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‘Kind of privilege-y’: Bill Maher rebukes anti-Israel protesters

HBO comedian takes ‘social justice warriors’ to task; calls keffiyeh ‘the new Che Guevara T-shirt’

American late-night host Bill Maher during a segment critical of pro-Palestinian protesters in the US from an episode of HBO's 'Real Time with Bill Maher' that aired April 26, 2024. (Screen capture: Youtube/Real Time with Bill Maher, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
American late-night host Bill Maher during a segment critical of pro-Palestinian protesters in the US from an episode of HBO's 'Real Time with Bill Maher' that aired April 26, 2024. (Screen capture: Youtube/Real Time with Bill Maher, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Iconoclast comic Bill Maher in recent days ripped into pro-Palestinian protesters in the United States, accusing them of co-opting the cause for egotistical reasons in a segment of his show, “Real Time” on HBO, that aired Friday.

Demonstrations against the war in Gaza have roiled the US since the fighting was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and take over 250 hostages.

The protests have taken on a sharper tenor in recent weeks, as activists have set up camp at numerous universities demanding the institutions divest from Israel. Many Jewish students say they have been made to feel unsafe due to antisemitic sentiments expressed at the demonstrations. Some demonstrators have blocked roads and otherwise disrupted the lives of locals.

“Someone needs to tell people who block traffic in the name of a cause: no one likes you,” began Maher. “You have to be pretty dumb to think that the way to bring people around to your point of view is to make them late to pick up their kids from daycare.”

Most “normies,” Maher said, can acknowledge injustices in the Middle East, but when confronted with highway stoppages, are more likely to worry about being late for work — “something you protesters on the bridge seem to have the luxury of not having to worry about, which seems kind of privilege-y.”

Maher asserted that if the protesters cared so much about apartheid — “which Israel does not actually practice” — they would focus on women living in theocratic regimes.

Columbia University, where the protests started and which has emerged as a focal point of the movement, was a particular target of Maher’s ire.

“You know Passover?” he asked in the opening monologue, referring to the current weeklong Jewish festival of freedom. “It celebrates the Exodus of the Jews in Biblical times from Egypt. And nowadays, it celebrates the Exodus of the Jews from Columbia University,” said Maher,

“When did Columbia become Kanye State?” he added, referring to rapper Kanye West who has notoriously expressed virulently antisemitic views.

Illustrative: A person wearing a keffiyeh sits among tents at the ‘Gaza solidarity encampment’ on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 25, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz/AFP)

“Are you really speaking truth to power?” Maher asked of the student protesters, “or do you just think you look cool in a keffiyeh?”

Maher called the headscarf “the new Che Guevara T-shirt,” another typically left-wing clothing article which, according to the comic, betrays its wearers are too misinformed to know what a “sadistic, racist monster” the Argentina-born Marxist revolutionary was.

The comic also made light of the death of Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old US military airman who died after setting himself on fire during an anti-Israel protest outside the Israeli embassy in Washington in February.

“‘Many of us like to ask ourselves: What would I do if I was alive during slavery?'” Maher quoted Bushnell’s final Facebook post.

“Interesting cocktail question sir, and I guess the right answer is: kill myself,” Maher quipped, to some uncomfortable laughter.

File: In this image taken from video, police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, February 25, 2024, after an active-duty member of the US Air Force was critically injured after setting himself ablaze outside the diplomatic compound. (WJLA via AP)

The comic argued that pro-Palestinian protesters’ behavior shows what happens when “activism merges with narcissism.”

It’s “less about the cause and more about me: look at me, watch me,” he said.

“And if you like the way I’m fighting injustice, remember to ‘like and subscribe,'” he added sardonically, quoting the common refrain of social media channels.

Israel’s war in Gaza, undertaken to dismantle Hamas and release the hostages it holds, has wrought humanitarian disaster on the enclave, and killed over 34,000 Palestinians, according to the Strip’s Hamas-led health ministry. The figure cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7

Maher, who has hosted “Real Time” for over two decades, is known as a caustic critic of religion who otherwise defies political labels. He has previously spoken in favor of Israel on his program, including during the present conflict. A lapsed Catholic, Maher discovered as a teenager that his mother, whose family hailed from Hungary, was Jewish.

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