Stewart hosted Palestinian democracy activist Mustafa Barghouti and human rights activist Anna Baltzer, author of A Witness in Palestine, who explained the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of the Palestinian side.
According to a letter reportedly written by Baltzer and circulated by blogger Eric Johnson, 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 its only heckler in 11 years,” Baltzer wrote. “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.”
At one point during the interview, Barghouti asserted: “We [Palestinians] are struggling for liberty, we are struggling for justice. It’s Palestinians who have been subjected to the longest occupation in history and a system of segregation that is totally unjust.”
At that point, a voice in the audience could be heard shouting: “Liar!”
“Apparently we have Joe Wilson with us tonight,” Stewart quipped, referring the US House representative who yelled “You lie!” during President Obama’s address to Congress last month.
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.”
Baltzer is now urging Daily Show viewers to send letters of support to the show, in an effort to keep the show from being dissuaded from covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the future.
And some commentators are praising Stewart for taking on the issue. TalkingPointsMemo blogger M.J. Rosenberg credits Stewart with starting a “sea change” in American media’s coverage of the Middle Eastern conflict.
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). Stewart is the antithesis of the scared Jew.