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No, Bill Maher, Netanyahu's campaign was indeed racist

Citing example after example of racism and stoking ethnic tensions in U.S. history, the HBO host finds a way to justify Netanyahu’s warning that Arabs are voting.

American television personality Bill Maher addressed Israeli elections on his show a few days ago, specifically, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election-day warning that Arabs are voting en masse.

Maher, who has made a career shrugging off the constraints of politically correct discourse on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” argues that playing the race card in order to galvanize one’s base is an acceptable political tactic.

How do we know? Well, because it’s happened in the United States — so it must be okay.

“Like Reagan didn’t win [presidential] races with racism? Like Nixon, like Bush? They didn’t play the race card?” Maher posits. If those guys did it, what could be wrong?

But that was only the beginning.

Rejecting his own hypothetical in which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney warns of black voters, Maher continued: “I think that would be a good analogy if America was surrounded by 12 or 13 completely black nations who had militarily attacked us many times, including as recently as last year. Would we let them vote?”

I think I see where you’re going, Bill. Would the United States allow its own citizens to vote if they were of the same race as a country that the U.S. recently fought? It certainly has done some ugly things we don’t like to bring up very often, but at the end of the day the arc of history bends toward justice, or something like that, and America is different today — right?

Not so much on Real Talk.

“I don’t know,” Maher continued. “When we were attacked by the Japanese we didn’t just not let them vote, we rounded them up and put them in camps.”

And there you have it. In an attempt to justify electoral race-baiting by Israel’s prime minister, Bill Maher suggests that arbitrarily putting over 100,000 American citizens in internment camps — on the basis of race — in response to a threat that never materialized was somehow justified?

When the world noticed Netanyahu’s racist campaigning last week I wrote about how Americans should rethink the idea that the bonds tying together Netanyahu’s Israel and the United States are cemented with shared values. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe they do share some values after all.

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    1. A better analogy for Maher to have used would be the people from whom the white settler movement violently seized the land over the course of three centuries of war. US (male) citizens were granted voting rights regardless of race in 1870, but Native Americans didn’t get citizenship or voting rights until 1924. Maybe Maher thinks that’s OK too, just like the Japanese internment camps.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Brian

      I’m glad you included the video because it shows the idiotic Amen chorus Maher lined up here including the cretinous Republican from Georgia Maher allies with, LOL! And the crude yuk yukking female “GOP strategist” to the right in the purple dress. Let’s carry Maher’s snickering analogy further. Let’s make Canada an entirely black nation and have the USA invade and occupy it for 47 years. What, you’d deny black people in Alabama the right to vote on account of that? Of course none of the right wing cream puffs Maher lined up to offer no resistance offered any resistance.

      Are you kidding me Bill Maher? And you want to be taken seriously? You, the supposed challenger of the status quo? Someone once with good intentions but not a lot of taste gave me a book written by Maher. He’s coarse and reactionary when you read him in print, when he actually has to go beyond cheeky sound bites and spell it out. With a narcissistic coldness blowing through the text. Maher is an interesting example of being Progressive Except Palestine and politically incorrect except Palestine. Why the singular exception Bill? I think Maher has exposed himself, and not for the first time, as an uber-hypocrite.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Maher was right when he reminded Americans of what they did to the Japanese-Americans during WWII. Netanyahu was wrong in what he said about the Arab voters, but when one considers that Arab members of the Knesset, like Haneen Zuabi actively work for the dismantling of Israel, then his remarks can be taken in the context of countering the pernicious influence of anti-Israel Arab MKs.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Philos

      i never understood Israeli liberals infatuation with Europe and the USA as paragons of civilisation. These places are riven with institutional racism, classism and militarism. They’ve laid waste and slaughter to the entire Middle East in less than two decades. This is the home of racism and race; ideas that could not have come from the philosophical or liturgical traditions of the East.

      Of course Israel and the USA share values. Exceptionalism, hypocrisy, racism, militarism and contempt of intellectualism. About time you realised looking West for salvation is as forlorn as expecting the Labour Party to end the occupation or protect the weak

      Reply to Comment
    5. Patrick

      I’m not sure the author is being fair to Maher here. I watched the whole episode, and I don’t believe Maher was “suggesting that putting over 100,000 American citizens into internment camps…was somehow justified.” Maher was just making an observation of a historical trend: in the U.S. and in Israel, the civil rights of ethnic groups perceived to be “enemies” have suffered during and after wartimes. I hardly think Maher was endorsing this trend, but, rather, trying to better understand Netanyahu’s (nefarious) reasoning by trying to put it in a U.S. context. And I certainly don’t think Maher was celebrating the use of racism by Reagan or Nixon, as you seem to suggest (you put the phrase “if those guys did it, what could be wrong?” in Maher’s mouth). So, ultimately, I guess I interpret Maher’s words differently than the author.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Average American

      Bill Maher does not reflect average Americans. He’s an entertainer, his show is for bored people to buzz about to each other. The American Indian analogy that someone posted is the best to compare to Israel. Or the Mexican rancho owners in California whose maps of ownership weren’t “recognized” by the new United States government. Israel is about taking land, their Zionist manifesto says so. All of the (undefined) Land Of Isreal belongs to The Jews.

      Reply to Comment