— by Naomi Friedman
In a segment on the Israeli-Hamas war last week, The Daily Show’s host, Jon Stewart, complained about the asymmetry of the conflict.
On the mutual bombing that is taking place, Stewart quipped that Israel is “bomb-better.” The clip of the sketch went viral, provoking wrath within the U.S. Jewish community.
Stewart seemed to want a more even conflict: Maybe a few hundred Israeli deaths would make him feel a little better about the whole situation?
Just how wrong the sketch was, however, only became clear on the July 18 broadcast of “Yoman,” Israel’s Channel One’s weekly news program, hosted by Ayala Hason.
Stewart broadcasted a clip about a smartphone application that warns Israelis about incoming missiles, which he contrasted with Israel’s attempt to warn Gazans of an “imminent bombing.” To illustrate this procedure, he cut to a news clip displaying “a small mortar explosion on the roof of a building, which serves a warning of an upcoming air strike” and a telephone call giving residents three minutes to evacuate. Having shared this misinformation, Stewart then complained that Gazans have nowhere to evacuate to.
Of course, Stewart was wrong: Even the Western press has reported that Gazans are evacuating to UNWRA schools. It has also reported on the 20 missiles stored in one of these schools, and UNWRA’s conscientious response: the disclosure of this finding to the international community and the return of the missiles to their rightful owners. On Friday night, the UNWRA’s spokesperson, Adnan Abu Hasneh, reported that 40,000 Gazans have taken refuge in these now-overcrowded schools, which serve as safe houses for the civilian population.
Stewart was also wrong when he labeled mortar explosions or telephone calls as warnings of an “imminent bombing.” In an interview on the same “Yoman” broadcast, the brigidier general of the Israel Air Force (IAF) reserves, Relik Shafir, detailed the IAF bombing codes and procedures:
“If you see a clear and present danger, you fire. For example, a missile that is about to be launched. You fire because you are protecting Israeli civilians. But if it’s not a clear and present danger, and you wait and ensure that innocent civilians will not be harmed, you delay as long as is needed.”
In fact, an IAF pilot, Captain Ayal (last name not given for security reason) told Channel One that planes often return to base still carrying their loads because they could not obtain a “clean target” — a shot at a missile factory, an ammunition dump, or a terrorist — without incurring civilian casualties.
Shafir also revealed the technological wonders that have enable IAF fighters to minimize civilian casualties: Each operation is filmed from start to finish, and the pilot is in constant communication with a team of intelligence, technology, and commanding officers that advise him or her as to whether the target is clean. Even after the pilot releases the missile, the missile can be guided away from civilians who enter the target area, using laser beam technology.
The IAF procedure calls attention to another point of asymmetry in the conflict: One side is keen on killing civilians, including its own, while the other is doing everything in its power to avoid civilian deaths. How about mentioning that asymmetry, Mr. Stewart?