World

Bill Maher Defends Netanyahu's Racist Campaigning, Floats Stripping Arabs of Votes

Maher suggests America might strip blacks of the vote if black nations had attacked us.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's racist campaigning did not cost him the election, but it did cost Obama administration support. The U.S. rarely openly disagrees with Israel's leaders, but the administration issued a statement condemning the remarks.

Yet even as the American government and others in the West are finally moving toward pressuring Israel over its government's intransigence, comedian Bill Maher, nominally a liberal supporter of President Obama, has sought instead to defend Netanyahu.

Maher praised Israel for allowing Arabs to vote at all, saying that America might strip blacks of the vote if “12 or 13 completely black nations” had attacked us. This seems to endorse the idea that America is a white nation and blacks are merely second-class citizens:

MAHER: Let me ask the question I was going to ask about this, which is when he said that, 'Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls,' I heard a lot of commentators here say, it would be as if Mitt Romney in 2012 on the eve of the election said black voters are coming out in droves to the polls. But I don't know if that's really a great analogy. I think that would be a good analogy if America was a country that 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 don't know. When we were attacked by the Japanese, we didn't just not let them vote, we rounded them up and put them in camps.

Watch Maher's remarks:

Maher is referring to wars Israel fought with several of its neighbors in the 1960s and '70s. Today, most of those countries are at peace with Israel, and some, including former rivals Jordan and Egypt, have strong diplomatic relations with the country. But even beyond the issue of the wars, it's unclear if the comic understands the implications of what he's saying. During those conflicts, Israel went to war with other countries, not other races. That should in no way impact how the country treats its domestic Arab population, which on paper has the same citizenship as the Jewish population. By Maher's logic, the fact that we've been at war with several Muslim countries in the past decade would somehow logically lead to us disenfranchising Muslim Americans here at home.

The wider implication of Maher's comments are that the United States is a white nation that could be besieged by “black nations” or the Japanese – as if our African American or Japanese American population is somehow less American. The logic that Maher is applying to Israel more or less concedes that he believes it's a state where Arab citizens are second-class, a belief that it is increasingly obvious Israel's leadership and electorate endorse.

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

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