Jon Stewart Made Some Valid Points on Antisemitism…Then Almost Ruined It All
Recently, comedian Jon Stewart appeared on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert, to discuss the controversies surrounding Chappelle, Irving and West, and the impact of antisemitic rhetoric. In case you have not yet seen it, here it is:
Overall, I enjoyed and appreciated this. Stewart and Colbert are funny guys, and it was important they have this conversation.
Stewart’s mockery of the fact we supposedly control the world was pitch perfect – he really managed to make it sound preposterous. The Christian president line was inspired, and I laughed out loud over his Irving quip.
Stewart’s comments on his friend David Chappelle were also important. I found his rebuttal to those who say he “normalized antisemitism” to be spot-on (and something I had also thought). Antisemitism has for a long time become normalized, and Chappelle’s routine did not magically do so.
Stewart posits that censoring and punishing people is not the way to fight antisemitism. I do not fully agree with him on this, and think it depends on the situation. As a general rule, it is important to call out antisemitism where you see it. This does not necessarily mean calling the person promulgating it an “antisemite”, because it might be more a case of ignorance than hatred. But shining a light on the thing they said or wrote is important, at least to educate others about how and why it is wrong and hurtful.
I agree we should not just shut people up if they say something antisemitic. I am not for censorship, and only advocate for that when someone is really inciting violence against others. I personally do not like when the social media accounts of those disseminating antisemitism (without the violence incitement) are shut down, because I prefer to expose, mock and ridicule them. This achieves a few things:
- Shines a light on the Jew hatred (and in many cases shows how “anti-Zionism” is antisemitism)
- In many cases, makes life uncomfortable for the antisemites and enables them to suffer real-life consequences for it
Because I support freedom of speech but also freedom to suffer the consequences for that speech.
My approach seems to work in both regards, and has even resulted in a number of people I exposed renouncing their antisemitic ways and promising to promote tolerance. It can weed out the die-hard Jew-haters from the more ignorant, brainwashed people.
In some cases, where the person posting the antisemitic things might be acting more out of ignorance than strong antisemitic belief, there is more hope for a “softer” approach like trying to educate them. In Kyrie Irving’s case, it is true he did not apologize when he should have, but I think the education route was probably the better one, at least initially. This is not the case of a person with a long history of bashing Jews.
But back to Stewart’s comments. He made an important point about how many Black Americans feel, and it is important to deal with the misconceptions about Jews having extracted their wealth, as well as yielding power for nefarious intentions. At the same time, someone like Louis Farrakhan needs to be confronted head-on, and exposed for the vile hatemonger that he is.
After making this important point, Stewart almost ruined it all with his claim that he is called antisemitic because he is “against Israel’s treatment over palestinians.” This plays into the claim of many actual antisemites that we conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel. While I do not doubt that some people have labeled Stewart an antisemite over his comments about Israel, the vast majority of pro-Israel people do not label people so just because of criticism of Israel or some policies of our government. Stewart’s mention of this makes it sound like a real common phenomenon. More generally, it makes it sound like people are regularly accusing mere critics of Israel of antisemitism, where I know that in the vast majority of cases, it is actual antisemites claiming to “just” be criticizing Israel who are called out for saying or writing something that contravenes the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
Overall, I am glad Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had this conversation. I just wish it had ended a few minutes earlier.