Roseanne Barr has been no stranger to controversy. In fact, she sometimes courts it.
The outspoken actress, known for her ribald comedy and blunt opinions on everything from gay rights to marijuana legalization to Bill Cosby, recently went after Jewish activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
“I’m a Jew, a G-d wrestler and a freedom fighter, not your puny ridiculous backward hateful definition of a Jew,” she wrote in a blog, calling BDS supporters “Jews who H8 Israel and Collude with anti-Semites.”
Barr will bring her brand of activism to the Magnes in Berkeley on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, East Bay Region, “Israel, the Jews and Me” includes an interview and Q&A.
Barr’s current views on Israel might surprise those who recall statements she’s made in past years. In 2010 she declared: “It’s time for American Jews to demand that Obama instruct Israel to obey international law.” The year before, she appeared on the cover of Heeb magazine dressed as Hitler and holding a tray of “burnt Jew cookies” in front of an oven, defending it as a mockery of Hitler and later claiming it was “to protest against Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza.”
She now sings a pro-Israel song.
“When I said those things it was to make Israel stronger and safer,” she told J. in a phone interview. “I never meant that Israel should not be a Jewish state.
“Israel is far more integrated than the USA,” Barr added. “It’s unreal to see the USA lecture Israel about how Israel treats minorities.”
In any case, “we’re about being green,” she said about the Jewish people. “We’re about bearing fruit and love. We’re the ones who understand what diversity and democracy really means.”
Barr, 62, who grew up in Salt Lake City and whose grandmother was Orthodox, keeps Shabbat and does “kabbalistic meditation.” She said she wants to see more unity among Jewish communities. “I just want to get Jews to talk to each other,” Barr said. “It’s good to come to the People’s Republic of Berkeley and be heard where Jewish people are denied free speech.
“My goal is to get Jewish people to drop the rhetoric,” she said. “We need to do this real quick — some Jews are being made to hate other Jews.”
She called pro-Palestinian activists in Berkeley the “fake left” and said it has a history of twisting people’s words. “They need to shut their privileged mouths and let the Palestinians speak for themselves.”
Barr, who was a presidential candidate in 2012, strongly supports a two-state solution to the conflict and said the trouble in the Middle East is being perpetuated by war profiteers. “Israel has been the world’s moral hostage,” she said. “It’s blamed for everything.”
Last April she tweeted, “If Israel doesn’t nuke Iran, then nothing makes sense anymore.”
Barr, who began her career in standup comedy before creating her successful sitcom “Roseanne,” said she is working on a film but can’t talk about it yet, and is also making TV appearances. During her visit to the Bay Area, she’ll be doing standup shows at Cobb’s Comedy Club on Feb. 13 and 14.