Hat tip to Ynetnews for writing about this. Three Jewish Israelis sit and discuss Israel with three Palestinians. In Arabic.

From the Israeli side, Avi Melamed, a history teacher by profession, Yohanan Tzoref, an academic and expert on Palestinian affairs, and Yoni Yahav, a student, were invited to participate on the panel.

As they conversed in fluent Arabic, the three confronted their Palestinian counterparts who were invited to the broadcast on a series of issues on the political agenda. The Palestinian panel members were Ayesha a-Sayafi, a nurse by profession, Ayoub a-Tutanji, a student, and Dr. Jamal Amar, a building engineer.

This took place live, in Arabic, on BBC’s Arabic service. This is a good thing because there are few Israeli voices heard unfiltered in the Arab world.

This serves as another reminder that half of Israel’s population comes from the East, many from Arab lands. A reminder to those who continue to falsely claim that Israel is a foreign European colony in the Middle East.

In any case, I can’t understand a word of what is being discussed, but watching sections of the debate (it flips in and out of the discussion, but look for the parts where 3 Israelis are seated across from the 3 Palestinians) is fascinating. The passion of the debate on both sides is evident.

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  • I watched that and – frankly you’re not missing much. I was left utterly unimpressed.
    First, debaters were on completely different fields. The Israeli panel had a student – who spoke for 12 seconds altogether – and then this guy, and a Yochanan Tzoref, who’s a senior researcher at the IDC Herzliya, opposed to a nurse – this Aisha Al-Sayafi woman, an engineer, Jamal Amar, and a student (who also spoke for 12 seconds). The debate was unfair, intellectually speaking, with the two Israelis, by training and profession – they’re experts on Palestinian affairs after all – largely above the two Palestinians who are regular folks.
    While I understand that the BBC was hard-pressed to find Arabic-speaking Israelis, they should’ve had the decency to get Palestinian academics if they were going to pit them against Israeli academics.

    So you had the Tzoref guy, who thinks he’s lecturing to his IDC students – mentioning resolutions, the declaration of god-knows-what god-knows-when, Oslo here, painful concessions there, etc – and of course that pisses off the nurse lady who’s far more on-the-ground and yells back at him saying “where’s our country, “the settlements are eating up our country”, etc.

    The Palestinian engineer had interesting lines, but then again it always goes back to Tzoref who loves to monopolize the debate and going on his speeches, and Al-Sayafi who enjoys interrupting him.
    The students had little to add to the discussion, Amar didn’t get to speak enough, Melamed didn’t seem interested to speak in the first place.
    And the presenter was terribly, terribly bad, seemingly having a list of questions he wanted to throw ALL out there during the 20 minutes that

    (think of it. 10 questions, 6 guests, all in 20 minutes, do you actually expect to have an interesting discussion?)

    Two highlights though:
    – When the presenter asks, who is pessimistic vis-a-vis the next year of the Obama presidency? All three Palestinians raise their hands.

    – When Tzoref tried to tell the Engineer – Amar – that he was wrong, he got the right linguistic root but the wrong adjective: instead of saying “you are wrong”, he said “you are a sinner”. 🙂
    That was fun.

  • Thanks, Mo-ha-med, for the interesting report. I did notice that one of the Israelis liked to talk and talk, but I didn’t begrudge him that right because I also like to talk…and talk. I also noticed the Palestinian woman yelling angrily over and over. Now I know that she was yelling about settlements.

    Maybe you are right that the make-up of the two groups needs to be considered more carefully. I was just glad to see this sort of interaction and debate. As hard as it is to watch, it democratizes the process and removes it from the hands of politicians or professional pundits and puts real people across from each other and in front of large audiences. To me, that is a great way to humanize the other. They should do type of programming regularly, with broadcasts to both the Israeli and Arab public.

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