It might not be Saturday Night Live, but when the well-known and popular host of an HBO talk show, Bill Maher, can say, “the Israelis are controlling our government,” and win a round of applause, it’s clear that truth-telling on the dysfunctional relationship between Israel and the United States is going mainstream. Maher wasn’t taking a wild shot in the dark. He knew his comment would be well received.
For others who still hold back, it’s not that they are unaware about what kinds of views would resonate with ordinary left-leaning younger Americans. It’s a question of whether media figures in the spotlight are willing to catch negative attention in corporate board rooms. Unlike the networks, HBO isn’t beholden to advertisers, so that obviously gives Maher some extra latitude.
The responses of Maher’s panelists were telling. The Daily Caller‘s Jamie Weinstein, clearly aware that he faced an unfriendly audience, seemed to have put himself in a curious position. He was faulting Hagel for saying that the State Department is Israeli-controlled — by implication, other branches of government (e.g. Congress) could more reasonably be described that way. The Democratic Donna Brazile assumed responsibility for changing the subject, while Jon Meacham turned his back on Maher to make it clear there was no way he would get drawn into a discussion on Israel.