TEL AVIV – Rep. Rashida Tlaib has come under fire from the World Jewish Congress (WJC) for calling for a boycott of comedian Bill Maher’s HBO show over his recent criticisms of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, saying the congresswoman’s disregard for Maher’s right to free speech was “deeply disturbing.”
WJC President Ronald Lauder called into question Tlaib’s motives for supporting the extremist BDS movement, which has terror links.
“Serious questions need to be asked about Tlaib’s motivation in supporting the extremist BDS Movement, which is allied with terrorists and is not shy about its ultimate aim of destroying Israel,” Lauder said in a statement.
On his show Real Time on Friday, Maher said BDS was “a bullshit purity test by people who want to appear woke but actually slept through history class.”
“It’s predicated on this notion, I think — it’s very shallow thinking — 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 these completely peaceful people found themselves occupied,” he said.
In a tweet, Tlaib suggested that viewers boycott the program.
“Maybe folks should boycott his show,” she wrote.
“I am tired of folks discrediting a form of speech that is centered on equality and freedom. 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.”
Maybe folks should boycott his show.
I am tired of folks discrediting a form of speech that is centered on equality and freedom. 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. https://t.co/Oa49ZVfrVN
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 17, 2019
The irony of Tlaib calling on people to boycott Maher’s show in a tweet that attempts to portray BDS as a “form of speech … centered on equality and freedom” was not lost on Lauder, who called the Palestinian-American lawmaker to task over it.
Lauder said the WJC “fully supports the constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech and has borne witness to the historic horrors associated with boycotts and the suppression of free speech.”
“It is outrageous that Tlaib, who has repeatedly deployed antisemitic tropes, would promote the boycott of the only democracy in the Middle East and the one nation that fully respects human rights and guarantees freedom for Muslims, Christians and Jews,” he said.
Lauder then pointed to Nazi Germany as an example of what happens when people are boycotted.
Adolf Hitler infamously boycotted Jewish-owned businesses and worked to ban those in the entertainment and media industries who were critical of the Nazi party. After annexing Austria in 1938, Hitler quickly targeted for censure the Kabarett satirical reviews renowned for their expression of independent thought. We Jews know what boycotts can lead to.
“We find it concerning that a member of the U.S. Congress would lobby for BDS and so easily suggest that Maher’s show should be boycotted simply because he expressed an opinion with which she disagrees,” he concluded.
On his show, Maher, who has said in the past that he is “more on the side of the Israelis” when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians, quoted Omar Barghouti, the founder of BDS, as saying: “No rational Palestinian … will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
“So that’s where that comes from, this [BDS] movement, from someone who doesn’t even want a Jewish state at all. Somehow this side never gets presented in the American media, it’s very odd,” Maher noted.