Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer on The Daily Show!

Last night, Jon Stewart hosted the first double interview that I remember seeing on his show. His guests were Dr. Mustafa Bargouti and Anna Baltzer. Perhaps the novel format of interviewing two people at once was intended to create an aura of 'fairness and balance' for Stewart's audience. The need for Stewart to cover himself was apparent early in the interview, when one audience member channeled Joe Wilson and shouted "liar" at Dr. Barghouti when he stated that the Palestinians have been suffering under occupation longer than any other people (I suppose that the audience member might have a point if they were Native American).
While last night wasn't the first time that Jon Stewart approached the Israel/Palestine issue through a critical lens, it was the first time I recall him actually having a Palestinian on his show to discuss it. Dr. Barghouti, former candidate for the Palestinian Authority presidency, did a wonderful job in this trailblazing role. Dr. Barghouti reminded Stewart that Palestinians are not a Muslim monolith, but that Christian Palestinians suffer under occupation just as severely as their Muslim compatriots. When pressed by Stewart to explain exactly what the "new movement" in Palestine wanted, Barghouti repeatedly emphasized that they only want what everyone else in the world is entitled to, the "same rights and same duties" as other human beings. Dr. Barghouti implored the United States to recognize that our government's current bias isn't good for Israel. He stated, "It's not good for Israel to feel that it is impunitive (sic), that it is above international law... at the end of the day, if Palestinians are free, Israelis will be free"
Baltzer also made a strong showing, telling Stewart that it is not in Israel's security interest to prevent Palestinians from accessing water, deny them building materials for their homes, or to build walls between Palestinians and other Palestinians. Anna briefly explained the BDS movement and it's role in bringing about a peaceful and just solution.
In the end, when Stewart asked Baltzer to explain where she gets hope that a seemingly intractable conflict will ever end with peace and freedom, she replied that there is precedent, that Jews, Muslims, and Christians have lived in peace before and that these people are not fundamentally incompatible. Stewart then expressed exasperation at the fact that these two people are "fundamentally the same, that's what's so crazy." It might be a bit crazy that people like Dr. Barghouti and Baltzer can only be heard on a "fake news" show, but given that this "fake news" program was also, at times, the harshest critic of Bush administration policies that today are almost universally eschewed, last night's program could be a step in the right direction. If a Daily Show appearance leads to mainstream U.S. media approaching the Palestine/Israel conflict in a more rational, evenhanded way, then I will have renewed hope for a peaceful and just outcome to the conflict.
UPDATE: Comedy Central is now being deluged by hate mail for airing the Barghouti/Baltzer interview. Please email Comedy Central now to show your support for the interview and future segments presenting Israel/Palestine from a peace persepctive.
While the interview was edited for broadcast, you can see the entire segment below:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1
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