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The Liberal position in America is notoriously difficult to define. Many of the ideologies gathered under the term in the US would be classed at ‘Right-Wing’ in Europe (and almost certainly in continental Europe) where the label usually carries connotations of socialism and enthusiasm for the welfare state. American Liberals (against the claims of some Conservatives) are not at that point yet. More often, they align roughly with British centrists like the Orange-book Liberal Democrats or Cameronite Tories.

The American term for Liberals of the European style is ‘Leftist’, or collectively ‘The Left’. These are not often found in Establishment politics, or indeed anywhere close to the heat-field of democratic accountability. Rather they lurk on the fringes of Hollywood, music and (perhaps most of all) the booming trade of ‘political satire’.

A giant on this last stage is a Mr William “Bill” Maher.

Perhaps the most effective satirist in modern America, Maher has never made a secret of his adoration of President Obama (he was a big money donor to Obama’s re-election campaign) or of his violent loathing for White American culture and the rural poor. His well-honed spiel has been to accuse, with the merry confidence of a drunk, anyone exhibiting hostility toward the big-state idea as ‘racist’, a paid-for corporate toady or else a reprobate, homophobic, pro-life creationist. 

And this has worked extremely well. On my personal facebook page, I can never seem to avoid a re-post of Mr Maher’s latest routine, and his television show ‘Real Time’ is one of the most popular of its kind on American cable.

But despite such popularity, Maher has a quirk which makes his acceptance into Liberal high society controversial for more devout believers.

Maher is a Zionist. As a matter of fact, a very orthodox one. The comedian reliably supports the Israeli military in its offensives against terrorism wherever (and in whatever manner) they occur, and most recently found himself in hot water for doing so regarding Operation Protective Edge.

But why would I complain about that, you ask? It’s simple. Mr Maher’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself lies in stark contrast to his consistent refusal to grant this same right to America and Europe.

Whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, Maher has repeatedly berated the US military for its excesses and sought (with some success) to diminish the morale of patriotic forces. The Bush regime in particular had no moral fibre for Maher and his baying amen-corner audiences. The invasion of Iraq was motivated by the price of oil. The assault on Falluja was a war crime. The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib meanwhile was not a singular episode but rather chimed with the moral tone of the whole enterprise.

Is it unfair to speculate that had the IDF been responsible for any of these events, Maher would have no trouble finding a way of rationalising them? I don’t think so.

And what would that be exactly? Hypocrisy? Tribalism (Maher has a Jewish mother)? Ignorance (that America and Israel are fighting the same wars)?

That I don’t know. But in my humble opinion the right Israel has to defend its liberal society extends to any other democracy, and wrong-headed hypocrites like Maher let us all down by obscuring this fact.