The disgraced American actor-comedian Roseanne Barr was welcomed warmly in Israel last month. No surprise in that, you may think, but it now appears that this was precisely because of her racism. Once the toast of the liberal Hollywood establishment, Barr has over the past few years re-modelled herself as a rabid supporter of US President Donald Trump as well as Israel’s racism and war crimes.
Her fame peaked in the early 1990s, as the star of her eponymous hit sitcom about working class family life. However, like many US sitcoms, Roseanne ultimately outstayed its welcome, with increasingly far-fetched plot lines.
Barr’s attempt last year to revive and reboot the show was predicated on injecting her real-life persona as a Trump fan into her character, Roseanne Conner. The revamped show was scrapped in May, though, after outrage over an incident which demonstrated Barr’s inability to curb her more openly racist tendencies.
She had written on Twitter that former Obama administration advisor Valerie Jarrett, a Black woman, was the offspring of the “muslim [sic] brotherhood and [the] planet of the apes”. After a public outcry, Barr’s show was cancelled by ABC, which condemned her Tweet as “abhorrent” and contrary to their “values”.
If the network really did have such “values” it would have never allowed Barr such a massive national platform in the first place. She has a history of disgusting anti-Muslim, and in particular anti-Palestinian, racism, but Muslim lives matter little in public discourse in the US and Britain. Where it should have seen a major “controversy” coming, all ABC saw before giving the show the green light were dollar signs.
At public events in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last month, Barr seemed to think that she had done nothing wrong, defending her racist tweet as “misunderstood”. She gave a barely intelligible explanation about how Jarrett had supposedly “turned Iran into a science-fiction movie where mullahs sit at the top.” That, to say the least, was fanciful.
Barr has a proven history of making racist, Islamophobic and even (in at least one case) anti-Semitic comments. In 2015, she called for a university in California to be “nuked” after “all the Jews leave” in revenge for students voting to boycott Israel. Her tweets were posted amid a rash of virulently anti-Muslim attacks in right-wing media coverage of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign vote.
The reporter recounting Barr’s public events in Israel for supposedly liberal newspaper Haaretz seemed sympathetic, claiming that events since Barr lost her show had been a “trauma”. Instead of facing up to the reality about why so many people were outraged at her open racism, Barr claimed that her downfall was actually caused by Hollywood’s hatred of Trump and its “anti-Semitism”. It is reported that she claimed that Trump “loves Jewish people and that’s why they hate him… They hate him because he likes us.”
Less than a day after she flew into Tel Aviv, Barr’s priority was to visit several of the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. While there, she reportedly praised the colonial-settlers as “the pioneers at the forefront of the state of Israel.”
Her visit received official endorsement. It was reported in December that she had been invited by the deputy speaker to address the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), although that seems not to have happened. Nevertheless, she did receive a tour of the eastern sector of occupied Jerusalem led by Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev. Barr and Regev no doubt had a lot to talk about, since she too is an openly anti-Black racist.
During a pogrom against Black migrants that she encouraged in 2012, Regev attacked Africans as a “cancer”. She did apologise later, but — disgracefully — only to cancer patients for daring to suggest that they were anything like Africans. In other words, she doubled-down poisonous, racist comments, in much the same way as Barr has done.
At her talk in Tel Aviv, Barr reportedly defended herself again, suggesting that her detractors were “too goddamn stupid to know what I was talking about.” She also contemplated staying in Israel permanently. Under Israel’s racist, anti-Palestinian laws, this is entirely feasible, as anyone with a Jewish grandparent has the right to Israeli citizenship automatically, whether or not they have any family ties or history in the state; Barr qualifies on all counts. Millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who have been ethnically cleansed by Israel since 1948, meanwhile, are blocked from returning to their homeland by law and regular explosions of Israeli violence.
Cheered on by the racists who formed her vile little fan club in Tel Aviv, Roseanne Barr also contemplated a run for Israeli political leadership. “God hasn’t put those words in my mouth yet,” she is reported to have said, “but I think I’d make a really good prime minister.”
Stranger things have happened. Look at America.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.