Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 July 2019

Roseanne Barr to address Israeli parliament

Disgraced US comedienne will address Knesset as part of sponsored January visit

Roseanne Barr, who was fired from her TV show this year over racist tweets, will address Israel's parliament next month. AFP 
Roseanne Barr, who was fired from her TV show this year over racist tweets, will address Israel's parliament next month. AFP 

Former television star Roseanne Barr may have lost her platform in the US – the revival of her hit sitcom Roseanne was cancelled after one season in May following a succession of racist tweets – but she seems to have found a willing new audience for her views in the shape of Israel’s parliament.

The comedienne announced that she will be visiting Israel in January as a guest of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's World Values Network, an organisation which aims to “disseminate universal Jewish values in politics, culture, and media, making the Jewish people a light unto the nations”.

As part of her visit, the comedienne says she has been invited to address the country's parliament before Israel’s general election in April. Barr – who called former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett an “ape” and insinuated she was an extremist on Twitter – says she will use her speech to speak out "against the insidious and anti-Semitic BDS movement". BDS refers to the international movement calling for the boycott of Israel as well as divestment and sanctions against the state.

Read more: A guide to the musicians behind, and against, the BDS movement

Barr said the main purpose of her visit is to "further my own knowledge of Jewish and Israeli history". Rabbi Boteach, whose organisation is paying for Barr's trip, says that "bringing an incredibly proud Jewish woman like Rosanne to Israel will be a great boost to its citizens".

Barr spoke to Boteach at length on his podcast after the Twitter racism scandal. The strange exchange seemed to feature Barr simultaneously apologising for and defending her actions.

It's not entirely unusual for Barr to appear to hold contradictory stances on issues, or to be at the centre of controversy online. She regularly advances conspiracy theories through her online platforms, including Pizzagate, 9/11 "truther" and anti-vax viewpoints. She has also expressed her belief in the MKUltra conspiracy theory that the CIA is conducting mind control experiments on Hollywood stars to make them distrustful of Donald Trump.

At the same time as Barr was in the spotlight over the Jarrett tweets, the comedienne was involved in a second Tweetstorm in which she falsely accused Chelsea Clinton of being married to a nephew of billionaire activist and philanthropist George Soros.

During this particular exchange, Barr accused Soros, a Hungarian Jew, of being a Nazi collaborator who had handed his fellow Jews over to the Third Reich during the Second World War. Soros was eight years old when the war broke out. This particular conspiracy theory seems to have stemmed from the fact that a 14-year-old Soros was given shelter in Budapest by a Hungarian government official while the Nazis were seizing the property of deported Jews to help fund their now-failing war efforts.

Nonetheless, Barr's remarks may have played well with Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government. Soros is a frequent critic of Israeli policy, and his Open Society Foundations have the stated aim of "challenging Israel's racist and anti-democratic policies".

In the spirit of "my enemy's enemy is my friend," perhaps Barr's baseless criticism of Soros helped make her a desirable speaker in the home of Israeli democracy.

Prior to Barr's role as an ardent supporter of Israel and critic of the BDS movement, she was the centre of attention back in 2008 when she took to her personal blog to label Israel a "Nazi state".

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