Jon Stewart 100% Wrong on Israeli Airstrike Procedure

— 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.

[Read more…]

America the Beautiful – אמריקה היפהפייה

אמריקה היפהפייה

יפֵהפִיָה ללא גבולות
וּזְהב דגן גלִי
הרים סגוּלים
סְפוּגים בְּהוֹד
מישור עמוּס בִּפְרי
אמריקה אַת אֶרץ
שהאל בּרֵךְ בלי סוף
וּבְרית אחים נאמנה
תִשְׂרוֹר מחוף אל חוף

Responses from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert follow the jump.

Sorry Tea Partiers, the IRS Is Not “Obama’s Gestapo”

Yesterday, we printed an article by David Streeter discussing a Tea Party fundraising appeal which characterizes the Internal Revenue Service as “Obama’s Gestapo.” Personally, I deplore political bias by the IRS, regardless of its direction. Nevertheless, making over-the-top comparisons to Nazis desecrates the memory of the Holocaust.

The IRS has not set out to exterminate the right-wing groups. The IRS was not threatening them with the loss to the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The IRS was trying to determine whether their purpose was mostly political, which would make them ineligible for 501(c)4 Social Welfare Organization status.

Keep in mind that not being a 501(c)4 is not the end of the world. Even if they were judged as “too political” to form a 501(c)4, they could refile as 527 Political Action Committees. Both 501(c)4s and PACs can take unlimited contributions, so there is no difference there. The groups were not claiming to be charitable 501(c)3 groups, so there was no question of the donors getting a tax deduction for the contributions.

Neither 501(c)4s nor PACs pay taxes on the contributions they receive, so there was no question of the Tea Party groups having to pay anything regardless of their answers to these questions from the IRS.

So what is the difference between a Political Action Committee and a 501(c)4?

The basic difference is that while 501(c)4 can keep their donor list secret, PACs (but not “Super PACs”) must disclose them.

In other words, the IRS (a.k.a. “Obama’s Gestapo”) was after disclosure, not blood or money. At worst, the Tea Party groups risked having to divulge the names of their backers. This isn’t a case of persecuted groups being threatened physically or financially. This is a case of shadowy backers trying to influence the political process while keeping out of the light of day.

Focusing the IRS’s attention on a particular political group was indeed wrong, but it was a wrong on the order of an administrative screw-up, not a wrong on the order of war crimes and genocide.

After the jump, more on what went wrong and what should be done about it.
From the information available so far, it seems that the decision to focus on certain groups was made by low-level civil servants at the IRS’s Cincinnati office, not at the direction of their managers.

Scrutiny should have been universal.

At the time, there was a surge in questionable applications for 501(c)4 status. It would have been reasonable to scrutinize all 501(c)4 applications closely. However, budget cutting had already left the office without the necessary staff and resources to cope with the existing load. (This is a case of being “penny-wise and dollar-foolish.” According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, a dollar of increased spending on IRS enforcement results in ten dollars in increased federal revenue, due to greater compliance with tax laws.”)

Given political and economic realities, perhaps they should have audited a random sample of the 501(c)4 applications, or they should have proposed non-biased criteria and had them approved via the proper channels. It was tone-deaf and unfair to single out specific groups on partisan criteria.

Unfortunately, that is not what they did. Instead, their scrutiny fell predominantly (but not exclusively) on right-wing groups. In addition to more than 90 Tea Party groups that were examined, at least three liberal groups faced similar scrutiny. According to Bloomberg:

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.

Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.

The IRS non-profit office exercised poor judgment in its targeting, but the mistake does not appear to have been made for political purposes. If the IRS was being used politically by the White House, Mitt Romney would not have been able to keep his tax returns secret, and liberal groups would not have received the same inquiries that Tea Party groups did.

In order to avoid problems like this in the future:

  • The IRS budget should be increased so that it can examine fully all 501(c)4 applications.
  • The IRS administration needs to be hands-on and aware of what front-line employees are doing, and provide clear guidelines to direct the targeting of audits.
  • The FEC, rather than the IRS, should be given jurisdiction over the political activity of non-profit groups.
  • 501(c)4s should not be allowed to contribute to Political Action Committees. Doing so effectively turns them into front groups for these PACs allowing donors to camouflage their support for them.
  • Campaign finance law should be reformed so that no political contributions can be made anonymously.

The Outpost: Jake Tapper on Colbert and at TBHBE

Jake Tapper. Photo by Richard Chaitt.

CNN anchor and chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper talked about his new book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor at Temple Beth Hillel Beth El. At 5:58 AM on October 3rd, 2009, Compound Outpost Keating, located in frighteningly vulnerable terrain in Afghanistan just 14 miles from the Pakistani border, was viciously attacked. Though the 53 Americans there prevailed against nearly 400 Taliban fighters, their casualties made it the deadliest fight of the war for the U.S. that year. Four months after the battle, a Pentagon review revealed that there was no reason for the troops at Keating to have been there in the first place.

In The Outpost, Jake Tapper gives us the powerful saga of COP Keating, from its establishment to eventual destruction, introducing us to an unforgettable cast of soldiers and their families, and to a place and war that has remained profoundly distant to most Americans. A runaway bestseller, it makes a savage war real, and American courage manifest.

Tapper exposed the origins of this tragic and confounding story. He explored the history of the camp and detailed the stories of the heroic and doomed soldiers. After his presentation he took questions from the audience and signed copies of his book. He was introduced by his father Temple Beth Hillel Beth El member and founding member of Philadelphia Jewish Voice Dr. Ted Tapper.

It was announced December 20, 2012 that Jake Tapper will join CNN and anchor a new weekday program and serve as the network’s chief Washington correspondent

Video of Jake Tapper on the Colbert Report follows the jump.

Mock Debates: Saturday Night Live and Stewart v. O’Reilly

Saturday Night Live
In SNL’s satire of the Denver debate, Jay Pharoah played the role of Obama while Jason Sudeikis played Romney, and Taran Killam played moderator Jim Lehrer. “Barack Obama forgot to get Michelle an anniversary gift and couldn’t handle Denver’s high altitude, which is why he stumbled in his first debate against Mitt Romney,” according to the SNL satire.

The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium.
Mock journalist Jon Stewart from Comedy Central’s Daily Show “debated” Bill O’Reilly from Fox’s O’Reilly Factor for 90 minutes at the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington.

Videos follow the jump.
Saturday Night Live

Stewart v. O’Reilly

Jon Stewart just doesn’t get it

— by Ilan Chaim

Why does Jon Stewart keep making inept jokes that offend Jews? Such a talented comedian, with such a good ear for irony, and such satirical skill in skewering deserving media or politicians-why must he trash Jewish symbols in the crudest of ways?

If he is too intelligent to claim ignorance, then is the only explanation that he does so out of hatred? And if we accept his protestations of Jewish identity, are we by definition talking about that cliché, Jewish self-hatred?

These questions and more were prompted by The Daily Show episode of June 26. In a piece on the Hebrew National kashrut scandal — certainly a legitimate target for satire — Stewart offered some observations on what makes things kosher. In doing so, he displayed at least a rudimentary knowledge of definitions; even pointing out that the language of the accompanying news clip “not entirely kosher” is what Jews understand to be “not kosher.”

More after the jump.
But then he proceeded to go off the deep end in a decidedly unkosher skit involving the circumcision of a hot dog to make it kosher. The skit, as a colleague pointed out, was worse than offensive-it wasn’t funny.

This is not-God forbid-to deny that circumcision can be funny. Jews have been telling circumcision jokes probably since Abraham, although it’s curious that in Google’s listing of many thousands of such jokes there is a separate category of “funny circumcision jokes” — implying there are also unfunny ones. There is even a separate category devoted to jokes about Tim Tebow’s mission to circumcise impoverished Third World boys, though this is not listed in a separate category of “gentile circumcision jokes.”

What was so offensive about Jon Stewart circumcising a Hebrew National hot dog? An initial test might be to ask whether this was the kind of joke he would have dared to try on a Jewish audience. In other words, was it authentic Jewish humor or was it the kind of “kosher style” ersatz Jewish joke an assimilated Jew such as Stewart has no qualms about milking for a gentile audience?

If one assumes that he is too intelligent to claim ignorance as an excuse, what explanation is left for this truly offensive lapse of taste? Perhaps an explanation may be found in previous gaffes, when he trashed Jewish holidays.

Stewart regularly plays Jewish holidays, Holy Days, and observances for laughs, which he draws from an always easily amused studio audience. He seems to think these supposedly comic references show the gentile world what a regular funny guy he is — and he is often brilliantly funny. What is not a laughing matter, however, is seeing a comedian who happens to be Jewish portray Jews by the worst kind of stereotypes.

The Daily Show

The Daily Show

In a September 2010 episode, he took Israeli diplomats to task for not attending President Barack Obama’s UN General Assembly speech and then disparaged the reason for their absence — the Jewish holiday of Succot.

In an April 2012 segment pitting Easter against Passover, while the premise was not necessarily a terrible idea, the punch lines trivialized nearly every important concept of the Jewish festival of freedom for the sake of a few cheap laughs. That the studio audience ate it up is no indication of its funniness — it’s a known fact that The Daily Show audience is warmed up before the taping and laughs at anything.

Compared to circumcising a hot dog — the Jon Stewart Hebrew National Bris — his Passover/Easter showdown was a triumph of understatement and good taste.

I have watched The Daily Show for years and am a great fan of Jon Stewart as a comedian who happens to be Jewish. Stewart displays great wit and is a constant delight skewering such easy targets as the Fox network. There is also a serious side to the show in many of his interviews, whose subjects are not allowed merely to plug their books, but also deal with serious issues that are a showcase for Stewart’s considerable intellect. It is Stewart’s own exceptional talent and obvious intellectual curiosity that make his vulgar Jewish references all the more embarrassing.

So what kind of a Jewish comedian thinks it funny to make jokes about Jewish stereotypes and who is his audience? I would put forward a very unscientific theory that someone who makes such jokes has a deficient sense of humor, if not just deficient common sense. If someone proudly delivers punch lines that are not funny, but brutally insensitive, that person just doesn’t get it.

The writer, a Jerusalem resident since 1972, is an editor, writer, and translator; a former chief copy editor of The Jerusalem Post and information consultant to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.