American fallen-from-grace celebrity Roseanne Barr is going to Israel. And not just on any trip. She has been invited by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to speak against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel – she is due to speak on the 30th of January. The invitation is reportedly an initiative not of a government right-winger, but of none other than a leftist, Zionist Union member – Knesset Deputy Speaker Yehiel (‘Hilik’) Bar.
And her Sherpa? The ridiculous celebrity “Rabbi of America” – Shmuley Boteach. Boteach, popular from his books about “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Lust”, has been serving as a channel for those who have fallen out of grace, for example Samantha Power, who needed to improve her standing with the Israel-apologetic Jewish community in order to become US Ambassador to UN. But Roseanne Barr hasn’t really fallen from grace with the Jewish community – she’s fallen from grace from the US in general. In May, her planned revival of Roseanne, which had returned to TV after 20 years, was cancelled by ABC after Barr fired off a racist tweet referring to former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett as looking like the offspring of the “Muslim Brotherhood & Planet of the Apes.” Jarrett, an African-American, was born in Iran to American parents. Barr apologized, but blamed it on the fact that the tweet was made at 2 AM under the influence of Ambien. The Ambien maker hurried to comment that “Racism is not a side effect of our drug”. Although Barr said she would go off Twitter, she didn’t, and tweeted that the storm of critique she was experiencing amounted to “lynch a Jew”.
Of course Barr has been talking trash about Palestinians for years without regret and with little consequence, but that last tweet seemed to hit a raw nerve in the US. Barr goes on and on. Last week, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, she claimed that the whole incident largely had to do with Anti-Semitism… Yes, Barr was supposedly a victim here, and she tried to explain the tweet as actually being a commentary about Iran, which was misunderstood…
Inviting Barr to speak to the dispersed Knesset surely marks a nadir in the Israeli fight against BDS. If they have to have someone like Barr speak, they’re surely running out of options. As Ariel Gold writes in comment on my Facebook post about this:
“It’s fabulous she is going. She should forever be the face of the anti-boycott movement”.
Barr appears to have a very erratic personality, and extremely bad taste. Before her conversion to right-wing Zionism around 2013, she had an anti-Zionist period, calling Israel a “Nazi state”. But that anti-Zionism had an anti-Semitic component. In 2009, Barr volunteered for a photo shoot/article for Heeb Magazine titled “That Oven Feelin’”, which featured her dressed as Adolf Hitler, baking and eating “burned Jew cookies”. Then in 2011 she defended that photo shoot, saying on ABC Nightline: ”No it was not Jews it was Palestinians!”
Then in 2014, like a female Sheldon Adelson, Barr wrote that “If israel doesn’t nuke iran, then nothing makes sense anymore”. In a similar vein she has incited against BDS. When the UC Davis student government voted to endorse BDS, she posted “I hope all the jews leave UC Davis & it then it gets nuked.” After deleting that tweet, she followed with, “Nuke all UC Davis Jew-Haters.”
That’s Roseanne Barr. She’s like a Donald Trump on steroids, and the Israelis want her to talk against BDS in the Knesset. Even the left-wingers want her!
Yes, she’s saying all the things Israelis want to hear about Israel and BDS – that BDS is an “insidious and anti-Semitic” movement, that “Israeli innovation is ascendant and changing the world in areas of medicine, technology, media and the arts”, that “Israel is an oasis of openness, freedom, democracy and tolerance amidst a desert of brutality from an age gone by”, and she wants to “shout this from the heights of the Galilee to the halls of the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city – and from the cafes and art galleries of Tel-Aviv to the beaches of Eilat”.
I get that. But Barr is not exactly an intellectual capacity when it comes to Israel or BDS. Her value is a populistic celebrity value, and that value is really questionable. It’s not a prestigious card for Israel to hold. Is Barr going to teach the Knesset about BDS? Since 2015, there’s a whole ministry dedicated to fighting BDS as a “strategic threat”, with a task force that operates through ‘black ops’.
“We want most of the ministry’s work to be classified,” said the director general of the BDS task-force, Sima Vaknin-Gil. So why bring Roseanne Barr, of all people, to speak in the Knesset?? Barr is a loudmouth, she says outrageous things, she’s anything but discrete.
Barr has no education value for the Knesset members. She says she’s coming to Israel to further her “own knowledge of Jewish and Israeli history”. That’s fine, but what will she teach the Knesset? This is obviously not about learning. It’s about a mutual confirmation of self-righteousness in the fight against BDS. Roseanne Barr will bathe in the political aura of the Israeli Knesset, and the Knesset will bathe in the questionable celebrity aura of Barr.
It is only logical that Barr’s tour is organized by the populist rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s World Values Network. They fit hand in glove, promoting those values of (Jewish-Zionist) “democracy and tolerance” as opposed to (Palestinian) “brutality from an age gone by”. Boteach has popularised orthodox Judaism by making it ‘sexy’, as it were. For example, in his “Kosher Lust”, he says it is “Jewish law” that a woman orgasm before the man. That sounds really appealing and feminist and all, until you realise that it’s based on a Talmudic superstitious discussion about improving the chances of getting a boy… Likewise, Boteach’s supposedly liberal approach to Judaism is countered by an unhinged Zionism, as with his attack against pop-star Lorde who cancelled her concert in Israel this year (he called her a bigot and an anti-Semite in a full-page ad in Washington Post); or as when he teamed up with Elie Wiesel to publish a blood-libel against Palestinians for supposedly “sacrificing children” in 2014, when it was Israel that was massacring children, more than 500 in Operation Protective Edge.
That’s the “dynamic duo” – Barr and Boteach. What a team.
Barr has said in the past that she considers moving to Israel. She ran for US presidency in 2012 and got 0.05% of the nationwide vote. Now she’s hinting to the Jerusalem Post that she may have political ambitions where Israel is concerned:
I like politics, I’m very interested in it. I’d have to be real serious [to run for Prime Minister], and so far I’m better running for queen – of Israel or the world.
And listen to this, she’s very reasonable:
The reason I would run is I have very common-sense solutions to problems, and I’m more interested in people hearing my solutions to things than running for anything.
Finally, playing the Boteach-Torah card, she says:
They’re all Torah-based solutions.
You know what, I think Roseanne Barr should really go all the way – move to Israel, run for Prime Minister (there’s still time), and make Israel a full-fledged Torah-state. I’m sure she’ll find support there, and become queen of Israel, anointed by the Rabbi of America. And if you can become queen of Israel, that’s a bit like being queen of the world anyway, because it’s such a light unto the nations.