Bill Maher: The 'Dennis Miller' of the Likud Party?

Not too surprisingly, all things considered, Bill Maher is now featured on American Friends of Likud.

The truth is that it has become somewhat of an embarrassment to some of his fans, including an important part of the Jewish community in America, what a sycophant to the Likud the comedian has been turning into.

The Benjamin Netanyahu interview (Youtube clip) was an amazing thing to behold. For all practical purposes, Bill Maher allowed the head of the Israeli right-wing platform to spew his one-sided argument while nodding along.

"I will work for you," I believe, Maher actually said.

Fox News couldn't have done any better - or any worse, depending on one's point of view - where such things, as one sided propaganda, are concerned.

One of the things that the fans of Real Time used to love about the comedian formerly known as Politically Incorrect was his equal opportunity irreverence. Back when he used to be his own man, his fans did not always agree with him (a healthy thing in my book insofar as such indicators go), but propaganda was a thing that he used to expose instead of being one of its high priests. It is a sad development that his latest political pandering has turned into a VNR for the Likud party.

Insofar as Bemjamin Netanyahu is concerned, with regard to recent American politics, it is worth remembering that it is only a mere eleven years ago, back in 1996, that a study group led by Richard Perle prepared a report for Benjamin Netanyahu, the current leader of the Likud party (then-Prime Minister of Israel), presenting a new approach to solving Israel's security problems in the Middle East with an emphasis on "Western values." It has since been criticized for advocating an aggresive new policy and advancing right-wing Zionism. The report, entitled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, recommended repudiation of the Oslo Accords and instead called for the seizure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as encouraging an outright invasion of Iraq by the United States. It then suggested the next items that should be on the agenda: toppling the governments of Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.

It is a strange paradox and a sad irony that while Bill Maher has made himself a solid reputation for his fight against what passed for a while for the "political correctness" of unquestioned (and would be unquestionable) "patriotic" support for extremist reductionism of all kinds here at home and especially where it came to the policies of the current administration (Bill Maher is still a strong critic of the invasion of Iraq), he has now, where it comes to Israel, turned into the champion of the very same thing he used to fight.

Bill Maher may think he speaks for the Jewish community in America and all around the world, he may even think he speaks for Israel, the truth of the matter is he doesn't. Benjamin Netanyahu does no more speak for Israel, and even less for the Jewish diaspora, as George W. Bush ever spoke for the American people as a whole. And neither does the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) whose views primarily reflects the right-wing Likud's positions, rather than also representing those of more progressive Israeli political parties, such as the Labor Party.

As Gregory Levy pointedly observed in a relatively recent article dated December 2006:

Many American Jews, it seems, have similar feelings. Eighty-seven percent of them voted Democratic in the recent midterms -- the highest number since 1994 -- belying the oft-repeated claim that the Bush administration's staunch support for Israel would move the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote toward the Republicans. The fact is that most American Jews, and many other American supporters of Israel, do not see eye-to-eye on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the most hawkish, knee-jerk Israel supporters in the U.S. government -- even if their presumed leadership, represented by AIPAC, often appears to do so. Moreover, AIPAC's influence in Washington may soon begin to decline, as a powerful new alliance of left-leaning friends of Israel has begun to emerge, with the express aim of reshaping U.S. strategy on the region's most intractable problem.

At a time when there have been talks, by such groups as the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), Americans for Peace Now (APN) and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, to form a new Jewish lobby seeking to counterbalance the one-sided views of the powerful AIPAC, Bill Maher has taken sides, and apparently, insofar as AIPAC is concerned, he has done the "safe" and "politically correct" choice: he has pledged allegiance to the the Likud and his chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu.

1 comment:

D said...

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a simple two-sided conflict with all Israelis (or even all Israeli Jews) sharing one point of view and all Palestinians another, as some would have us believe.

IN BOTH COMMUNITIES, there are individuals and groups who advocate either:

1. a two-state solution,
2. a total territorial removal of the other community,
3. a bi-national solution a of a single secular state encompassing present-day Israel, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

I think most people in Israel are supportive of solution number 1 (solution number 3 is most definitely not a solution to most Israeli for the obvious reason that it is estimated that demographically Palestinians could become the majority as early as 2010 or so.)

Most current Likud members however have been supporting the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and oppose Arab statehood and the disengagement from Gaza.

There also are extremist parties like the Jewish National Front (an offshoot of the Kach, infamous for its incitations to racism in Israel - Kach was outlawed by both the Israeli and US governments in 1994,) and people who have been adamantly supportive of solution number 2 and who are calling for - I quote - "cleansing the region extending from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean from the goyim [non-Jews] and thus guaranteeing a Jewish majority of no less than 90% throughout the land of Israel."

Such an extreme "solution," known as "transfer," the dream of part of the Israel right, could hardly take place in cold blood. It would require some extreme situation, a regional conflagration, for instance.

This is an all too familiar context in which the demonization of the other ("Islam is a religion of violence" - echoed by Bill Maher on Episode 502 of Real Time, with guest Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on 02.23.07) and the exploitation of fear ("there is a new wave of anti-Semitism in the world" - echoed repeatedly last year by Bill Maher with his heavy slanted take on Mel Gibson, "The World is Mel Gibson" - for three episodes, no less, one of which showcased a photoshoped picture of the actor/director with a swastika on his forehead) contribute to the promotion (a self-fulfilling prophecy?) of a vision of a world in which a "clash of civilization" is presented as reality and in which "defensive" or "pre-entive" extreme "solution" would become "justifiable," which, interestingly, also so happens to have been more or less the rethoric behind the Bush administration's "preemptive strike" doctrine, which led to the occupation of Iraq (and its most visible consequence - an increase in the destabilization of the Middle East.)

I spoke of "familiar context" because ironically, it is a familiar pattern, and we do know the word for this. As this, too, is called anti-Semitism. It is a resurgent anti-Semitism with the world "Muslims" instead of the word "Jews."

I think it would be a mistake to equate,

Christianity with Christian Fundamentalism
Judaism with Jewish Fundamentalism
or Islam with Islamic Fundamentalism

When it come to "ISM", fundamentalism is fundamentalism is fundamentalism...and fanaticism is fanaticism is fanaticism. And it does concern AtheISM too, incidentally (ask the Buddhist monks refugee from Tibet.)

And least we forget, let us remember that Christian fundamentalism or Jewish fundamentalism are no exception.

As Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky do well to remind us Jewish Fundamentalism, too, alas, is well and alive, and very much part of the political check-board in Israel :

"Jewish fundamentalists generally oppose extensions of human freedoms, especially the freedom of expression, in Israel. In regard to foreign policy, the National Religious Party, ruled by supporters of the messianic tendency of Jewish fundamentalism, has continuously opposed any and all withdrawals from territories conquered and occupied by Israel since 1967. These fundamentalists opposed Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai in 1978, just as twenty years later they continued to oppose any withdrawal from the West Bank. These same fundamentalists printed and distributed atlases allegedly showing that the land of Israel, belonging only to the Jews and requiring liberation, included the Sinai, Jordan, Lebanon, most of Syria and Kuwait. Jewish fundamentalists have advocated the most discriminative proposals against Palestinians. Not surprisingly, Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir, the most sensational Jewish assassins of the 1990s, and most of their admirers have been Jewish fundamentalists of the messianic tendency."