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Trevor Noah Asks Tough Questions About Israel and Palestine on The Daily Show

The comedian gets serious about the escalating conflict in the Gaza strip: “When you have this much power, what is your responsibility?”

Trevor Noah asked some tough questions about the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday’s episode of The Daily Show. “This week, the conflict escalated again—and now dozens of children are dead,” Noah said, referencing the escalation of violence in the region as Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians at a Jerusalem mosque. Twelve children were among at least 35 people killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, while hamas militants in Gaza fired their own rockets at Israel, killing three. 

The comedian acknowledged that it would be impossible to unpack the crisis on the West Bank in 10 minutes, and that he’d probably alienate viewers for even bringing it up. Still, Noah maintained that “we have to talk about it,” before launching into a truncated history of the 73-year conflict “in the time it takes to boil an egg.” 

“People are always going to say you’re leaving out some crucial piece of content,” Noah said. “And you know what the truth is? They’re probably right.” Still, he recounted the retaliatory violence of the week before saying that both sides look culpable, depending on when one chooses to begin analyzing the conflict. “If you start from ‘Israel fired rockets into Gaza,’ then Israel is the bad guy, because they’re bombing Gaza,” Noah explained. “But then you take a step back in time, and you go, ‘Well, but Hamas fired rockets at Israel.’ Then Hamas is the bad guy. But then you take a step back, and you go, ‘But the Israeli police went in and started beating people up in a mosque during Ramadan, the most holy time in the Muslim calendar.’ Well then, Israel is the bad guy.”

“And back and back and back, and who knows how far,” Noah continued. “The first cavemen who hit each other with clubs were probably Israeli and Palestinian. I don’t know… And on top of all that, there’s religion involved. And I don’t care what anybody says, man—religion is the one thing that has never calmed any situation when there’s a clash.”

Noah ultimately chose to ignore  the complicated origins of Israel vs. Palestine, maintaining that regardless of how the conflict began, it’s no longer a fight between two equals. The host called out Israel for having “one of the most powerful militaries in the world,” saying “they can crush Gaza like that,” and clenching his fist to illustrate his point. That prompted him to ask a contentious question: “If you are in a fight where the other person cannot beat you, how hard should you retaliate when they try to hurt you?” Noah then drew an analogy between the Israel/Palestine conflict and fights he used to have with his younger brother. “My mom would say to me whenever I’d get angry, she’d say, ‘Trevor, don’t hit the kid back because they can’t hurt you. You’re a teenager, and the kid is four.”

Noah continued to wonder about the nature of responsibility when there is a perceived power imbalance. “If a man has a knife, should the cops shoot him?” he said. To close the segment, he asked another difficult question: “Everyone has a different answer to the question, and I’m not trying to answer the question, nor do I think I’m smart enough to solve it. All I ask is, when you have this much power, what is your responsibility?”

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