Blog Post Content

There was a bit of stir a few weeks ago when Jon Stewart welcomed Ann Baltzar and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti onto The Daily Show. Baltzar is author of Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories, and Barghouti is “a leading figure in the Palestinian democratic and nonviolent movement for peace.” The stir resulted from having two guests that approach the issue from a “Palestinian point of view.”

At one point in the interview a member of the audience yells “liar” to Barghouti (apparently the first heckler in the show’s 11 years), and Stewart quickly turns it into fodder for discussion asking Barghouti how he maintains hope when people “can’t even agree to begin the conversation.”

Trent had a look at the video of this exchange last Friday, and clued me in on something I completely missed — a close connection to a story Karen Armstrong tells in this week’s program. Both of these situations involve someone in the audience disrupting the discussion, and a consideration of how best to handle it. From the transcript, a story that took place at the “God 2000” conference at Oregon State University:

And then when we were on the final panel, suddenly erupted in the hall a fundamentalist who started to shriek at us incoherently. What I could make out was that he was saying that Jews and Muslims denied Jesus and therefore they were going to hell, and all of those of us who sided with Jews and Muslims were also going to hell, and this was evil. And you couldn’t hear much, because he was so incoherent with rage and despair. What I could hear, however, was the note of pain in his voice. This was not just some loony. This was somebody who was suffering and in pain, and felt profoundly threatened by what we were saying.

And the point is that we, seven of us on this panel — we’re all articulate people, we’d all been talking nonstop to each other and to the audience for the last two days. We were utterly struck dumb. None of us could say a word. We felt utterly winded by this assault. Even me, and I should have known better, because I’d just finished my book on fundamentalism. I couldn’t think of anything to say. Eventually this man was hustled out, and the moderator said, ‘Well, I wish we could have talked to him, because he is part of the conference of God, “Where Is God at 2000?” He’s part of this conversation.’ But somehow we couldn’t talk with one another. He was incoherent, we were struck dumb and useless, and this is the problem that we’re facing.

With that in mind, there’s something in Barghouti’s response that he would “very much like to meet” the man who raised his voice and heckled. Perhaps simply a willingness to start the conversation is hopeful enough.


Leave a Comment

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

4 Comments

I appreciate the observation made about Barghouti's response because I saw this segment on "The Daily Show." It was so out of the normal range of the show's format that it was doubly jarring. I had not given much thought to the lack of ill will on Barghouti's part. If we were willing to listen to the pain under the outrage, as Armstrong points out, then we might be better able to have true conversations versus "talk-fests."

I teach yoga in a church where I am not a member. Apparently a church member who had been a missionary to convert Hindus in India was incensed that we offered yoga in a Christian Church. She sent some fundamentalist pamphlets on the danger of yoga. I wrote back an explanation of what we were doing and encouraged her to come see what we did in yoga class, feeling sure that she would not find it scarey or dangerous or offensive. I also asked if I could speak with her because my sense is that we've got to start a 2 way conversation even on the tough topics. I never did hear back.

Thanks for your comment, Lisa — it's too bad you never got to continue that conversation. If you haven't already, you might want to check out our Yoga show — Krista asks her guest about this issue.

The comparison your blog makes is not apt. The fundamentalist who interrupted the "God 2000" panel was mired in religious dogma, but the man who yelled "liar" on Jon Stewart's show was objecting to Barghouti's misrepresentation of history and fact.

There can't be a genuine, productive dialogue if the facts can't be acknowledged. Unfortunately Jon Stewart allowed both guests to use this show to wrongly imply that Israel denies Arab-Palestinians their justice. But the facts are: that Palestinian-Arabs in Israel have all rights of citizenship, and that Israel has tried to make peace (and has succeeded with some countries, ie. Jordan and Egypt, to the limited extent that these countries can bare) but the Arab-Palestinians in the Territories have rejected peace again and again.

There will be peace when the the struggle for the Arabs stops being about denying the Jews a state.