Last Wednesday night, that beacon of witty politics, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, aired a rather controversial interview between an Israeli and a Jewish American. The interviewees were Mustaga Barghouti, introduced as “a Palestian democratic leader and a former candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian national authority” and Anna Baltzer, a “Middle East peace activist and author of Witness in Palestine – a Jewish American woman in the occupied territories”. They were there to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the possibility of a peaceful, democratic end to the conflict.

You can check out the aired interview here. The idea of an Israeli and a Jewish American having a calm chat about a peaceful resolution seemed too much for some to bear, creating a mini media frenzy in the US. Orthodox Jewish blogger Carl in Jerusalem wrote:

Jon Stewart has a couple of disgraceful guests on his show on Wednesday night for a night of Israel bashing: Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer… No, there’s no pro-Israel counterpoint (perhaps he will try to convince us that ISM activist Baltzer  — who is Jewish  — is meant to provide balance).

The day after the screening, Baltzer herself was sending out a press release encouraging people to write and call the Daily Show thanking them for the interview:

The show was overwhelmed with angry emails and phone calls prior to the appearance, and up until the last minute it seemed like they might cancel. During the taping the show had it’s only heckler in 11 years. The entire staff were very nervous and may come to regret the monumental decision (and not make it again) as they will surely be inundated now that the show has aired…

Many of you who watched the show on TV noticed that everything of real substance that I said was edited out. The major issues cut out were:

  1. The US role in aiding Israel,
  2. The lack of adequate coverage in mainstream US media, and
  3. The Palestinian-led movement for Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS)
    to nonviolently pressure Israel to comply with international law.

But in general, reactions to The Daily Show taping were positive, grateful that peaceful debate was getting some media coverage.

Jon Stewart is changing how the US media depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict says M.J Rosenberg of Talking Points Memo:

Not long ago, no mainstream media personality would ever allow himself to be associated with anyone who suggests that diplomacy, not war, is the way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…

Jon Stewart, all by himself, has created a sea change in the mass media’s approach to the Middle East. Once others in the business see that Stewart says what he thinks — and not only survives but thrives — others will do it too.

The Daily Show is again leading with more news stories than the actual news says Eileen Fleming at The People’s Voice:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did what the mainstream media has failed to report about-the rapidly growing global nonviolent solidarity movement of resisters to the occupation of Palestine… The News Media should be interviewing Dr. Mustafa Barghouti & Anna Baltzer, Jon’s job is to entertain us, but once again, he lead the mainstream media to where many of US already are.

The US needs more nonviolent views:

While some may feel that views like those of Barghouti should not be aired, the truth is Barghouti represents a Palestinian voice for nonviolence and democracy that is valuable to voice on U.S. airwaves. — Think Progress

The entire interview is now available to be viewed on the Daily Show website.

Peter Fray

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