John Oliver Calls Out ‘Bloodthirsty’ Israel-Hamas Rhetoric

The opening title montage for this week’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver arrived five minutes into the show, as Oliver told viewers first that he couldn’t possibly cover the “terrible week” in Israel and Gaza as part of the program.

“The immense suffering in Israel and Gaza has been sickening to watch. We’re not going to be covering it in the main body of our show tonight.” Why? Oliver continued: “First: It’s horrific. I don’t really want to tell jokes about carnage right now, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear them.”

But perhaps more importantly from a logical and strategic standpoint, he noted that he tapes his weekly HBO show on Saturday afternoons, more than 24 hours before air time, and knows viewers might not tune in or catch up until Monday. “Given how fast things are moving, a lot could change between the time I’m saying this, and the time that you hear it,” he said.

Oliver did have what he considered broadly evergreen opinions on the themes of sorrow, fear, and anger.

On sorrow, he said: “Whatever thoughts you have about the history of this region or the current state of affairs — and I’ve shared mine on this show in the past — it should be impossible to see grieving families and not be moved.”

He also feared the prospect of further war crimes, noting: “I don’t know where things stand in Gaza as you watch this right now, but all signs seem to be pointing toward a humanitarian catastrophe.”

And he directed his anger toward “the zealots and extremists across the board who’ve consistently thwarted attempts at peace over the years. Israelis and Palestinians have been let down by their leadership time and time again, and I don’t have a great deal of faith in the leaders currently in charge to steer us toward peace.”

He continued, voice slightly breaking: “But I do still have some hope. Because the easiest thing in the world, after a week like this, is to engage in bloodthirsty rhetoric. But I will say, I’ve been struck by the many ordinary citizens, Israeli and Palestinian, who’ve called for restraint this week, and not revenge.”

He then played a clip of Noy Katsman, whose brother was killed by Hamas, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper in a live interview that they hoped for peace, and asked for Israel not to kill innocent civilians.

Oliver couldn’t help but remind us of British complicity in the matter in his own call for peace, saying: “And I’m not going to tell either side how to get it — certainly not in this accent, which has frankly done enough damage in that particular region to last a fucking lifetime.” To wit, the British Empire had jump-started Zionist movements to form Israel at the end of World War I, when the Brits took control of the Palestine lands from the Ottoman Empire. All of the fighting over Israel and Palestine since then began with Britain’s Balfour Declaration in 1917.

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