"Unconscionable": Jon Stewart blasts Biden's "verbal gymnastics" about Israel's war in Gaza

“As the war has grinded on, justice is beginning to seem more like cruelty," the "Daily Show" host said

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published April 9, 2024 11:50AM (EDT)

Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central)
Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central)

Jon Stewart did not mince words on Monday in his appraisal of the United States' role in the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.

During the latest episode of "The Daily Show," the outspoken comedian conducted a "wellness check" on Gaza, as Sunday marked six months since Hamas launched a deadly armed offensive against Israel. 

“As the war has grinded on, justice is beginning to seem more like cruelty,” Stewart said on Monday's segment. “But not to worry: America, the shining city on a hill, is on the case with our universal values.”

Frustrated by the incongruous response by U.S. government to the war in Ukraine compared to the war in Gaza, Stewart displayed clips of President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken commenting on the former crisis, which the lawmakers referred to the Kremlin aggressor as a "brute force" and deemed its weaponization of food "unconscionable." Notably, a similar situation is unfolding in Gaza, with UN experts warning that widespread famine is imminent in the region. 

“There is a literal famine in Gaza caused by the war,” Stewart said. “I assume America will also consider this unconscionable. Well you can’t spell unconscionable without concern. At least part of it — the ‘con’ part."

The late-night host then poked holes in the government's approach to assaults on the free press, given that White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had previously stated that the Biden administration vehemently condemned "the Russian government’s continued targeting and repression of journalists.” In February, the Washington Post reported that at least 85 journalists and media workers had been killed in the war in the Middle East.

Stewart then cited a new piece of Israeli legislation that allows the country to ban certain media outlets they deem to be a threat, before playing another clip of Jean-Pierre responding to news that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to shutter Al Jazeera media network. 

“If it’s true, it is concerning," Jean-Pierre said.

“Oh, we’re concerned again,” Stewart replied sarcastically. “How about: ‘If it’s true, we condemn it’? And by the way, is it true? Feels like you could probably just call someone and just be like, ‘Is this true?’ And if they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s true,’ you can be like, ‘That’s concerning. Not condemning, but concerning.’”

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“This is where Israel’s actions get interesting,” he continued. “Because you might say Israel’s war is different than Ukraine’s. Israel is responding to an attack and a hostage crisis.

"But in the midst of that, they pulled a little something in the West Bank on March 22 that might be notable," he added, referring to Israel's largest land seizure in the West Bank since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Blinken, who happened to be in Israel that day, claimed he hadn't "seen the specifics" of the land acquisition. 

“You don’t know about it? They did it the day you f**king visited,” Stewart fumed. “Why do we tiptoe around on eggshells? They slap America in the face and our response is, ‘Well, if anyone slapped us in the face it would be concerning, that’s for sure.’”

“The verbal gymnastics that the American government must undertake so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of a country we provide most of the weapons for is [insert incoherent scream],” he added. “Every time America tells the world that there’s something we won’t allow, Israel seems to say, ‘Challenge accepted.’”

"The Daily Show" airs Monday through Thursday at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central and streams on Paramount+

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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