The selection of a Muslim activist as the recipient of a Los Angeles human rights award has spurred a war of words between two aging entertainers on the radio waves of L.A. The verbal volley began earlier this month when actor Mike Farrell, B.J. Hunnicut of “M*A*S*H” fame, appeared on behalf of an activist, Dr. Maher Hathout, in a series of 60-second spots on a local news and talk radio station. “Now more than ever,” he said, “Muslims need the support of people of conscience, as their reputations and their religion are being smeared by some, including the American Jewish Committee and the Zionist Organization of America.” The ZOA has responded to the ads, which were sponsored by L.A.’s Muslim Public Affairs Council, with a 60-second radio spot of its own that featured actor and singer Ed Ames, best known for playing the role of Mingo in the 1960s television series “Daniel Boone.” “Since Mike Farrell is an actor, we decided we have our own actor,” ZOA National President Morton Klein told the Forward.
The so-called smear described by Farrell came in the form of an outcry from Jewish groups after the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission selected Hathout for its John Allen Buggs Award for outstanding human relations work. Hathout has been a longtime champion of interfaith dialogue and an advocate of moderate Islam. He also has been a vicious critic of Israel, calling it an “apartheid brutal state of… butchers.” Statements like these have prompted the ZOA and other groups to call on the commission to refrain from presenting Hathout the award. In the ZOA ads, which began airing this week, Ames says that “ZOA supports Hathout’s right to free speech. However, when that speech becomes intolerant and hateful, it should not be rewarded with the Los Angeles County’s Humanitarian Award.” Ames, who is chairman of ZOA’s Western region, goes on to urge listeners to call their county supervisors.