Deep thought from Trevor Noah: Maybe Israel shouldn't retaliate against an enemy that can't beat them?

Lots of chatter about this dumb question on social media today, but to be fair, Trevor Noah does acknowledge that this is far too complex to boil down to a nine-minute segment. The history of the conflict and the region is far too complicated to come up with easy answers, a point which Noah inadvertently underscores by claiming that the British took this land from the Palestinians. (They took it from the Turks running the Ottoman Empire, and divvied up the region with France in the Sykes-Picot Agreement.)

But this question really is pretty dumb, even if it is “honest”:

Noah then pointed out the relative superiority of the Israeli military because of its ability to produce high-end, high-tech weapons (in part thanks to U.S. funding).

“I just want to ask an honest question here,” Noah said. “If you are in a fight where the other person cannot beat you, how much should you retaliate when they try to hurt you?”

“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?”

The correct answer is that the responsibility should be on those who pick the fights in the first place. “Mom, he hit me back!” doesn’t even pass the laugh test for the strawman that Noah erects here. Noah tries to equate the Israeli response to Hamas bombing its citizens — some of whom have been killed — to Noah’s little brothers picking fights with him. The proper parental response would have been to tell the little brothers, Don’t start fights with Trevor unless you want your ass kicked, and don’t come crying to me when it happens. 

Israel’s responsibility as a sovereign nation is to protect its own citizens from hostile threats. That’s every nation’s primary task — it’s the raison d’etre of nationhood. They don’t have any responsibility to protect the terrorists or the people who harbor them from the consequences of their own deadly actions. Nor are they under any obligation to adhere to “proportionality.” If drug cartels in Mexico started lobbing missiles at El Paso, for example, you can bet that the US would provide a response disproportionate enough to discourage any other attempts.

As dumb as this question is, though, give Noah some credit for at least trying to present a full context from both perspectives. That’s more than some media outlets do, and more than some members of Congress have done this week.

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