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Debating Israeli-Palestinian issues on ‘The Daily Show’

Tension was tangible Wednesday at the taping of "The Daily Show" as host Jon Stewart interviewed guests Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti and activist Anna Baltzer.

The interview was interrupted twice by a heckler, who was eventually escorted out of the studio.

During the interview, Stewart asked Barghouti and Baltzer, who recently wrote a book based on her experience as a human rights activist in the West Bank, various questions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Palestinians have been subjected to the longest occupation in modern history, and a system of segregation which is totally unjust," Barghouti said.

"Liar!" a heckler shouted in the crowd in response.

"Apparently we have Joe Wilson with us tonight," Stewart said, using his famous wit to defuse the situation.

Viewers knowledgeable in Middle Eastern affairs are probably familiar with Barghouti, a moderate member of Fatah and one of the prominent Palestinian signatories of the Geneva Initiative, an unofficial peace plan drafted by Israelis and Palestinians. But the name Baltzer may not ring a bell.

A 29-year-old Columbia grad and Jewish American, Baltzer says on numerous videos posted on YouTube that she became a pro-Palestinian activist after visiting the area and witnessing Palestinian plight.

At one point during the interview, Stewart asked Barghouti and Baltzer whether they believed in Israel’s right to exist.

While the Palestinian Barghouti has publicly supported Israel’s right to exist, Baltzer has said she believes having a Jewish State in the Middle East is unjust.

Here’s what she said in May 2008 at a University of California, Irvine pro-Palestinian rally under the header of "Never again? The Palestinian Holocaust."

"What Israel is doing is doing to the Palestinian people is not a perversion of what Israel could be or should be," she said at the UC-Irvine event. "It is an inevitability of having a Jewish state in a place where the majority of the people who have rights to the land are not Jewish."

During the interview Baltzer evaded Stewart’s question regarding Israel’s right to exist, choosing instead to focus on human rights violations by Israel against Palestinians.

"But they would say we are defending ourselves," Stewart responded.

"There’s nothing defensive in denying Palestinians water," Baltzer said.

When Baltzer began saying that historically Jews lived better in the Arab world than they did in the Western world she was cut off by the host.

"I don’t think they felt particularly comfortable there, I mean in 1948 when the Palestinians were forced to leave their land many Jews were forced to leave their land in Iraq, Iran," Stewart said. "Its not necessarily comfortable living in exile."

Stewart tried to lead the conversation in a way that would suggest hope, and veteran politician Barghouti ended the interview on a conciliatory tone.

"Jon, if I may say so, Israel has tried for 60 years the language of power to achieve security," he said. "The only road that was not tried fully is to have peace with Palestinians, and I am sure this is the best guarantee for security."

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 2