So a Soldier Goes into Gaza...

By E.B. Solomont

Published August 26, 2005, issue of August 26, 2005.

The Gaza disengagement may be among the Jewish world’s most divisive and emotional events in decades, but for late-night TV hosts, it’s proved to be comic gold.

Jay Leno, Bill Maher and Conan O’Brien (see below) all wove Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza into their monologues. (“Late Show With David Letterman” — notably absent from the list — was on hiatus.) But Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” outdid them all. With a segment called “The Jew Carry Show,” the show’s August 18 episode devoted a full five minutes to the subject — a virtual eon in the fast-paced realm of late-night comedy.

The segment, which often grafted American Jewish shtick onto an Israeli setting, began with a voice-over of Ariel Sharon issuing orders to vacate Gaza, Jacoby & Meyers-style: “Have you or someone you love been injured? If you live in the Gaza Strip, you probably will be unless you get out now.” Stewart then dove into some deft one-liners about the settlers’ last days in Gaza, often with visual aids. “Get the tire where you want it, then light it on fire,” he said, as the screen behind him showed a man pulling a burning tire into the street.

Though the subject of the segment was Israel, Stewart still found time to take aim at some domestic foes. “The most stirring images on television this week,” he said, “were of Jewish settlers being forcibly placed on buses for their removal from Gaza.” Adding insult to injury, he quipped, “The movie shown on the bus? ‘The Passion of the Christ.’”

Daniel Kurtzman, editor of About.com’s political humor site, said comedians typically stay away from Israeli news, since it often involves bloodshed. But in this instance, he said, the situation offered “punch lines that fall on safer, less controversial ground.”

That was true for Stewart, who, for his concluding bit, left the political sphere behind and instead launched into the more rarified realm of history. The conflict began, the comedian said, when Israel claimed Gaza after the Six Day War. “Uh, although, I guess you could make the case that it began in 1949,” he added. Video images of Stewart growing a 5 o’clock shadow, a full black beard and an even fuller gray beard followed. All the while, he kept revising the date of the conflict’s inception: “The 1917 Balfour Declaration really kicked this whole thing off,” or maybe the “birth of Mohammed,” or the “death of Jesus, some ill feelings there.” Finally: “Around 2160 BCE, Abraham was born — um, I’d like to inform our affiliates, we’ll be running a bit long tonight.”

“The Daily Show” staff declined to speak to the Forward about the segment, saying they didn’t want to risk trivializing the subject.



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