Jon Stewart compares settlements to terrorism, and gets laughs in the process

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Last night I fired up the Daily Show on my computer, something I hadn’t done in weeks. A segment came on about Peter King’s bizarre McCarthyist witch hunt against American Muslims.

Jon started off by showing videos of bigoted, mean-spirited, embarrassingly ignorant things random mobs of American citizens have been doing lately to try to intimidate American Muslims and… honestly I don’t know what they’re trying to do. They look like Pavlov’s dogs. As if they don’t even know why they’re salivating anymore.

The camera cuts back to Jon: “But so far,” he says sardonically, “none of this stuff is working. They’re still Muslims. Getting a free pass on their Musliminess. The people need a champion in Washington.”

Cut to Candy Crowley of CNN: “Thursday the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Peter King, will open hearings on what he calls radicalization in the American Muslim community. He says that the threat of homegrown terrorism is on the rise and American Muslims are not doing enough to stop it.”

Back to Jon: “Wow. It’s not enough for US Muslims to be law-abiding. To avoid Congressional investigation, they have to be actively stopping terror plots.” Then Jon pauses, and his hand flies to his mouth. “Oh my God,” he says. “Wait until they find out I’ve done nothing to stop the West Bank settlements!”

I almost spit my burrito out. You could hear the audience audibly gasp, as if they couldn’t believe he’d gone there either. Then they began to clap appreciatively. By that time Jon had already moved on to the next joke.

It happened very quickly. If you blinked, you could have missed it. But this was the first time I’d ever heard anyone compare the settlements to terrorism on cable TV. And the audience, though taken by surprise, wasn’t outraged. On the contrary, once they got over their shock, they seemed to get it. It was a one-two punch, both defending the American Muslim community and condemning the settlements in the strongest terms I’ve ever heard from a mainstream-liberal public figure.

Jon’s a smart guy. If he hasn’t figured out what’s going on over there, it’s a matter of time before he does. I get a sense even now that he wishes he could say more. But that little snippet was an incredibly brave thing to say—and another indicator of changing times.

Perhaps we should contact the Daily Show and thank him for that. (email: I’m sure he’s getting plenty of comments from the other side.

Pamela Olson’s book Fast Times in Palestine will be published next month.

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