I am right now watching Fareed Zakaria's show on CNN. Did you catch it? It's good that they put Mustafa Barghouti on, but they double-teamed him with two pro-Israel guys – Yossi Halevi and Yoram Peri. Barghouti did his best, but it was hopeless. Halevi and Peri just keep falling back on the same talking points about Palestinian rejecting a two-state solution in 2000, choosing violence, turning down a divided Jerusalem, etc.
Barghouti kept his cool and made reasonable points, but then Halevi and Peri would respond by saying that he was being hysterical and denying Jewish history. Halevi accused him of going on a "tirade." When Barghouti tried to put his arguments into some historical context, Peri replied that he was "so dismayed" that Barghouti was looking backwards, and that this would get us nowhere. This, of course, was after Peri had used his previous answer to rehash every deceptive pro-Israel talking point from 2000 and 2001.
When I watch shows like this, I try to put myself in the position of a casual viewer, someone who doesn't have any real sense of the issues and history involved. This is the kind of person who is reflective of mass opinion in this country. What kind of signals is he/she picking up on? What arguments are likely to resonate? I don't know how many casual viewers Fareed Zakaria's show has, but sadly, I think what they just saw only reinforced their knee-jerk pro-Israel sentiments. The constant repetition of how the Palestinians turned down peace and chose violence in 2000, no matter how deceptive, resonates — it jibes with the messages these viewers digest from the mass media.
Meanwhile, Barghouti's efforts to talk about the U.N. partition plan and the one-state solution mean nothing to these viewers, who probably couldn't tell you the difference between the West Bank and Israel. Barghouti was most effective when he tried to speak in broad terms about the nature of the conflict, trying to communicate the basic injustice. But this just opened the door for Peri to feign exasperation and to accuse him of living in the past. I hate watching shows like this.