Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres Backs Israel, Denounces Antisemitism on Bill Maher’s Talk Show
Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres blasted the “hysterical demonization of Israel” and the “global wave of antisemitic violence” against Jews as a result of the recent Israel-Palestinian conflict during his Friday guest appearance on HBO‘s “Real Time With Bill Maher.”
Torres — who is New York City’s youngest elected official and the first Afro-Latino, LGBTQ member of Congress — began by talking with the show’s host about welfare and helping Americans suffering from poverty, before the conversation turned to Israel. Maher praised Torres, who serves New York’s 15th Congressional District, for being “incredible gutsy” in his outspoken support for the Jewish state and told his guest, “I think you’re the only Democrat that has been forthrightly standing with the country that seems to be more aligned with our liberal values.”
Torres replied, “For me the progressive position is the coexistence of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, not the existence of one to the exclusion of another,” which garnered applause from the audience. He continued on to say: “There’s a difference between promoting peace and inciting hatred, and most of the words and ideas and memes that I’ve seen amplified on Twitter are aimed at inciting hatred for Israel, rather than promoting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“My concern is that the hysterical demonization of Israel has set off a global wave of antisemitic violence and vitriol. Hate is never going to bring us peace, it’s only going to bring more violence, and that’s my basic concern.”
Maher, who recently on his show denounced celebrities criticizing Israel online, argued that the recent Israeli conflict had somehow “got conflated on social media among the ‘woke’ … with our racial problems here in America.”
He added, “I just want to say, kids, what’s going on in Israel has nothing to do with George Floyd. It’s not about racism … the reason why they’re bombing buildings is not because they’re racists, it’s because they are rocket launchers in those buildings.”
Torres further warned against the dangers of “Americanizing” the Israel-Palestinian conflict, telling Maher that Americans “think we’re the center of the universe and we tend to apply an American perspective where it doesn’t belong.”
“This is not a black or white conflict … we have to be careful not to reduce everything to an overarching narrative,” he explained. “Every country, every conflict has its own history, particularity, complexity, and none of that should be favored over an overarching ideology that purports to explain everything.”
Maher asked Torres to explain why or how “progressives” could criticize Israel’s actions in the conflict and instead side with the Gaza Strip, which he described as being “against liberal values,” on issues such as as the rights of women and a “lack of political democracy.”
“It’s inexplicable to me,” Torres replied. “I do feel like Israel is held to a double standard and there is an undercurrent of antisemitism in the disproportionate scrutiny of Israel.”
He told Maher, “I ask people, ‘ask yourself a simple question. If you and your neighbors were the target of 4,000 rockets, what would you expect your government to do? Would you expect your government to do nothing?'”
Watch Rep. Richie Torres’ guest appearance on “Real Time With Bill Maher” below.