I’ve broken up with Sarah Silverman over BDS

January 11, 2021 • 11:00 am

I am very sad today. What Jewish lad could not love Sarah Silverman? She’s Jewish, has that swarthy attractiveness that bores into our hearts, is proud of being an atheist Jew, has a smart and sassy mouth, and is a good liberal. And she’s funny. And it’s not just secular Jews like me who are smitten: I believe that Dan Dennett also has a case of Silvermanitis—he follows her on Twitter, and has even spoken to her.

Yes, some of her humor is edgy, and sometimes too edgy, to the point of being cringeworthy. But by and large her humor is thoughtful and absorbing. PLUS she did a great acting job in the so-so movie I Smile Back, playing a depressive alcoholic/drug addict. Her depression is real, too, and also appeals to those of us who have Black Dog tendencies. (Jews tend to be on the “half empty” side: who wouldn’t when we’ve been fleeing pogroms and anti-Semitism for two millennia?)

And so I loved The Divine Sarah—until yesterday, when I saw her 3-minute Instagram video (click on screenshot below) where she expresses support of BDS—a support totally ignorant of what BDS really stands for. In fact, she makes so many errors and misguided assertions here that the only real truth in her words is when she says, “I am talking out of my ass.”

Let’s “unpack” her claims.

First of all, the BDS movement isn’t just criticizing the Israeli government for the “occupation”; BDS wants an end to Israel as the country it is now. They do this by calling for a “right of return” of Palestinians who left Israel during the first war (often at the behest of Arab states!) and also for the return of all their descendants as well. That would turn into Israel into a majority-Palestinian state, and you know what that means. A bloodbath, for one thing. No, BDS is not fooling around when its advocates cry, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

Many Israelis and Jews throughout the world have criticized the Israeli government; why do you think that Netanyahu is on thin ice? But BDS is not just calling for reform of the Israeli government; it’s calling for its elimination.  If Silverman doesn’t know that, then she’s butt-ignorant, and it pains me to say that.

Further, BDS doesn’t just want to boycott the government, it wants to boycott Israeli academics, who are seen as complicit with the government. People like me are not, for example, supposed to go to academic conferences in Israel. Screw that.

It goes even further: BDS calls for a boycott of Israeli artists, writers, singers, and so on—and I presume Israeli comedians like Silverman. That, again, is a boycott not of a government, but of Israelis themselves: Jews. You don’t have to think too hard to see the anti-Semitism inherent in BDS.

Silverman makes an oblique reference to Israel as practicing apartheid. That, too, is arrant nonsense. Arabs in Israel live with all the rights of citizens, including the right to be judges, sit in the Knesset, and so on. If there is truly an apartheid territory in that area, it’s Palestine, where Jews are not allowed to live and are vilified constantly by the government.  And the Palestinian government, either by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, is brutal, repressive, and unempathic towards its people. Gays and apostates are guilty of capital crimes; women are oppressed. There is no freedom of speech. Does Sarah know that? Certainly the American Far Left should, but they ignore it.

Silverman’s claim that the boycotts against South Africa (in which I participated!) were effective is a dubious claim. Grania used to tell me, and she lived in South Africa then, that it was the moral suasion, not the boycott, that finally ended apartheid. I’m not a historian, so I will just drop that here and move on.

As for the West Bank, one can make a valid claim that, under international law, Israelis have a right to that territory, which was occupied by Jordan until 1967. At that time, when Israel reclaimed it after the war, Israel still was willing to give up the West Bank to Palestinians in return for peace. The Palestinians refused. Now, however, it would be suicide to turn the West Bank over to the Palestinians, who would simply use it and its height to fire rockets at vital parts of Israel that are very close. And don’t forget that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza to placate world opinion, turning that area and its resources completely over to the Palestinians. That didn’t work, either: Hamas is using Gaza as a convenient platform to fire rockets into southern Israel and launch terror attacks.

At any rate, Silverman should know better than to spout this nonsense. She appears to know nothing about BDS or the history of Israel, and yet she makes videos like this. I could attribute her palaver to the possibility that she might be high, for she surely looks to be in a bit of other-consciousness, but I’ll take her words seriously. Sarah, if you want to discuss your claims, give me a call. 🙂

h/t: Eli

45 thoughts on “I’ve broken up with Sarah Silverman over BDS

  1. I most recently liked her (minor participation) in Netflix’s “History of Swear Words.”

    But a cautionary reminder that actors, comedians, athletes etc. tend to be just that – experts in their field, but not necessarily anything else. When they take to politics (or science, etc.) it’s a bit of a crap shoot as to whether you’ll get (a) surprising depth, (b) average reasonableness, or (c) idiocy.

    1. I have to agree with you. I believe Truman Capote once said that actors were the dumbest people he knew. I suppose that entertainers’ brains are just to busy memorizing lines, composing songs, and writing comedy.

      1. Actors, maybe. But stand-up comedians, especially the best of the bunch, the ones who have something to say, are generally whip-smart, and nimble-minded, too. Just try to heckle one who’s come up through the club circuit and see.

        1. A bigger question (to me) is why are conservative comedians SO unfunny? Not a universal trait to be sure, but common enough to notice. I won’t go there and say it’s for the reasons you cite, but it’s a poser to me. There are few groups more deserving of derision than the far left, but by and large, funny folks target the right.

          1. Yeah, not only are conservative comics not as funny as their liberal counterparts (see, for example, David Cross vs. Larry the Cable Guy), but when a comedian at least vaguely left-ish lurches right, they seem to leave their sense of humor behind. Exhibit A: Dennis Miller.

            Rightwingers tend to be as humorless as the New Woke. Most of the best stand-ups seem to be old-line lefties, like Marc Maron or Lewis Black.

            1. Ideologues are generally humorless. Most left-leaning comedians recognize the absurdities in life and mostly aren’t drive by anger. They can laugh at life. Conservatives tend to be much more angry, and driven by religious zeal. Similarly, wokesters.

              1. I dunno, Greg. I think a lot of humor is sublimated aggression. Go listen to your old George Carlin or Richard Pryor or Lenny Bruce sides.

                I know personally, I sometimes feel at my funniest when I’ve got something I’m at least slightly pissed off about. But you have to be able to stand back from it, get a little distance, or it’s just ranting minus the humor.

              2. That ability to stand back from it is largely missing among modern conservatives and the woke.

        2. I agree with you about comedians, and I’ll grant her whip smart. But smart doesn’t always translate to ‘well informed on X’. Nor, honestly, should we expect it to. But with celebrities we like, we often do have that expectation….more fool us.

  2. I hope she replies so that you too can claim to have spoken to her. It would be the bonus for successfully engaging her in a dialog regarding BDS.

  3. I definitely want whatever Sarah’s smoking or drinking… Where to begin? Oh second thought, I think not. Not worth my fucking time. SUB.

  4. What Jewish lad could not love Sarah Silverman?

    Hey, I always dug Sarah Silverman, too, and you Jewish fellas are certainly entitled to your pick. But the quintessence of all the smart, sexy Jewish women this goyish boy has known over the years is the NYT congressional editor and CNN political analyst Julie Hirschfeld Davis. Yowza.

      1. I like AA a lot. And I think Julia Ioffe is a hot ticket, too. And, for my money, Bianna Golodryga is one of the sharpest, most gorgeous creatures on the face of the planet.

        Haven’t seen Russian-Jewish beauty like hers since Natalie Wood graced the silver screen (although, technically, I think Bianna hails from Moldova, but, what the heck, close enough).

        But Ms. Hirschfield Davis holds a special place, maybe because in manner and appearance she reminds me of some women I’ve known personally over the years (one in particular from my college days, and you know what sticking point in a man’s mind that can be). 🙂

  5. In an attempt to salvage, I can only appeal to the idea that how one feels about a person can exist in a heterozygous state. For example, I very much like Barack Obama. But I strongly disagree with his extensive use of drone missile strikes, and how his Administration had changed Title IX.

  6. Well she is not PCC’s squeeze, so easy to say. If I were her squeeze, I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers, or for blathering on about BDS.

  7. The vast majority of pro-BDS people I see and hear from are antisemites or conspiracy cranks.

    BTW, BDS is very popular over at Pharyngula and FreeThoughtBlogs in general. Oh, and even among some “humanists” too. Just the antisemitic and racist “humanists”, tho.

      1. His music played a small but important part. He was hugely popular among conscripts. A gradual cultural change evolved from the seventies to the nineties. The transfer of power was fraught with difficulty but peaceful nonetheless. We still have huge problems but we have a good constitution and an independent-minded judiciary.

  8. PLUS she [Silverman] did a great acting job in the so-so movie I Smile Back, playing a depressive alcoholic/drug addict.

    Ms. Silverman was also excellent in a recurring role as one-half a lesbian couple in the Showtime series Masters of Sex, based on the human-sexuality research team William Masters and Virginia Johnson.

  9. She’s trying so hard not to be cancelled by the Woke cult. Sadly, that’s a fool’s errand for any comedian worth her salt. You can be funny or you can be Woke. You literally cannot be both.

  10. (I agree Ken, I’ve a thing for Julia Ioffe also, but) I’m glad the Boss here is now not moving on the divine Ms. Silverman. All the more of her for me – she’s my dreamboat. AND my age almost exactly.

    About the BDS thing I think she was probably talking out of ignorance – a sin I can forgive anyone even one not gorgeous. Her record of calling out ant-Semitism speaks to that and I note while I agree with you about the odious BDS (and BLM in part) 100% I’m often surprised at how many people don’t know what either is all about. I wrote about that in my column once.

    So I’ll let her off the hook on this one and email you a selfie of her and I on our first date.


  11. Your provocative title led me to research BDS for the first time. I must say I’m not convinced by many of your objections. Ir appears to me your claims that BDS targets individual academics, artists, etc aren’t well-supported. Your link describes a boycott of institutions, not academics…and what I’ve found regarding performers, artists etc. calls for performers to boycott Israel – not for a boycott of individual artists.

    Some of the tactics used by opponents of BDS – such as publishing personal information, images, etc. as a way of stifling support – are alarming. Many of the stories I read about Israeli treatment of Palestinians were disturbing in their oppression. My initial barometer reads these tactics as immoral.

    As for the main argument that allowing free return of Palestinians would in effect end the country of Israel…this would take some time for me to digest. I’m no historian and I don’t know the dynamics around the expulsion of Palestinians when Israel was formed – and I’m even assuming this point due to the term “refugees.” However, my gut tells me that displacement of a people should warrant a reversal of some sort. I have no beef whatsoever with Jewish people…and I bristle at the casual manner in which support of BDM is labeled “anti-semitic.” In general i oppose a national race, religion, ethnicity etc. test to determine full citizenship rights. I don’t buy the notion that being pro-Palestinian reparation is be default anti-semitic.

    I understand that the long, long history of oppression Jews have suffered could lead to the continued desire to protect Jewish identity via the state of Israel. I also am deeply troubled by the human rights abuses you rightly pointed out- abuses all to prevalent in Muslim societies. That said, I am not convinced. I may not have even awakened to this topic had you not written. I am open to more detailed examples and evidence to support your position, but on (lovely) face value I may be in Sarah’s corner on this topic. I will certainly do more research.

    1. There are many problems you touch on in your letter and there are whole libraries written on every one of them. I will try to be as brief as possible.

      The BDS boycott of Israeli artists is real, and any Israeli artist performing in the West is met with calls to boycott them by the proprietors of the venues and by the public. There are huge demonstrations in front of the places they are performing. There are disruptions during the concerts with people shouting, using noisy implements and unfurling the banners with BDS’s slogans (e.g., the Batsheva Dance Company, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and many more.) Even Jewish (not Israeli) performers meet with the boycott (e.g., Jewish-American singer Matisyahu – he recently won a court case in Spain against the organizers of a festival who stopped him from taking part in the festival under the pressure of BDS).

      BDS is calling for elimination of the Jewish state. For example, the leader of BDS, Omar Barghouti says: ““Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” –Omar Barghouti, (May 26, 2014)

      More pronouncements from the leaders of BDS about the necessity of wiping Israel from the map from can be found here: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/bds-in-their-own-words
      It seems to me that when somebody wants to destroy your country, informing the public who they are is a rather mild way to fight for your own existence.

      The problem of how Israelis treat Palestinians would really demand a whole book to write, not a comment. There is a whole industry of lies about it and an Israeli author, Ben Dror Yeming (BTW, he is on the left of Israeli political scene – very far from Netanyahu and Likud), wrote just such a book: https://www.amazon.com/Industry-Lies-Academia-Israeli-Arab-Conflict/dp/1979061432 It’s worth reading. Another book about the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority worth reading is https://www.amazon.com/Catch-Jew-Tuvia-Tenenbom/dp/9652297984

      The problem of refugees: most of Palestinian Arabs in the Mandate of Palestine escaped from the coming war 1947 and 1948. Nobody expelled them. In 1948 and 1949 some were really expelled by Israeli army when they were perpetrating hostile acts at the rear of the front. Altogether there were some 650,000 to 700,000 people. Today their descendants count as “refugees” entitled to “return” to Israel, a place their grandparents or great-grandparents escaped all those decades ago. And, of course, there were 850,000-950,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, and a majority of them settled in Israel and got Israeli citizenship. At the same time, just after WWII there were millions of refugees in Europe and millions of refugees in Pakistan and India. Not one of those refugees remains. They were all absorbed in their new countries. How come? Palestinians are the only refugee population in the world where the status of a refugee is inherited in perpetuity. I’ve read a statement of a Palestinian-American who proudly calls himself a “4th generation Palestinian refugee”. Well, I’m a “second generation refugee from Polish town of Lwów”, but I don’t demand the right of return to the now Ukrainian Lviv. And the right of these people is non-existent exactly in the same way my own “right of return” is non-existent. The problem of Palestinian refugees and their right of return is discussed in a very good book (also by writers from the Left) Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz: https://www.amazon.com/War-Return-Indulgence-Palestinian-Obstructed/dp/1250252768

      1. Thanks, Malgorzata! What a terrific run-down of the high points. I will only add that a few years ago the Israeli Philharmonic played at the Royal Albert Hall in London and there was a demo outside protesting their presence and some people got in who tried to disrupt the performance. They were quickly expelled, but they had bought into this spurious notion of Israeli illegitimacy and the odious BDS movement and were taking it out on fine musicians. About European refugee camps after WW II: All but one were cleared up by 1952 and the last one–Foehrenwald–was closed in 1957. Nobody passed on their refugee status to succeeding generations!

  12. But she is not the only Israeli supporting BDS and arguing Israel is an apartheid state. For example, there is Ilan Pappe, eminent Israeli Historian, who has documented the circumstances surrounding the formation of the Israeli state and the laws and regulations that he argues imposes a form of apartheid on Arab Israelis, not to mention those living in land occupied and colonised by Israeli Jews (not Arab Muslims or Christians). There is Miko Peled, the son of one of the generals who lobbied for the 1967 invasion and occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights, who has documented the motives for the invasion, along with the execution of at least 2,000 captured Egyptian prisoners of war and the attack on the USS Liberty. There is Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck (now deceased), an ultra-orthodox Jew who left Israel after the 1967 invasion, claiming Zionism is a heresy. And finally there is the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, who has formally denounced Israelis government for establishing an apartheid state. This is just a sample of people and organisations with far greater insight into the situation faced by the Arab Palestinians that the most of us. What would say to them? They cannot be dismissed as “sprouting nonsense”, ignorant of history, and promoting an antisemitic movement?

    1. Anybody who is not blinded by diverse personal and ideological reasons can see that Israel is not an apartheid state – the same law applies for all its citizens, the same access to education, health service, job market and every other area in a society. The Palestinian Authority created by Oslo Accords was supposed to be the beginning of a separate Palestinian state. People living under the rule of the PA are NOT Israeli citizens so they cannot have the same rights as Israeli citizens. They have a right to vote for people who are to be their rulers but Mr. Abbas denied them this right for the last 13 years (he just started 17th of his four year term for which he was elected). Time and again, the PA refused to accept offers to become a state.

      Neither is Israel in any way a colonial state – it’s a state that was built by refugees from persecution in Europe and in Islamic world. No colonial “mother country” has sent their armies to conquer this territory.

      By the way, Sarah Silverman is not an Israeli, she is an American Jew. It is an interesting phenomenon that people who want to condemn Israel as an “apartheid, colonial, settler state” always quote Jews and Israelis who are against the Jewish State, whatever their reason. It can be their desire to be fully accepted in the society they live in, their fear of being accused of “double loyalty”, or the wish to achieve a position at a university in the West which they would never get without showing how deeply against Israel they are, or a deep family conflict and a wish to do harm to ones father for the perceived harm the father done to them in their childhood, or the religious belief that the Jewish State is a heresy because it was built before the Messiah returned—and built by secular people. At the same time. the critics dismiss all facts and arguments presented by Jews – Israeli Jews and non-Israeli Jews – as “Zionist propaganda”.

      The animus against Jews which dominated Christianity for 2000 years, Islam for 1400 years, and Communism and Fascism for much shorter periods—continues to live on. Previously it was expressed in everyday persecution, unequal laws, blood libels, slander, vilification, sporadic murders and rapes and organized pogroms that all culminated in the Holocaust. Now, when Jews have their own state with a strong army, what’s left for people who somehow inherited this century-long aversion to Jews is simply slander, vilification and new versions of blood libel – like calling Israel an “apartheid, colonial, settler state”.

      1. Malgorzata,
        You say “Now, when Jews have their own state with a strong army, what’s left for people who somehow inherited this century-long aversion to Jews is simply slander, vilification and new versions of blood libel – like calling Israel an “apartheid, colonial, settler state”.”

        Clearly, this is not the case with Ilan Pappe, Miko Peled, Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck and the human rights organisation, B’Tselem. They are more informed than most of us, they support their respective cases with research, evidence and scripture, and are guided by a set of moral values that I would hope we all share.

        1. The simple truth is that Israel is not an apartheid state. It really is enough to see what their law says and how their society looks like. But if that’s not enough for you because some “authorities” say that it is an apartheid state, maybe another authority (highly regarded professor of international law) will convince you: https://en.kohelet.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Refuting-the-Israel-Apartheid-analogy-2.pdf

          Of course, I could write a very long description of each and every one of the “authorities” you base your conviction on. As I wrote in my previous comment, people who for one or another reason dislike Israel eagerly quote Jewish detractors of Israel as irrefutable proof that the country is beyond pale. The fact that these people are in a tiny minority of Israelis (and Jews) never bothers them. So just a few words about people you list in your comment:

          Ilan Pappe – a man who many years ago ran for Knesset on the Communist Party’s list and never changed his ideological affiliation; a historian who said once in an interview that facts are of no importance to him. Here is a review of his books by an Israeli historian, Benny Morris: https://newrepublic.com/article/85344/ilan-pappe-sloppy-dishonest-historian

          Miko Peled – a continuation of a strange Jewish tradition of “enemies from within”, from Paul the Apostle to Thomas de Torquemada to Soviet Yewseksiya. Whole libraries have been written in an attempt to explain such hatred.

          Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck – the leader of one group of Naturei Karta, a Haredi extremist group which denies Jews the right to build a state before the Messiah comes. This group is on the absolute fringe of Israeli and Jewish community and is highly praised by Iranian Ayatollahs, especially by the Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad.

          B’Tselem – here is the story of this organization which doesn’t find any big support in the country but has a huge support from abroad. Close to 70% of its budget comes from abroad (mainly Germany, other EU states and US): https://www.ngo-monitor.org/ngos/b_tselem/

        2. You keep citing authorities but never address the question at issue: Is Israel an apartheid state? If you think it is, you know nothing about real apartheid. And if bigotry against outgroups is what you’re talking about, the Arab states of the Middle East, with Palestine high among them, are far more bigoted against outsiders than is Israel.

          Here, have a look at this Twitter video about charges of “apartheid” in Israel:


          Why is Israel singled out as an apartheid state more than, say Palestine, where Jews aren’t allowed to even live? I think I know the answer.

          1. I’ve put these ‘authorities’ forward because they offer counter-arguments. I’m interested in whether you are able to counter their arguments so I can make up my own mind. You have given you’re responses and I appreciate that. Thankyou.

        3. With scripture? Scripture has no role that merits singling it out as one of three criteria for informed decision making because it cannot compete with empirical sources for determining relevant facts. Moral values need to be anchored in the facts, otherwise they are fictional, and fictional morality is an oxymoron.

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