, Pamela – saw 1, didn’t know there were 3.

    “I think it’s another blow to the silence and complicity surrounding all these issues in a major vehicle of American liberal culture.

    Yes. Courage is contagious.

  13. Mayhem
    March 7, 2012, 7:47 pm

    Those of us outside America cannot receive the video content.

    • OlegR
      March 8, 2012, 5:59 am

      Strange i saw it perfectly.
      Funny as hell.

    • Chaos4700
      March 8, 2012, 8:59 am

      You can always come home, then. ;)

    • Pixel
      March 8, 2012, 10:22 am

      Configure your computer’s browser using a US-based proxy and you can watch.

      If you’re not clear how to do that, google “proxies” for self-help or ask geek friends..

      (Same works for any country from which video content can’t be received.)

      • W.Jones
        March 8, 2012, 8:23 pm

        Pixel,

        There is a British movie about 1948 called “the Promise” by Channel 4 UK TV that you can see on the internet for free but you cannot see it in America on the internet. Perhaps similarly we can refigure our proxies to make it a european one somehow to do this?

  14. American
    March 7, 2012, 8:36 pm

    WoW…..I hope people get it. Maybe the drawing of attention with humor combined with what they hear from the GOP cretins and all the Israel campaign pandering will come together.

  15. ToivoS
    March 8, 2012, 12:33 am

    Sorry folks, but I find this whole skit very demeaning to Palestinians. I do not get the joke. A dignified Palestinian statesman must engage this clown Oliver in serious discourse. Of course he must, because there is no Israeli or American diplomats that will.

    Don’t you folks understand, Palestinian diplomats are just another bunch of clowns for the Daily Show. Maybe I am over reacting but it seems to me there is something very wrong here.

    • Chaos4700
      March 8, 2012, 9:00 am

      The problem, ToivoS, is this is the closest thing we have to a serious examination of this issue on any prime time viewing venue in the United States.

      This is the only thing that passes for serious examination of politics and human rights issues, for most Americans.

      • Bumblebye
        March 8, 2012, 9:26 am

        Toivo
        At least they got a Palestinian statesman rather than keeping it in the tribe! That’s a novelty on primetime too.

      • Pixel
        March 8, 2012, 10:26 am

        Chaos, you’re spot on.

  16. Chaos4700
    March 8, 2012, 9:02 am

    Forgive me for being cynical but I’ll just wait patiently over here for the backflip, the backpedal and the backstab. The Lobby isn’t going to let this stand and I don’t believe Stewart really has the backbone not to cave when they come after him.

    • seafoid
      March 8, 2012, 9:50 am

      The lobby is going to be skewered by the wider socio economic reality of the US. There’s going to be a retrenchment . Freeloaders screwing American taxpayers will see their cashflows shrink. This could be a huge play for the democrats in 2012.

      Did anyone see a full page ad in the New Yorker Oct 2012 p.35 with MSNBC media celebrity Ed Schultz proposing the american jobs, manufacturing american products, in america, argument ?

  17. chris o
    March 8, 2012, 10:54 am

    In some ways, it was painful to watch the Oliver interview – I had to skip parts of it. I do hate that stuff when the interviewee is not in on it. (Although in this day and age, a 2-second Google search should clue you in.). But as noted above, the thermostat gave it away that he had to be in on it.

    But it was also poignant in a way. Oliver is Israel, demanding preconditions for the interview. And acting brash, loud and obnoxious. It really captures the parties’ posture toward negotiations. And it is nicely capped with the “veto” at the end.

  18. Kathleen
    March 9, 2012, 9:51 am

    Stewart and his team have really been breaking from their silence on this issue for decades the last few years. A much needed change.

    The only problem with the following is the fact that Israel the I lobby in the US congress along with Gaffney, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice, Woolsey, Bolton, Cheney, Wolofowitz, Yoo, Addington, Robert Kagan, NPR’s Terri Gross and more recently Mr Singh, Mr. Jain from WINEP, Anne Marie Slaughter have been endlessly threatening Iran for a solid 9 years. By repeating unsubstantiated claims about Iran on MSM outlets. This saber rattling and repetition of false claims about Iran has set the stage for an attack on Iran. This is not a recent development

    “Jon turns to Camera 3 to speak with Iran: “Here’s the thing. You’ve probably been hearing a lot of talk about America and bombs… on you. Um. Let me explain to you why we’re saying this. Are you familiar with Florida? It’s a region in the South that we’ve filled with old Jews and young Christians. And whoever wins it wins the presidency. And in Florida, they would like to bomb you if they could. So the talk of war is not actually meant for you, it’s meant for Florida. It’s an election season. Our rhetoric gets somewhat distorted, hyperbolic. Probably a cultural thing.”

    [Fox news reveals that Iran is having elections of its own soon.]

    Jon to Iran: “This explains your rhetoric! You’re having an election, too! … Israel, meet me at Camera 2.”

    To Israel: “I don’t think Iran’s really gearing up to nuke Tel Aviv. It’s just crazy overblown election rhetoric. … The United States and Iran are slaves to their electoral calendars… So it’s up to you guys not to get caught up, and perhaps muffle the drums of war a little bit, Israel.”

    Then Jon realizes: “Netanyahu could be calling parliamentary elections as soon as this fall? So your over-heated rhetoric is all just pre-election schvantz-waving, too? Son of a… America! Camera one!”

  19. Kathleen
    March 9, 2012, 9:55 am

    Israel and the I lobby have been threatening Iran almost daily for years now. Far far more than the other way around. Making it seem like both sides have been threatening each other in the same ways is total bull. Israel is the aggressor here.

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