Jon Stewart had a rather amusing bit on his program last night. Each time he would mention the word “Israel” all of the “correspondents” on his show would pop up and begin yelling at him. When the yelling calmed down all but one of the commentators disappeared. After a pregnant pause the man looked at Stewart, scowled and, with disgust said “a self-hating Jew.” Then he too disappeared.
“Look,” Stewart opined after the bit had run its course, “obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel's policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
I could not agree more.
At the same time, while there are indeed, “many strong opinions,” not all opinions are equally valid. And while I know it is not politically correct to say so, some opinions are simply wrong.
I get the fact that there are knee-jerk reactions to the current situation. I know I have mine. I also know where they come from. My knee-jerk reactions come from the fact that it is my family and friends running to bomb shelters on a regular basis. It is my friends’ children who are currently serving in the IDF. My knee-jerk reactions come from the fact that whenever the names of fallen IDF soldiers are released I read them hoping my friends' kids won't be named. And my knee-jerk reactions come from the fact that, for the first seven days of the current crisis, 19 colleagues and I were in Israel and jumped whenever the red alert app told us a missile may or may not be headed our way. (Since returning to the U.S., I have left the app running lest I lose perspective and a sense of urgency.) Yes, I understand the knee-jerk reactions.
My issue with Stewart is that, time and time again he, along with so many other reporters and commentators, has failed to draw a distinction between Israel, a democratic nation governed by the rule of law, and Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to killing as many innocent civilians as possible. That is a huge distinction, not a matter of opinion.
There is a the tragedy unfolding in Gaza and any civilized human being would feel terrible anguish for the suffering and death of Gazan civilians. When discussing this conflict, however, that anguish must be accompanied by the question, “Who is to blame for those deaths?”
The answer is not a matter of “opinion.” Hamas. Is. Responsible.
A dear friend and colleague published an op-ed piece yesterday that carries the title “I'm Done Apologizing for Israel.” In it he draws the important distinction between Israel and the care they have tried to take in avoiding civilian deaths, and Hamas and the callousness with which it has sought to pull Israel deeper and deeper into this conflict while inflicting as many Israeli and Gazan casualties as possible. My friend drives home the point that Israel did not want the current military campaign. They asked, perhaps even begged, for Hamas not to escalate matters. Hamas did escalate– after all that's what terrorist organizations do. It was in the process of trying to address this escalation that Israel discovered the network of terror tunnels that show no regard to borders or rule of law and have now become the Jewish State's main strategic focus.
One of the commenters responding to his essay argued something that I too had been asserting for the past 10 days: that while Israel was putting resources into bomb shelters and Iron Dome, Hamas was using financial, personnel, and material resources to build terror tunnels.
So who is responsible for this current situation? I suddenly realized that this argument is unnecessary. Hamas didn't have to build bomb shelters for the Palestinian civilians living in Gaza in order to keep them safe from Israeli airstrikes. All Hamas needed to do was not shoot missiles at Israel in the first place.
It is a simple formula: No Hamas missiles = no Israeli airstrikes.
That isn't a matter of “strong opinion.” It is a cold, hard fact.
Jon Stewart doesn’t seem to get that. When it comes to the current conflict, he is simply wrong.