Jon Stewart, the 51-year-old Daily Show host whose cinematic directorial debut, Rosewater, premieres in September, has lashed back at accusations that his criticism of Israeli policy in Gaza reveals his inner psychological makeup as a “self-hating Jew.”
During the Gaza conflict, which appears to have ended with an August 26 ceasefire, Stewart used his forum as host of the satirical Comedy Central program to express empathy with Gaza civilians caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas, and to ridicule the notion that civilians in Gaza should evacuate their homes and neighborhoods prior to Israeli strikes.
“What are Gazans supposed to do? Evacuate to where?” Stewart said on one Daily Show broadcast. “Have you seen f*****g Gaza? Israel has blocked this border. Egypt has blocked this border. What are they supposed to do? Swim for it?”
The term “self-hating Jew” as been used to brand Jewish critics of Zionism or of Israeli policy at least since the 1930 publication of German author Theodore Lessing’s book Juedischer Selbsthass, which is usually translated at Jewish Self-Hatred.
In 1941, psychologist Kurt Lewin published an essay entitled, “Self-Hatred Among Jews,” in which he described the desire among some Jews to disavow Jewish traditions and culture in order to better assimilate into non-Jewish societies where they invariably found themselves a minority.
But Jon Stewart rejected the charge that he is a “self-hating Jew.”
“Look, there’s a lot of reasons why I hate myself — being Jewish isn’t one of them,” Stewart said in an interview. “So when someone starts throwing that around, or throwing around you’re pro-terrorist, it’s more just disappointing than anything else. I’ve made a living for 16 years criticizing certain policies that I think are not good for America. That doesn’t make me anti-American. And if I do the same with Israel, that doesn’t make me anti-Israel. You cannot outsmart dogma, no matter what you do. If there is something constructive in what they’re saying, hopefully I’m still open enough to take it in and let it further inform my position. But I’m pretty impermeable to yelling. As soon as they go to, ‘Your real name is Leibowitz!’ that’s when I change the channel.”
Stewart’s given name is Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz.
His debut as a director, Rosewater, tells the true story of Maziar Bahari, a journalist seized by the government of Iran just a few days after being interviewed by Stewart on The Daily Show.
The Iranian government used excerpts from her Jon Stewart interview as “evidence” that Bahari was a spy.