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November 22, 2022 9:48 am
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Why Is Jon Stewart Ignoring and Excusing Antisemitism?

avatar by Alan Zeitlin

Opinion

Jon Stewart during an episode of his podcast “The Problem with Jon Stewart” on Jan. 5, 2022. Photo: Screenshot.

Jon Stewart must be out to lunch — because instead of condemning Dave Chappelle’s antisemitic rhetoric on “Saturday Night Live,” Stewart chose to defend him.

We should not expect people to attack their very good friends, but it’s fine to not comment at all.

Stewart did the world and the Jewish people a great disservice by being an apologist and defender of his friend’s antisemitism, and expecting everyone to ignore the obvious.

Stewart also largely excused the antisemitism of Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. Stewart could have addressed West mentioning a form of the word “Jew” a whopping 70 times during the Drink Champs interview. He could have spoken about West’s threats against Jews, and how West said he could say something antisemitic and Adidas wouldn’t fire him. But all Stewart said was that West is “eccentric,” and “he says things.” That’s not the Jon Stewart I watched for many years.

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I looked up the word “eccentric” in the dictionary, and it doesn’t say going “Death Con 3” on Jews. The only other thing Stewart said about West is that “hurt people, hurt people.” He would have you believe that this is profound. It’s not, and it’s a pathetic excuse for awful behavior.

Stewart is 100% correct that it is important to consider what the Black community feels. There has been no greater sin in America than slavery. There is still, unfortunately, terrible racism today. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to address antisemitism — especially when it comes from the Black community. Both problems should be addressed.

Chappelle should not necessarily be deemed antisemitic, and there should be no effort to cancel him. But we must examine why his monologue normalizes antisemitism. Stewart saying it was “normal” to see antisemitic posts online reveals that he doesn’t understand the meaning of the term, or has no desire to mention it, as it would incriminate his friend for minimizing, distracting, and desensitizing society about Jew hatred.

One problem is Chappelle saying this: “I know the Jewish people have been through terrible things all over the world, but… you can’t blame that on Black Americans. You just can’t, you know what I mean?”

It’s not a joke, and it’s no surprise that nobody laughed at this point. Name me one Jewish person who blames Black Americans for the Holocaust, pogroms, or anti-Jewish terrorism? You can’t. But thanks to Chappelle, some of the more than 11 million people who watched the YouTube clip alone, likely think Jews do.

It is a fact that there are many Jews in Hollywood. Chappelle says it’s a “delusion” that Jews control things — but then defends that proposition by saying it’s okay to think it, just not to say it out loud. That’s antisemitism.

Stewart also defended Kyrie Irving for spreading vile antisemitism and hatred online. For Stewart to say that Irving was penalized for “a thought” is insulting to the audience and decent people everywhere. I’m not sure if Stewart had seen the film that Irving tweeted, but Holocaust denial/trivialization and calling Jews Satanic is slightly more than “a thought.”

Stewart says we should not “reflexively call something antisemitic,” and that penalties and censorship aren’t the answers. Of course, he is correct and stating the obvious, but there is an implication of overreacting. Yet, Stewart hides from anything specific, so we don’t know what he is talking about. Did Stewart see the film, which is clearly antisemitic? We don’t know. Does he think there was an overreaction to West? We don’t know. It would seem he is referring to his friend, Chappelle, but of course, Stewart won’t get into any specifics.

Stewart is a hero for standing up for firefighters who got sick at Ground Zero. He has stood up against hate before, and has done wonderful charity work. He deserves credit for that.

I hope, in his next interview, he stands up for Jews.

Apologies won’t stop antisemitism. But neither will being an apologist.

The author is a writer based in New York. He can be reached at [email protected]

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