Jon Stewart dares to talk peace

Last night, Jon Stewart had two Middle East peace activists on The Daily Show. One was Jewish American author, Anna Baltzer. The other was former Palestinian politician, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. I found the exchange extremely informative, but apparently some feel as though the discussion could have benefited from the perspective of someone defending Israel’s right to self-defense. Following is a clip from today’s Raw Story:

The segment drew criticisms from a number of pro-Israeli activists and commenters.

“Jon Stewart [had] a couple of disgraceful guests on his show on Wednesday night for a night of Israel bashing,” wrote blogger Israel Matzav. “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). And I thought Stewart’s was a comedy show. What if no one watched him?”

Not all pro-Israeli voices were as critical.

“It doesn’t actually seem that groundbreaking,” wrote Rafi G. “He has a Palestinian talking about Palestinian rights and he has an Jewish leftist talking about Palestinian rights. They are advocating a non-violent approach, both from a Palestinian point of view.”

But the blogger noted that “nobody said a word about Palestinian terror or their not accepting peace deals that were offered.”

The show was also somewhat historic, from what I’m told, in that it was the first in eleven years to be interrupted by heckling.

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Anna Baltzer today had the following to say:

…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.

That is why it is CRUCIAL that the show receive letters of support from anyone who appreciated the interview.

PLEASE take a moment to give a quick thank you to the Daily Show. I’m sure they will likely be affected by numbers rather than length, so it’s OK to make it short, but spread the word to others! Be sure to put “Thank you” in the subject, and maybe Dr. Barghouti & my names. Fill out the form here (make sure to choose The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as your topic). You can also try calling 212-468-1700…

I believe the interview wouldn’t have happened 3 years ago. Times are changing. Keep on keepin’ on…

At any rate, I’d encourage you to check out the interview… It’s amazing to me that people could be so upset over an interview with peace activists talking about non-violent solutions, but these are the times that we live in.

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  1. EL
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Has Blaine Coleman ever commented on your blog before, Mark?

  2. Dharma
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Palestine has been occupied! These guest were both arguing for a two-state, non-violent solution. I can’t believe it’s even debatable.

  3. Posted October 30, 2009 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Not that I’m aware of…. What, am I about to encounter the wrath of a whole new breed of troll?

  4. Fred T
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Why is the Daily Show the only news program in the country talking about stuff like this?

  5. Kelly
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    M.J. Rosenberg:

    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.

    Being thought of as not 100% down with the government of Israel was a career killer. And, if it wasn’t, media and show business figures believed it was and that was the same thing.

    That era ended with the rise of Jon Stewart, the most trusted television personality in America (and the only one the kids pay attention to). Unlike the Jewish organizational figures who are always screaming that the sky is falling on our Jewish heads, Stewart is anything but scared of his own, or anyone else’s, shadow.

    Because Jon Stewart is so utterly at home as an American and as a Jew, he can say what he thinks about the Middle East. And that seems to be be that diplomacy is better than killing people and that no lobby should inhibit debate on an issue that affects all Americans.

    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.

    And who will be the beneficiaries: Americans, Palestinians and, most of all, Israelis. Israel will not survive if it stays on its current course. Stewart understands that and feels compelled to help save Israel from its suicidal policies. And Stewart matters.

    My friends and I have been involved in the struggle to help secure Israel for decades. Jon Stewart is the most effective ally we’ve ever had. In the names of the American people, the Jewish people and the State of Israel, I thank you!!!

    Check out yesterday’s Daily Show interview. Stewart received a slew of threats when the word went out that he was going to air this segment. He went ahead anyway. J Street and J Stewart all in one week. Bad times for the lobby!

  6. Meta
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Blatzer is also interviewed on The Progressive:

  7. Ken
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Do you have any idea how much the Israeli lobby spends in DC?

  8. Posted October 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I hadn’t seen this interview yet – thanks for posting it. I just wrote a short but very clear email of support to the show for taking on such a difficult topic. I think moves like this are what sets the Daily Show apart from so many other shows :)

  9. Posted October 30, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I just wrote in. This is what TV should be.

  10. Oliva
    Posted October 31, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Do you have any idea how much the Israeli lobby spends in DC?

    I remember hearing an interview a few years ago with some people, including the editor of Tikkun, working on establishing an alternative Israeli lobby. Wonder if it’s materializing. There were some very familiar names involved, smart people representing a substantial swath of Israelis who desire an end to violence and fairer relations in the region.

  11. Michael Schils
    Posted November 1, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad to see this subject brought up here, and Mark, you appear to be the “Jon Stewart” of Ypsi-Arbor blogs. It seems that many are afraid to mention the “I-word”. The moderators at Arbor Update, for example, are quick to go into their “aggressive” mode whenever the subject is breached. Even the first comment in this thread’s mention of a local activist (who has came out against Israeli militarism) seems like it is intended to stifle the discussion. (“You don’t want to get Blaine started, do you?”)

    Of course, those who favor the status quo don’t want to talk about this kind of stuff because before you know it, PEACE could break out everywhere…

  12. Artemis Fogbottom
    Posted November 1, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Be sure to also check out this article on

    Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don’t change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America’s automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world’s policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.

    Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 – which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement – then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched.

    It is true that unlike all the world’s other troublemakers, Israel is viewed as a Western democracy, but Israel of 2009 is a country whose language is force. Anwar Sadat may have been the last leader to win our hearts with optimistic, hope-igniting speeches. If he were to visit Israel today, he would be jeered off the stage. The Syrian president pleads for peace and Israel callously dismisses him, the United States begs for a settlement free ze and Israel turns up its nose. This is what happens when there are no consequences for Israel’s inaction.

    When Clinton returns to Washington, she should advocate a sharp policy change toward Israel. Israeli hearts can no longer be won with hope, promises of a better future or sweet talk, for this is no longer Israel’s language. For something to change, Israel must understand that perpetuating the status quo will exact a painful price.

    Israel of 2009 is a spoiled country, arrogant and condescending, convinced that it deserves everything and that it has the power to make a fool of America and the world. The United States has engendered this situation, which endangers the entire Mideast and Israel itself. That is why there needs to be a turning point in the coming year – Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation. An unambiguous, presidential no.

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