Bill Maher spent nearly 10 minutes of his HBO talk show Friday night defending Israel, bringing up ancient Jewish history and showing comparative maps of the state from its early days to today.
The liberal US comedian and political commentator reserved a large portion of his comments for those who have criticized Israel before and during its recent military conflict with the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. Maher took aim at the social media messages posted by celebrities such as model Bella Hadid that accused Israel of war crimes.
“You can’t learn history from Instagram. There’s just not enough space,” he said.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, appearing on the show as a panelist, countered Maher’s arguments, saying that some of Israel’s strikes on Gaza — which began after Hamas fired rockets at Israeli cities on May 10 — should probably be defined under international law as war crimes where not enough care was allegedly taken to avoid civilian casualties.
“War is a crime,” Maher responded, saying that Hamas purposely hides its ammunition in places that house civilians.
Maher then got into historical arguments.
“What if Canada fired 4,000 rockets into America? Or Mexico? Which is an even better analogy, because we actually did steal the land from Mexico,” he said, comparing early American expansion to Israel taking control of the West Bank.
“I would submit that Israel did not steal anybody’s land,” Maher said. “This is another thing I’ve heard the last couple of weeks, words like ‘occupiers’ and ‘colonizers’ and ‘apartheid,’ which I don’t think people understand the history there. The Jews have been in that area of the world since about 1200 BC, way before the first Muslim or Arab walked the earth.”
He also showed the United Nations’ partition plan of 1947, which, had it not been rejected by the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors, he said, would have created two states, one for Palestinians and one for Israelis.
He ended by taking another shot at Hadid, after slamming Hamas and how it rules in Gaza.
“Bella Hadid and her friends would run screaming to Tel Aviv if they had to live in Gaza for one day,” Maher said to applause.
The 11-day war began with Hamas firing rockets at Jerusalem, followed by towns in the south of Israel and the Tel Aviv area. Israeli retaliatory airstrikes on targets in the Strip — as well as errant Hamas rocket fire — killed some 250 people, including 66 minors, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between terror group members and civilians. Twelve people were killed in Israel, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.
Israel has said the majority of those killed in Gaza were terror operatives and says it did everything to avoid civilian casualties while fighting armed groups deeply embedded in populated areas.