Once the Peace and Freedom Party nominee for president, now one of Donald Trump’s most known celebrity surrogates, Roseanne Barr spoke last weekend at the Jerusalem Post conference in New York about Israel and her effort to “bring people back” who boycott the Jewish state.
Barr told Israel’s Channel 2 correspondent Dana Weiss at the top of her talk, “I had to come because I gave my word that I would come. But also, it’s a great chance to bitch about how much I hate BDSers.” The audience was with her, laughing and applauding as she explained, “Well I hate everything that’s a lie based on anti-Semitism. And you know, I’m a Jew, that’s why.”
The presence of Jewish activists in the BDS movement “threatens our existence,” she said.
“Jews who are against other Jews is always been our problem since the first story in Torah. So maybe this time we could do something about it. And change it. We need to love each other. Jews need to love each other,” Barr said.
In the weeks preceding Barr’s talk, actress and director Natalie Portman refused to accept an award in Israel. After receiving harsh backlash from Israeli officials, some of whom called for revoking Portman’s citizenship (she holds dual citizenship with the U.S. and Israel), Portman released a statement clarifying she pulled out rather than share the stage with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and because of “atrocities” by Israel. Reporters from Israel later revealed Portman initially wrote to the award host, the Genesis Prize, that she was distressed by Israel’s response to protesters in Gaza, in which at least 41 Palestinians were killed since late March.
Asked how Barr would convince Portman, who is now viewed as boycotting Israel in some form, though she rejects affiliation with the BDS movement, Barr said she would teach “Jewish history and Torah.”
“Well first I would make her a lovely meal. That always starts everything peaceful,” Barr stated, “And then I would just talk to her about Jewish history and Torah. Cause I think that those are the things that bring people back and wake people up and I do it a lot.”
Barr explained religion is her chief tool to sway Jewish critics of Israel.
“When I first started to fight BDS it was in San Diego, San Francisco… I just wanted to talk about Jewish history, and Torah, and our connection to this land that we’ve had for thousands of years,” Barr said.
“I’m telling you the truth, they know very little about it. They think it’s something that happened in the 40’s. They are not really all that educated,” Barr said of Jewish BDS activists, “And when I would tell them ‘well, do you know it says this and that? Do you know you’re looking at the greatest recorded rebellion of a slave class of people that’s ever been written?’ — they don’t know anything about that either.”
Asked if Portman’s position is one on the rise among younger American Jews who are less interested in Israel and more critical of it, Barr said, “Well yeah, it seems that way,” adding, “they are way out there. And we have to figure out a way to reach them instead of turning them off.”
Raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, Barr has a longstanding interest in Judaism but a more recent role as an advocate for Israel. Her first trip was a personal visit in 1998 where she toured sites of Jewish ritual baths. Her third and most recent trip was in 2016 where she was a guest of the hardline pro-Israeli group StandWithUs. Barr brought her octogenarian mom with her. The two visited the Knesset and went to Hadassah hospital to meet children receiving care. She said she contracted dysentery after visiting a quarantined patient. The trip was eyeopening for Barr who was also invited to speak at an anti-BDS conference.
Barr explained. “It was just a great memory.”
“I want to move to Israel and run for Prime Minister—I do,” she told the audience, repeating a statement she has made a few times over the last six years.
“In 2012 I said that I was going to run for president of the U.S. and prime minister of Israel, a twofer. You know I do have that fantasy […] If God calls me I’ll go of course.”
Barr said she ponders retiring in Israel, “I want to make aliyah, I do, before all of the stuff [real estate] is sold.”
“I still have the fantasy of being an old Jewish lady living in the Jewish homeland,” she said. “I want to buy a farm there and maybe bring my family.”
Switching to president Donald Trump, Barr said she was an early supporter, and described a long standing relationship with the president. “You know I met him several times when he was a civilian,” she said. “He’s always been very nice to me.”
“He’s one of the few people that would always make a guest appearance on any show I was on, that’s a certain kind of loyalty,” she said.
Trump called Barr after the release of the reboot of her sitcom “Roseanne” cinched an unexpected 27 million viewers for the premier. Much like herself, the lead character is also a Trump supporter. The massive rating thrust Barr back into the news cycle with appearances on late night shows.
Trump, she went on, is “really into ratings like I am. He’s really into ratings and the demographics of the ratings.” Citing survey data that Mondoweiss could not confirm to any pollster, Barr added, “63 percent” of Americans “and growing by the day,” support the president. In contrast Gallup’s most recent poll on the presidential approval rate is 42 percent, his all-time high.
It was during that call, Barr told Trump, “on behalf of my mother, and all of the Jewish people, I want to thank you,” for promising to move the U.S embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “I think it’s the first step to peace in the world. I really do,” she noted.
The Palestinian leadership and the Trump administration’s envoy on Middle East peace discontinued pre-talks to negotiations after the announcement last December.
Correction: This post originally incorrectly said that Roseanne Barr had been the Green Party presidential nominee for president. In 2012, Barr ran for the nomination and and lost to Jill Stein. She went on to be the 2012 nominee for the Peace and Freedom Party.