Bill Maher isn’t exactly the Monitor’s cup of tea. The host of ABC’s “Politically Incorrect” is smarmy more often than smart, his jokes run the gamut from the juvenile to the jejune, and, contrary to what one might think from the name of his show, he’s actually quite politically correct on a number of social and political issues.
That said, Maher happens to be surprisingly knowledgeable and honest about the Middle East, and his might just be the most unabashedly pro-Israel voice on the entire ABC network other than George Will’s.
Maher aired his Mideast perspective recently on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” making a case for Israel rarely heard in the mainstream media. (Larry King, alas, was Larry King: a genial simpleton whose stock in trade is asking the most pedestrian questions and then abruptly changing subjects the moment it becomes obvious his store of knowledge has been depleted.)
King: What do you think of the Israeli situation, the Palestinian, is it ever going to solve that?
Maher: This again, you know, I’m like the only guy on TV who defends Israel. The media is so biased.
King: You think they’re anti-Israel?
Maher: Of course they are. They don’t – because they don’t understand what happened in that area of the world throughout the last century. They’re “occupied.” That’s a term that’s just used on all newscasts. That territory is not occupied, OK? The term “occupied” refers to a country that used to be a country. There was no Palestinian Arab country, ever.
King: There was a Palestine, though.
Maher: Palestine. Do you know that at the 1939 World’s Fair, there was a Palestinian exhibit? It was Jewish. It was a Zionist exhibit. The term Palestinian only refers to people who live in that part of the world. They are both Arab and Jew….
King: They are cousins, too.
Maher: They are cousins….But when that land was partitioned in 1947 and the UN said, OK, fellows, you are going to have to share it, the Jews said OK, and the Arabs said, “No, we’d rather try to wipe you out.” And right now, we live in a situation where the Jews could wipe out the Arabs in two seconds if they wanted. They have the means….Do you think if the Arabs, you think if they had the atom bomb, that the state of Israel would last? How long would it last?
King: But America should try to broker something here, right?
Maher: They should. And it’s not that Israel is blameless. They shouldn’t be building settlements and lots of stuff. But basically, that situation is not presented in the American media.
King: Why do you think the media would be anti-Israel?
Maher: They’re not anti-Israel, they just don’t know what happened there. And it’s a lot easier to take the side of the underdog. You know? I saw a report on the news just the other day, a Palestinian girl who said, you know, “I can’t get through the checkpoint, and I only have my books, and the Israeli soldiers are so mean.” Well, yeah, but that’s because a lot of your brothers are blowing up their pizza parlors.
King: So you think – because for a long time, Israel and the media in the United States had a relationship like they were intertwined. Palestinians had almost no voice in American media in the 60’s and 70’s.
King: It changed.
Maher: It changed. It changed. And what I think people forget is that it is also the only democracy….It’s a democracy, Israel, it’s the only one in that part of the world, by the way. And we’ve never sent a soldier to defend Israel. We’ve sent our troops and our planes and our bombs to defend Muslims in Bosnia and in Somalia, and we certainly freed a country called Afghanistan recently.
King: Couple of other quick things. Where is Al Gore, do you think?….
Jason Maoz can be reached at [email protected]