When South African comic Trevor Noah was announced as Jon Stewart’s replacement at The Daily Show, the very first question for a lot of us was, What are his views on Israel/Palestine? And soon the Jewish Telegraphic Agency unearthed this crack on Noah’s twitter page five years ago, not long after the attack on the Gaza flotilla:
South Africans know how to recycle like israel knows how to be peaceful.
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) June 2, 2010
Later, rightwing media suggested that Noah has a “Jewish problem,” meaning he’s anti-Semitic, because he has made Jewish cracks on twitter over the years, lame Jewish shtik of the sort that Jewish comics like Sarah Silverman make all the time. Pajamas Media speculated that Noah wouldn’t last another day.
Well, good news, today Comedy Central stood by Noah. Per the New York Times, its statement read in part: “Like many comedians, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries; he is provocative and spares no one, himself included.”
In that Times piece, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League says that he welcomes Noah, but lay off the Jewish shtik.
We hope he will not cross the line from legitimate satire into offensiveness with jokes calling up anti-Semitic stereotypes and misogyny.
Noah’s real offense may be that he laid a finger on Israel. As Jamie Weinstein of the neoconservative Daily Caller wrote in a piece titled, “Is New ‘Daily Show’ Host Trevor Noah Anti-Israel?,” the tweet above “does seem to suggest that Noah believes Israel is an inherently belligerent country.” Gosh, is that possible? Israel had just killed nine unarmed Turks on a humanitarian boat bound for Gaza, in international waters.
Noah has obviously followed Gaza attacks. The JTA also unearthed the following post by Noah when he attended/observed a rally against the Gaza slaughter last summer. By the way, that onslaught killed 2100-2300 Gazans, among them 500 children. More than 70 Israelis were killed, almost all in uniform.
We welcome Noah too. Jon Stewart was always too careful/cute about the conflict for our taste. Noah is more likely to solidify a cultural trend: more and more young Democrats, women and people of color are taking a very dim view of the belligerent actions of the so-called only democracy in the Middle East.
Thanks to Peter Voskamp.
Update: The story made the national news last night, with NBC featuring a tweet to Noah from Rosanne Barr conflating anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel: “U should cease sexist & anti semitic ‘humor’ about jewish women & Israel.” NPR has also covered the story, noting Noah’s jokes about overweight women. Culture critic Eric Deggans called on Noah to assure viewers that he isn’t “a sexist anti-Semite.” Deggans:
Noah has also said his mother’s half Jewish, and Jon Stewart often jokes about his own Jewish heritage on “The Daily Show.” And it seems in popular culture we’ve accepted this idea that people who are part of a minority group can make fun of that group in ways that outsiders can’t. But it also doesn’t seem that Trevor Noah has publicly identified much with being Jewish, and there’s nothing in these controversial tweets that indicates he’s making fun of himself or sees himself as part of Jewish culture.