John Oliver by the Forward

John Oliver draws praise and condemnation for his segment on conflict in Gaza

John Oliver is no stranger to upsetting people — I mean, he upset the city of Danbury so much they named a sewage plant after him.

But on Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver took his own trademark Etonian anger to the Levant, accusing Israel of war crimes in their response to rocket fire from Gaza.

“This isn’t tit for tat,” Oliver said, citing a “massive imbalance” between the weaponry of the IDF and Hamas-controlled Gaza. “While most of the rockets aimed toward Israeli citizens this week were intercepted, Israel’s air strikes were not. They hit their targets, including a house in a refugee camp, a building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, and [a] 13-story office and apartment building. And while Israel insisted that there were military targets in that building and they destroyed it as humanely as possible, even warning people to evacuate it beforehand, destroying a civilian residence sure seems like a war crime, regardless of whether you send a courtesy heads-up text.”

“Lots is complicated here,” Oliver concluded. “But some things are pretty simple. One side is suffering much more.”

The segment immediately drew a strong reaction on Twitter, where pro-Palestinian voices heaped praise on Oliver’s blunt monologue.

One user opined that what Oliver said “would have gotten your career in media and journalism destroyed in a second not too long ago, and still does if you’re Palestinian and Muslim.”

On the pro-Israel side many accused Oliver of missing nuance or ignoring the tactic of Hamas placing rockets in civilian areas. Michael Dickson of StandWithUs tweeted directly at Oliver, inviting him to “come and join me in the bomb shelter here in Israel while Hamas indiscriminately fires on us.”

Eytan Weinstein of the Two Nice Jewish Boys podcast, posted a reaction to Oliver’s clip on YouTube, questioning why the power imbalance was the focus of Oliver’s argument.

“Just because one country is more powerful than the other does not mean it has more responsibility,” said Weinstein. “Both sides have a responsibility to be moral and ethical and act in a humane way.”

In eliciting such a strong response, some noted the tone surrounding the conflict had changed notably since the last major Israeli offensive. Matthew Dessem of Slate compared Oliver’s talking points to his old boss Jon Stewart’s milder remarks during 2009’s Operation Cast Lead.

“Stewart catalogs American politicians on both sides of the aisle mouthing the same platitudes about the situation— but it’s a long way from talking about ‘apartheid’ or ‘war crimes,’” Dessem wrote.

Author

PJ Grisar

PJ Grisar

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.

John Oliver praised and scorned for Israel-Gaza segment

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

John Oliver draws praise and condemnation for his segment on conflict in Gaza

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close