Lior Schleien by the Forward

WATCH: Israel’s Jon Stewart takes on John Oliver’s viral video

Image by Lior Schleien

Satirist Lior Schleien has been described as Israel’s Jon Stewart. For more than a decade, he hosted Gav HaUma (literally, the back of the nation), a show mocking Israeli politicians and society, and before that Schleien was a staff writer on Israel’s Saturday Night Live equivalent— Eretz Nehederet.

Last week, on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” English-American comic John Oliver tore into Israeli policy in Gaza, accusing the Jewish State of “war crimes” and “apartheid.”

WATCH: Israel’s Jon Stewart takes on John Oliver’s viral video

In the video OpEd below Schleien, in his characteristically scathing and yet still hilarious fashion, tears into John Oliver’s recent monologue.

For a transcript of Schleien’s video OpEd, continue reading below. (Clips from Oliver’s segment are found in italics.)

John Oliver’s latest monologue. Because Israel being attacked, and hurt, and humiliated by Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization from Gaza, was not enough -

“In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians are essentially being governed by a form of apartheid!” … “These expulsions would violate Israel’s obligations under international law!”… “Life in Gaza is hard even when they are not being bombed!”… “Destroying a civilian residence sure seems like a war crime!”… “You should probably never meme a war crime!”… “Committing a fucking war crime!!”

Sticks and stones may break my bones… OK, sticks and stones and rockets and missiles and a mortar barrage may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. For 10 days now Israel is being bombarded, sirens are running non-stop, children are running, crying, to find shelters, in the cities of Ashkelon and Jerusalem and Beer-Sheva and Tel-Aviv and all over the place. Civilians are getting hit, some are getting killed. So we can take another hit from John Oliver, accusing Israel with breaking international law, and committing war crimes, and… did I forget anything?

“Killing civilians and children!”… “Multiple children have been killed this week! Eight in a single strike just yesterday!”… “The only scenario in which the answer to ‘is killing children wrong?’ gets tricky, is if you’re a time traveler in 1890’s Austria, trying to explain why you just killed the Hitler family’s bouncing new baby boy”

Is that the only scenario in which killing a child is OK? I mean, if a child sits behind me on a plane and… I’m not allowed to… because I’m an Israeli, and I thought… Seriously, John? “Life in Gaza is hard” because “Israel is murdering Palestinian children”? Honestly, you don’t paint an accurate picture. And not being able to paint an accurate picture is what led us to the Middle East conflict to begin with. And another World War II reference is coming up in 20 seconds -

“The US government has implicitly co-signed on the brutally hard line Israel has been taking”… “And the US is heavily implicated here. Not just by serving as Israel’s diplomatic shield at the UN, but by constantly refusing to criticize the indefensible!”… “Israel has a right to defend itself” it’s just something all presidents end up saying out loud, at some point in office”… “For decades, the backbone of America’s policy in the Middle East has been that ‘America is an unwavering friend to Israel’. Which is a great thing to try and be, but at the end of the day, I would hope that a real friend would tell me when I’m being an asshole”

In an interesting twist on history, a Brit is asking an American president to change his policy towards my people. Well, last time it took Japanese Kamikaze do that. On the other hand, John Oliver’s simplistic self-righteous one-sided monologue really is trending on YouTube. “Look, if you believe Israel’s actions are warranted and proportionate this week, you’re welcome to try and make that argument”

Well, since you asked…

“You’re welcome to try and make that argument, but we have got to start having this conversation honestly”

Honestly, of course honestly. And by honestly you mean…

“Falling back on convenient, sanitized terms, like ‘real estate disputes’ and ‘airstrikes on militants’ feels a little disingenuous”… ‘Sanitized terms like ‘evictions’ or ‘property disputes’ rankle those who live there”… “The use of the phrase ‘tit for tat war’ in a conflict where you just pointed out one side has suffered over ten times the casualties, something which speaks to both the severe power imbalance at play here and how that often gets obscured by how we choose to talk about it”… “Israeli civilians were killed this week, which is terrible, but the point is this isn’t ‘tit for tat’”

Yeah, that’s the point. The terminology. And the symmetry. Israelis don’t die enough. We keep trying. How many Israeli casualties will satisfy you? A child, do you count it as less than one? It’s a war, and as the great Churchill once said: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and symmetry! And let’s say that a “tit for tat war” means the same number of casualties, which it doesn’t, exactly, by the way, but still - what’s your point?

“There is massive imbalance when it comes to the two sides’ weaponry and capabilities. While most of the rockets aimed toward Israeli citizens this week were intercepted, Israel’s airstrikes were not. They hit their targets” … “The fact is the citizens of Gaza don’t have an Iron Dome to protect them the way that the citizens of Israel do. It’s one of the many ways they’re at a significant disadvantage”… “Both sides are firing rockets, but one side has one of the most advanced militaries in the world. Both sides are suffering heartbreaking casualties, but one side is suffering them exponentially”

Both sides love eating hummus, but one side is a terrorist organization deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, deliberately firing rockets from crowded population centers in Gaza, using Palestinian children as human shields, and the other side is… not. You see, John Oliver’s main argument is that -

“One side is suffering much! more!”

So! What! I feel sorry for the Palestinian civilians in Gaza, but this childish argument - Israel is stronger, so it’s all Israel’s fault - that’s a very narrow perspective, isn’t it? Let me offer you a different one - there are less than 7 million Jews in the ongoing religious war that we’re having in the Middle East, surrounded by 350 million Muslims. In the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 Israel was almost eliminated. Same goes for the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. And before that, will, you know -

“Hitler”

Hitler! That’s right. So history taught us to get stronger. But let’s embrace your perspective, for a minute - Israel is indeed much stronger than Gaza. And yet, for 20 years now they’ve been firing rockets at us. How come? I guess we’re not that good at committing

“A fucking war crime!”

Which is embarrassing, because throughout history so many war crimes were committed against us, you’d expect we’d learn something. But see, your logic is flawed - just because Israel is stronger, doesn’t mean it’s unjust. It’s like you completely forgot the concept of terror. You sure did forget to mention the word terror, even once, in a ten minute long monologue about Israel and Hamas and Gaza. In fact, how did you refer to Hamas?

“Militants from Palestinian groups like Hamas fired over a thousand rockets towards Israel this week”

Hmm… “Militants”. Not “terrorists”. Well, maybe you’re a fan of euphemisms -

“Apartheid!”… “A fucking war crime!”

No, that’s not it. I’m mentioning that because you wanted an honest conversation, with an honest terminology, and yet, somehow… By the way, you also failed to mention what is it that you want us to do differently, about Gaza. Since there isn’t any territorial dispute. Israel withdrew from Gaza 16 years ago, and there isn’t a single Jew there. Except for the ones Hamas kidnapped. And the so called blockade on Hamas? We just want to check what’s going into Gaza, before we see it on its way out. You failed to mention that this so called blockade is imposed also by Egypt, a Muslim country on the other side of Gaza, and you failed to mention that 14 years ago Hamas took over Gaza in a violent coup, while slaughtering dozens of their Palestinian brothers from the Fatah organization. You’re welcome. I’m always happy to help.

“I’m not going to try and recap the history here.”

Of course. It’s only a ten minute long monologue. And yet, you did take the time to dwell on one stupid meme that the Israeli army spokesperson unit had posted, and you did go on and on about the wrong doings of Israel in one neighborhood in Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah, and you did provide a platform to a Palestinian guy who was just lying about Israel throwing children out of windows - it’s Hamas who does that. But then, I get it. It’s just a ten minute long satirical monologue. See, that’s my job also, in Israel. For the past 16 years, on my shows, I’ve been criticizing and mocking the Israeli government for all the stupid nonsense bullshit that it does, including the way it’s dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, John, I’m a colleague. I’m a friend.

“I’d hope that a real friend would tell me when I’m being an asshole.”

Well… See, even if you can’t try and recap on screen a complicated controversy in a ten minute long monologue - your fans give you the credit that you know all about it. That the opinion you’re expressing is based on facts. On the truth. Whether it’s about tobacco or net neutrality or Gaza. And you blew it, this time. Your arguments were like a Hamas missile - not smart, easily intercepted, yet causing Israel a great deal of damage. And now, this.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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WATCH: Israel’s Jon Stewart takes on John Oliver’s viral video

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