Bring Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity to Israel

How does one ‘restore sanity’ to a part of the world where it never existed? I propose calling the gathering here the Rally to "Introduce" Sanity.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
October 14, 2010 01:23
3 minute read.
 Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart Stephen Colbert 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Sometimes it takes a clown to show us how foolish we’ve become. Last month, comedian Jon Stewart, popular host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, whose satirical fake news reporting has become a force to be reckoned with in US politics, announced he would be holding a Rally to Restore Sanity on the Washington Mall on October 30th.

“A million moderates march, where we take to the streets to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, ‘We are here! We... are only here until 6 though, because we have a sitter,” Stewart quipped.

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Quick Vote: Would you attend a gathering in the spirit of Jon Stewart's rally?

Stewart’s sidekick Stephen Colbert, whose show airs immediately afterwards, announced in response that he would hold a rival rally at the same place and time with the intent of “keeping fear alive.” “Now is not the time to take it down a notch,” he retorted in the faux persona of a conservative pundit. “Now is the time for all good men to freak out for freedom.”

The idea behind the two rallies is to spoof the kind of blatant partisanship and irresponsible fear-stoking which seems to have taken hold of the discourse in the US. But while the gathering is promised to be chock-full of laughs, it touches on a serious issue extremely relevant to our sanity-parched part of the world.

HERE, AS in the US, important debates are often hijacked by those on the fringe who seek to promote their own agendas by exploiting our fears. In the US, this manifests itself through such bogus claims as Obama is a secret Muslim, fascist or communist (never mind the inherent contradiction between the last two terms); or, conversely, by outrageous accusations that former president George W. Bush masterminded 9/11 to invade Iraq.

Here, too, sometimes it seems like only those shouting loudest are the ones being heard. All too often people are quick to attach labels to those they disagree with. Settlers are fascists. Leftists are traitors. Israeli Arabs are a fifth column. Palestinians are terrorists. Religious Jews are fanatics. Secular Jews are assimilated.

If we made an effort to respect each other a little bit more, things could be different.

This is not to say that the Middle East as a whole and Israel in particular are not facing serious challenges. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems as intractable as ever. Relations between the religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazis and Sephardis and rich and poor are at peril. And let’s not forget Iran’s nuclear ambitions.


All these issues pose serious internal and external threats which must be reckoned with. But irresponsible conduct and partisan reporting certainly aren’t going to help.

Our politicians, media and we, ourselves, must set higher standards – to be more balanced, more responsible, less prone to exaggeration and less disrespectful of each other.

TO ACHIEVE that lofty goal, I propose that the first item on our agenda be to hold a local chapter of the prank rally in Washington organized by two comedians.

If such a protest were held, it might not bring peace to the Middle East but it might help promote just a little humor and good will in the region, and that in itself would already be a great start.

There’s only one problem. How does one restore sanity to a part of the world where it never existed? I therefore propose calling the gathering in Israel the Rally to Introduce Sanity.

Call me crazy if you will, but if you live in a part of the world which quite often resembles a madhouse, following the lead of a court jester might be the sanest thing to do.

The writer is The Jerusalem Post’s Jewish World correspondent.

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