Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) has urged a boycott of comedian Bill Maher’s HBO show “Real Time,” following his no-holds-barred critique of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel. Maher accused adherents and advocates of BDS of engaging in a “bullshit purity test.”
Tlaib responded in a tweet that she has had it with “folks” like Maher “discrediting a form of speech that is centered on equality and freedom. Maybe folks should boycott his show,” she wrote on Saturday. “This is exactly how they tried to discredit & stop the boycott to stand up against the apartheid in S. Africa. It didn’t work then and it won’t now.”
Actually, Tlaib was responding to an earlier tweet by Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan. Hasan’s tweet included a clip of a Maher’s “Real Time” panel critiquing BDS.
Sayeth Hasan: “Maher rails against BDS, Palestinians, and Omar/Tlaib with an all-white panel featuring no Palestinians, no Arabs, no Muslims, no people of colour. ‘Liberal’ Maher.”
Maher did not just criticize the Movement itself, but offered some near-slanderous ad hominem hits against its BDS supporters, calling them “people who want to appear woke but actually slept through history class.”
He accused BDS supporters of “very shallow thinking [and believing] that the Jews in Israel, mostly white, and the Palestinians are browner, so they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong. As if the occupation came right out of the blue, that this completely peaceful people found themselves occupied.”
Last week, of course, at the urging of Donald Trump and the acquiescence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reps. Tlaib and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) were initially barred from entering Israel as members of a US congressional junket. Netanyahu had no objection to their trip until Trump, pandering to some loud voices in his evangelical base, tweeted that, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit.”
The Israeli government later (Friday, the same day Maher made his “bullshit purity test” remarks) rescinded its rescission and allowed that Tlaib would be allowed to visit her grandmother in the West Bank, if and only if, she made a formal request to the Israeli government for a “humanitarian” waiver, and most importantly, that she agree not to publicly declare support or advocacy for BDS while visiting Israel/Palestine. Flatly rejecting these conditions, Tlaib demurred, declaring that she would forgo the visit altogether.
“When I won [election to congress],” she explained, “it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions,” Tlaib said Friday. “I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”
Bill Maher’s Not-So-“Liberal” History
As a stand-up comic and social critic, on the surface anyway, Bill Maher operates in the tradition of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor. Like each of these men, Maher’s commentary and critiques are often acerbic, irreverent and profane to the point of vulgarity. But that’s where the similarities end.
You see, there was never any doubt about which part of the political spectrum Bruce, Carlin or Pryor inhabited. Not so with Maher. He is generally considered to be a “liberal” in most matters, but on one particular issue, he exhibits a conservatism barely distinguishable from….dare I say it? Trump himself.
In 2017, Maher was roundly criticized by black and white friends alike, and mocked by his right wing enemies for using the phrase “house nigger” on air. In a shameless and obvious attempt to quiet the storm and restore his down-with-black-people bona fides, Maher called in his “best black friend,” the loquacious and verbose Professor Michael Eric Dyson to defend him against the growing charge of racism.
Maher tried to blame his unfortunate choice of words on his “comedic mind.” Dyson, at the risk of himself being accused of “cooning,” “Toming” or worst of all, being labeled a “sellout,” agreed and, yes, disagreed. Dyson chalked Maher’s “mistake” up to his (and the universe’s) total and historic immersion in whiteness, white culture, white privilege and white supremacy — all of which are impossible for any and every native-born American to avoid . Dyson essentially “forgave” Maher, and indeed, absolved him of his racial (racist?) sins.
But more to the point of this writing, over the years, Bill Maher has shown a distinct and definite disdain, bordering on downright bias, against Islam and Muslims. Here are just a few choice quotes from some of his on-air appearances.
- “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.”
- The Quran is a “hate-filled holy book.”
- “The Islamization of Europe” is underway.
- “Their cultures are not like ours,” Maher said, justifying the exclusion of Syrian refugees from the West. “They [are] worse!”
- Islam as “the only religion that acts like the Mafia.”
- On terrorism: “[I]f Muslim men could get laid more, we wouldn’t have this problem.”
- “Talk to women who have ever dated an Arab man,” Maher insists. “The reviews are not good.”
- “Hundreds of millions of [Muslims]” support terror, according to Maher. “Most Muslim people in the world do condone violence,” he claims.
Thus, is it any wonder that Bill Maher is also a top supporter of Israel’s occupation of and violence against Palestinians, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Is it also any wonder, then, that given his general attitude toward Islam and Muslims, he would denigrate, mock and belittle Rep. Tlaib, her religion, and her attempts to force Israel to remove its boot from the neck of the Palestinian people.