Forward Thinking

Why Losing Jon Stewart Hurts the Middle East

By Sigal Samuel

Jon Stewart and Bassem Youssef on “The Daily Show” / Youtube

Jon Stewart quitting “The Daily Show” is bad for the Jews. It’s bad for the Muslims. It’s bad for the entire Middle East.

If you want to know why, just watch this clip of the real Jon Stewart joking around with “Egypt’s Jon Stewart,” Bassem Youssef. It aired shortly before Jon announced his decision to leave the show, and it revolves around a simple question: What can America do to fix the Middle East?

Bassem’s answer is simple, too: “How about — nothing!”


Jon plays devil’s advocate, arguing, “If the people choose the wrong government, we’ll help them get it right. Some boots on the ground, some advisers.” Which, of course, sets Bassem up to explain just what’s wrong with America’s interventionist foreign policy.

But then Bassem takes it one step further — by laughing at himself, at his own argument, at his own people. He provides that dash of self-deprecation without which comedy fails to be, you know, comedic (Israel’s totally unfunny “Hakol Shafit” is a good example of this).

“We want you to f—k off and leave us alone,” Bassem says. “But not right away. We could still use the aid money, and a few weapons, and some investments… What I’m saying is, if you could f—k gradually off, that would be better for everybody.”

This is Middle East comedy at its best: an unflinching look at the catch-22s and double standards that plague both — no, all — sides.

And who’s been providing the mechanism for this comedy for over 15 years? Jon, of course. He’s been providing it not only in the U.S., but also in places like Egypt, where he inspired Bassem to start his own wildly popular satire show that began as a Middle Eastern riff on “The Daily Show.”

Every week, Bassem took to TV to wittily eviscerate the top leaders of the Arab world, and endear himself hugely to the Arab public (40 million viewers!). But then Sisi came to power in Egypt — and, sadly, the dissenters went the way of the Pharaohs.

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Shimon Peres Talks with NYT About Iran and Bibi

By Susan Armitage

Getty Images

“There are two things that cannot be made without closing your eyes — love and peace. If you try to make them with open eyes, you won’t get anywhere,” Shimon Peres tells Ronen Bergman in an illuminating interview in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine.

While the 89-year-old President of Israel tells the journalist he “asks foolish questions,” Bergman gets frank answers from Peres on Obama, Iran and the path to peace in the Middle East. Throughout the piece, a theme of challenging relationships — between Peres and Netanyahu, Israel and the U.S. and Israel and Iran — emerges:

It’s no secret Peres and Netanyahu don’t see eye to eye on diplomacy. In the interview, Peres speaks out on the harsh consequences he believes will come from the Prime Minister’s approach:

If there is no diplomatic decision, the Palestinians will go back to terror…the silence that Israel has been enjoying over the last few years will not continue, because even if the local inhabitants do not want to resume the violence, they will be under the pressure of the Arab world…Most of the world will support the Palestinians, justify their actions, level the sharpest criticism at us, falsely label us a racist state. Our economy will suffer gravely if a boycott is declared against us. The world’s Jews want an Israel they can be proud of and not an Israel that has no borders and that is considered an occupying state.

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Dennis Ross on Mitt's 'Kick the Ball' Policy

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

getty images
Dennis Ross

The U.S.’s most experienced Mideast negotiator said Mitt Romney’s caught-on-camera admission that he sees little chance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could lead to a dangerous sense of “hopelessness.”

Dennis Ross, a former advisor to President Obama and a top mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said blithely dismissing the two-state solution as Romney does on a now-infamous leaked video will only undermine moderates on both sides of the Green Line.

“I don’t think what you want to do is create a sense of hopelessness,” Ross told the Forward. “If you create a sense that there’s no hope and you tell the Palestinians there’s no hope, they have very little stake in stability.”

“And if you tell the Israelis there’s no two state outcome at a time the Prime Minister has said it’s in our interest to have a two-state outcome…what are you saying is the outcome?”

Romney’s comments were made at a Florida gathering of major campaign givers in May. The Republican presidential nominee told donors that he believed that the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians were intractable.

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