Saturday, October 31, 2009

Daily Show Duo Spread Lies About Israel


Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's ever-popular Daily Show, has won a wide audience for his skillful use of a satiric comedy to cut to the essence of serious political issues. But on October 27, 2009, he waded into a deeply contentious issue and got in over his head. In a segment dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Stewart hosted Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti and anti-Israel agitator Anna Baltzer . Barghouti presented a familiar narrative of Palestinian grievances of the kind often heard. But it was the pairing with Baltzer that sparked indignation among many viewers. Fortunately, the segment's producers edited out much of Baltzer's misinformation about Israel, making the version actually broadcast substantially less objectionable. Baltzer, a fellow traveler with extreme anti-Israel groups like the International Solidarity Movement, routinely invokes her Jewish heritage as a ploy to lend credibility to her defamatory anti-Israel message.
She portrays Israel as a criminal state, relying upon her audience's lack of familiarity with the facts. Immediately after the show's airing she sent out a call to flood the Daily Show with letters of support for her. A constant refrain of her supporters and sponsors is that she "has a right to be heard." Falsely portraying herself as a Jew who saw the light when she travelled to the West Bank, Baltzer's pretense to being an authentic voice does not give her the right to appear on major television shows to incite hatred of Israel.

In a rare occurrence, there was some outspoken negative audience reaction. A member shouted out "liar!" in response to Barghouti accusing Israel of "segregation." Later another disruption took place in reponse to Baltzer denying that Israeli measures were taken in self-defense.

One can only wonder whether Stewart was blindsided by his staff and bookers regarding the nature of his guests. There's little to indicate from other programming that he intentionally sought them out to help their campaign to smear the Jewish state as illegitimate and racist. In the brief time the two were offered, they delivered their talking points depicting Israel as similar to apartheid South Africa and cast the Palestinians as blameless victims, while accusing the Jewish state of being intransigent.

Stewart tried to challenge at times, but seemed to mostly resort to seeking some conciliatory, middle-ground position.

In the full, unedited version, Baltzer rolled out her usual themes — that the so-called "wall" and other Israeli measures to stop suicide bombers were not really defensive measures. She also raised the phony issue of Israel "denying Palestinians water" when in reality Israel is a net-exporter of fresh water to the West Bank and Gaza.

Both Barghouti and Baltzer use the tactic of moral inversion. Barghouti claimed that:

"Israel has tried the language of power for sixty years... the only road that was not tried fully was to have peace with the Palestinians."

Stewart let this gross inversion of reality pass by, failing to point out that it was the Arabs who for sixty years have refused to accept Israel's right to exist and have warred incessantly against the Jewish state.

Where Israel has had a partner for peace, as it did with Anwar Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, peace has ensued.

Furthermore, to suggest in the wake of the 2000/2001 Camp David/Taba negotiations during which Israel proposed sweeping concessions for peace that Israel has not "tried" the road to peace is willful deceit. This effort was only the latest of many efforts.

In a telling moment, Stewart innocently asked: "You both believe in a state of Israel?" Neither Barghouti nor Baltzer answered.

Stewart's own knowledge of the conflict seems sparse. At one point, in an attempt to appear evenhanded he asserted: "Both cultures have gotten dysfunctional — so far away from believing in each other's humanity."

In reality, there is a sharp contrast between the cultures. Jews are depicted in bigoted ways as animalistic and blood-thirsty monsters in Palestinian media, mosques and political culture. In contrast, there is no such counterpart in Israel.

A further contrast between the two cultures was demonstrated in the reaction of the Palestinians to the Israeli decision to depart from Gaza. Palestinians responded by burning the greenhouses the Jewish settlers had left behind that might have become a source of livlihood and develpment for the community. They proceeded to elect Hamas, an avowed terrorist organization to govern them. Rather than build up Gaza's economy, Hamas decided to use Gaza as a launching pad for rocket attacks on Israel.

Stewart did make several attempts to challenge the guests, some of which were solid points. He, for example, noted Israel is confronted with the challenge of a nuclear Iran and he also noted that Arab nations have been prone to scapegoating Israel for their own shortcomings. He also attempted to raise the issue of anti-Semitic indoctrination in Palestinians children's television. However, he was unclear about the facts on this and most viewers who aren't familiar with "Farfur" (the anti-Semitic childrens' figure on PA TV) would not have understood his reference in this matter.

Immediately after Stewart raised the Iran issue, Barghouti blamed Israel for overreacting to the threat, suggesting the Jewish state might end up claiming Azerbaijan as the next threat. Stewart did not follow up on this outrageous comment.

The unedited version of the segment contains the second disruption by an audience member. Evidently uncomfortable, Stewart retorted, "you can certainly visit our seder." Baltzer and Barghouti laughed at this along with the audience as the protester was thrown out.
Thanks to Steve Stotsky-CAMERA

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