Bill Maher Calls BS on BDS
The panel topic on last Friday’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” was Israel’s recent refusal to allow high-profile BDS proponents Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Talib (D-MI) into the country on a planned visit to the region.
Rather than discussing whether Israel should or should not have allowed them in, Maher wanted to talk about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign itself — because, as Maher explained, “that’s what’s behind this. That’s why Israel says they wouldn’t let Talib [sic] in.”
Maher got straight to the point, asking panelists Carl Hulse, author and chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times; Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and author; and Betsy Woodruff, a reporter and MSNBC contributor, about the morality of the campaign: “Is BDS fair?” “Does Israel deserve this?” “Is it the right thing to do?”
After some of the panelists danced all around the question, attempting to tie BDS to the Trump/Netanyahu relationship, Maher said, “Since nobody is answering my question, I’m going to answer it myself. BDS is a b******* purity test to make people look woke who actually slept through history class.”
In his brief but passionate attack on BDS morality, Maher touched on motive, racial bias, selective reporting, lack of context, lack of historical perspective, and antisemitism.
Highlighting the unfair racial bias of BDS proponents, Maher noted: “BDS is predicated on the very shallow thinking that since the Israelis who are Jewish are mostly white, and the Palestinians are mostly browner, the Palestinians must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong.”
A provocative and brave statement from someone on the progressive left, but no one ever accused Bill Maher of being shy or politically correct.
Regarding historical context, an exasperated Maher challenged the stunned panel: “As if the occupation came right out of the blue. As if this totally peaceful people suddenly found themselves occupied. Forget about the intifadas, suicide bombings, and rockets … and how many wars?”
Both Rick Wilson and Carl Hulse agreed that discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were often ahistorical. Hulse, however, claimed that the Times did provide historical context for its readers. This, of course, is a ridiculous assertion — which Maher failed to challenge — given the Times’ consistent lack of political and historical context in its biased coverage of Israel.
Touching on selective reporting and lack of balance, Maher pointed out that even today, Jews are not allowed into Saudi Arabia, and wanted to know why no one talks about that: “Isn’t that something?”
The momentarily-humbled panel just sort of dithered as Maher went on to talk about statistics of the Jewish victims of ethnic cleansing in Arab and Middle Eastern countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Eritrea and Iran. “Why doesn’t anyone mention that in the media?” he asked the group. “It’s not exactly a one-way street here, is it?”
This man needs to be teaching at an Ivy League school. No — he needs to head the Middle Eastern and History Departments.
Underscoring the anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiment behind BDS, Maher quoted BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti as saying, “No Palestinian, no rational Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
“So that’s where this comes from,” Maher went on, “this movement, from someone who doesn’t even want an Israeli state in Palestine. Somehow this side never gets revealed in the media. It’s very odd.”
Quoting Congresswoman Omar’s tweets — “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” inferring that AIPAC is buying off American politicians, and that “Israel has hypnotized the world and may Allah awaken them and punish the Jews” — Maher concluded, “That’s BDS.”
And now, of course, Congresswoman Tlaib has called for a boycott of the Bill Maher show — a feeble response that shows what she really thinks of free speech.
In a seven-minute segment, Maher covered a lot of ground. Let’s just hope his audience averaging four million viewers per episode was listening with an open mind.
Lana Melman is the CEO of LiberateArt, Inc.