Bill Maher, Welcome to the Club!

On Friday night, live on national TV, Bill Maher said:

“Based on every statement I’ve heard from every Republican in the last two years, the Israelis are controlling our government.”

I though for a second I was in a dream.  See, when we Arabs hear something like that said openly on American TV, we literally jump out of our seats.

“Based on every statement I’ve heard from every Republican in the last two years, the Israelis are controlling our government.”

We start looking around for the hidden cameras.

“Based on every statement I’ve heard from every Republican in the last two years, the Israelis are controlling our government.”

We call our parents, our siblings, and our friends.  We send mass texts, we tweet, and we start Facebook groups.

“Based on every statement I’ve heard from every Republican in the last two years, the Israelis are controlling our government.”

Personally, I went out to my front porch and started singing.  “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”

Unfortunately, it’s definitely true that not too many Arab-Americans saw you on Friday night on HBO.  We don’t pay for anything more than basic cable TV unless it’s al-Jazeera.  But the quote and its accompanying video quickly made it around our circles.  And we welcome you with open arms.

Now, of course you were responding to one of your panelists, right-wing blogger Jamie Weinstein, who brought up a Chuck Hagel speech where the former senator said that Israel was controlling some branches of our government. And so you said what you said.

And you’re right, in that it seems that Israel and its American lobby group, AIPAC, do control the Republican Party when it comes to Middle East politics.  The whole right-wing platform on the Middle East is basically a carbon copy of what Benjamin Netanyahu says every day.  This includes a passionate fixation with Iran, supporting increased settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and a basic rejection of the Palestinians and their rights of self-determination.  It also includes Republican politicians uttering nonsensical things about us Palestinians, saying that we are hateful, resentful, devoid of culture, and “invented.”

And, of course, it means continuing the unrestricted backing and funding of the Israeli military occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Yes, I said “occupation.”  I bring that up because, as you might remember, I was once a guest on your former program, “Politically Incorrect.”  In fact, I was twice a guest.  Actually, I was going to be on a third time, but then you got kicked off the air for some post-9/11 comments, ruining my dream of becoming a talking head.

When I visited you in December 2001 and April 2002, we talked about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  And I must say, at that time, you didn’t sound too different from the right-wing Republicans who unconditionally and blindly support Israel today.

Back then, you hated the word “occupation.”  Every time I would use it, you would say there was no such thing.  You repudiated references to an “occupation” by the United Nations and other international legal bodies.  When you said “the occupied land,” you actually used air quotes.

You insisted that Israel was just a lonely little democracy, surrounded by a sea of Arab neighbors that were waiting for the right moment to annihilate it.

You claimed that it was solely the Arabs who rejected the UN partition plan in 1947.  I said that most probably both the Arabs and the Israelis disliked it, especially based on a new brand of Israeli academics who called themselves the “New Historians.”  I said they existed; you said that was “so not true.”

You maintained that the Palestinian refugees should just be absorbed into neighboring Arab lands.  You said that Israel could not allow the right of return because it would harm the Jewish character of the state.

You said that 1967 was the year that the Arabs attacked Israel (so not true).

You said that the media is not biased toward Israel.  “I think the media is biased toward the Palestinians,” you pronounced.

You basically towed the right-wing Israeli, right-wing GOP line regarding Israel, complete with all the Netanyahu-approved talking points.

But that was a long time ago, and I have been watching you since.  You have mellowed.  You have started to exit the alternate universe inhabited by Israel and its supporters and enter the reality lived by us Palestinians.  I’d love to come back and talk about it.

When I was on your show, I was wearing glasses, and I had a full head of hair.  I don’t wear glasses anymore.  I don’t wear hair anymore either.

I guess time can change everything.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. Amer:
    When I lived in Chile, my country, I used to watch the Maher’s show on HBO and I though “oh, what a guy!” Irreverent, acid, sarcastic… In Latin America we are more careful to say the things and that’s the reason because I was impacted.
    Now, I live in the occupied East Jerusalem since more than a year and the Icon of Maher falls down with every checkpoint, militar revision, injustice, and centimeter of the Wall of shame. I saw in YouTube your participation in his show and it was horrible how Maher made an open defense about the US’ support to Israel. Denying the occupation. Cleaning the image of the Israeli government every time that he have the opportunity . Even, in another video in YouTube, is possible see him making a kind of declaration of love to Netanyahu.
    I don’t think that Maher will change his vision about the world, about Israel, about Arabs, about Palestine. And that’s is a mess. It’s a mess because he is a referent for a lot of people, young people that are forming their opinion from his ideas, from his show. It’s very sad, because the reality here every day is worst. And it feels terrible, it’s like there is no solution. And the worst thing, here it feels like nobody cares about Palestinian people. I’m not Palestinian, but as an international observer it’s difficult not to empathize with the situations they’re suffering. And this state of affairs is so much hopeless if US’ media and Western World’s media have an approach to the current situation based in the opinions of guys like Maher.
    Thank you for the space.

  2. The Palestinians are entitled to some warranted words, albeit indirect but maybe it is a step in the right direction. Yeah, and what happened to your hair? Age, perhaps? :-)

  3. حبيبي إنت عربي، إتأكد إنك دائما تضع مفسك في المكانه الائقه بك، إنت تحدد تون التعامل معاك فلا تقع في خطأ بعض الأقليات الذين يجعلون ثقافتهم ماده للفكاهه. ثم غير عنوان مدونك “العربي المتحضر” وماذا يقابله؟ لا تنسى أننا من أوجل الحضاره وأول من إخترع الكتابه ولازالوا لليوم يستخدمون أرقامنا. لا تصغر نفسك أبداً ولا بالمزح، ولا تردد الإدعاءات القبيحه حتى من باب الرد عليها لأنه يشكل ترويج لها. إنت إبن إسماعيل الذي وعده الله بالإنجيل أن يجعل من أبناءه أمه عظيمه…لا تنسى ذلك…ولا تنسى إن القوه والثقه محترمه وتجلب الإعجاب أكثر من التودد والتذلل.

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