HBO host John Oliver spewed hate at the Jews of Israel on Sunday, foaming about the “apartheid” and “fucking war crimes” of the country. He lashed out at ally United States for having “blood on its hands.” The comedy-free rant got uncomfortable when Oliver cited as sources the bigoted U.N Human Rights Council and a journalist who, just last week, implied Israel didn’t have a right to exist.
On Last Week Tonight, he raged about the country’s response to rocket attacks by Hamas: “While Israel insisted that there were military targets in that building and that they’d destroyed it as humanely as possible, even warning people to evacuate beforehand. For the record, destroying a civilian residence sure seems like a war crime regardless of whether you send a courtesy heads-up text.”
After declaring that America has “blood on its hands” for the way we fight terror, Oliver made clear, he REALLY hates Israel:
If America really wants to help, it might want to seriously consider changing its long-held position here. Because 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 be. But at the end of the day, I would hope that a real friend will tell me when I’m being an asshole and definitely when I’m committing a fucking war crime.
He wasn’t done yet, sliming the Israelis for their apartheid system: “To people in Gaza, it can seem like the only time anyone pays attention to what’s happening there is when Hamas is firing rockets, which is understandably very frustrating, because they’ve been living under a suffocating blockade for 14 years. And in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians are essentially being governed by a form of apartheid.”
Who are the experts that Oliver cited? For one, he played a clip of Palestinian journalist Mohammed El-Kurd. Just last week, El-Kurd appeared on MSNBC and suggested that Israel was illegitimately created and doesn’t have a right to exist: “Looking at the history of this country and seeing how this country came about, it came about by stealing people’s homes and lands and destroying people’s villages.”
Then he referenced attacks on Israel from the United Nations Human Rights Council, without mentioning how that country has been infested with anti-Semitic bigots. As the Anti-Defamation League noted:
In June 2018, the U.S. announced that it was formally withdrawing from the HRC, citing anti-Israel bias and the body’s inclusion of human rights-violating countries as motivating the decision. The UK also announced that it would withdraw if the Council continued its anti-Israel bias.
So the question is, why does John Oliver hate Israel so much? And why does he back his unhinged rants by citing bigots?
If you want to complain about HBO’s support for hating Israel, contact their corporate office here.
A partial transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Last Week Tonight
ANTHONY MASON: This morning, the worst violence in years between Israelis and Palestinians is intensifying. Israel’s military attacked new targets in Gaza, the Palestinian territory where militants are firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. And in the Israeli-occupied west bank, Palestinian protesters fought with police.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Since Monday, over 80 Palestinians have been killed and 7 Israelis in this tit-for-tat war.
JOHN OLIVER: Okay, there is a lot to unpack there, from the horror of the situation — which has escalated significantly since then — to 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 imbalance at play here and how that often gets obscured by how we choose to talk about it. And look, if you’re not fluent in Middle East history, I know this can seem overwhelming — the latest chapter in a long story you haven’t read.
So I’m not going to try and recap the history here, or indeed, propose a solution — although, interestingly, I do have one. Because someone with this accent always thinks they can fix things in the Middle East. I redrew the map a bit, and I have a lot of misplaced confidence that it would work very well. But this week’s actually been a pretty good reminder that while some things are incredibly complex and require a great deal of context, others are just wrong. Take, for instance, one of the incidents that’s been a flashpoint — the planned expulsion of Palestinians who’ve lived in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for generations. It’s currently tied up in the Israeli court system with the foreign ministry calling it a “Real estate dispute.” But it’s worth knowing that the U.N.’s Commissioner for Human Rights has said these expulsions would violate Israel’s obligations under international law. So it is not hard to see why sanitized terms like “evictions” or “Property disputes” rankle those who live there.
CNN REPORTER: You grew up in the neighborhood. Your family home is slated for eviction. What is the scene right now?
MOHAMMED EL-KURD: Well, I — thank you so much for having me. To start, it’s not really an eviction. It’s forced ethnic displacement, to be accurate. Eviction does not imply the hundreds and hundreds of heavily armed police and army and settlers colluding, blowing up your doors, throwing your children from your windows and using brute force to throw you out in the street and assaulting and arresting you should you resist. It doesn’t imply the grenades. It doesn’t imply the rubber-coated bullets.
OLIVER: Right. The threat of eviction is accurate only in a very superficial level. in that one day you live somewhere, the next day you don’t, and that change wasn’t your choice, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s like running a headline that says “Matt Gaetz reaches out to Florida youth.” Sure, not inaccurate. But it’s missing some pretty crucial details about the exact nature of that interaction. And look, it is true that militants from Palestinian groups like Hamas fired over a thousand rockets toward Israel this week, and that is reprehensible. But — and I realize this is the most load-bearing conjunction in history — “But” — the majority of those rockets thankfully didn’t reach their target, for a very clear reason.
OLIVER: Yeah, Israel has an so-called Iron Dome. And I know “What if we blew up the rockets with more rockets?” Sounds like something someone drunkenly wrote down on a napkin once, but it is a real military defense system that works. And I also know not all the rockets were shot down. Israeli civilians were killed this week, which is terrible. But the point is, this isn’t “Tit for tat.” There is a 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 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 this 13-story office and apartment building. And while Israel insisted that there were military targets in that building and that they’d destroyed it as humanely as possible, even warning people to evacuate beforehand, for the record, Destroying a civilian residence sure seems like a war crime regardless of whether you send a courtesy heads-up text.
And when dozens of people have seen their homes or livelihoods destroyed, it doesn’t really help that the Israeli military posted this triumphant meme showing the explosion and the rubble labeled “Before” and “After.” “Look what we did! People lived there before, and now they can’t! You get it, right?” And obviously, in general, you should probably never meme a war crime. But if you absolutely have to, at least go with something less boring than the before/after template. Maybe use the Drake meme or the disaster girl. There’s a building coming down, so checkmark already there, and it’s a little girl with eyes that scream “I don’t know what the Geneva conventions are, and frankly, I don’t care.”
OLIVER: To people in Gaza, it can seem like the only time anyone pays attention to what’s happening there is when Hamas is firing rockets, which is understandably very frustrating, because they’ve been living under a suffocating blockade for 14 years. And in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians are essentially being governed by a form of apartheid, an assessment signed off on by both international and Israeli human rights groups. Life in Gaza is hard even when they’re not being bombed. And the U.S. Government has implicitly cosigned on the brutally hard line Israel has been taking.
OLIVER: Look, there is a real tendency, particularly in America, to “Both sides” this situation, and I’m not saying that there aren’t some areas where that’s warranted, but it’s important to
recognize there are also areas where it’s simply not. Both sides are firing rockets, but one side has one of the most advanced militaries in the world.
OLIVER: And it’s not like the U.S. Is operating from the moral high ground here. It’s obviously no stranger to drone-striking weddings and saying, “We were just trying to target enemy combatants.” This country has blood on its hands too.
OLIVER: And if America really wants to help, it might want to seriously consider changing its long-held position here. Because 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 be, but at the end of the day, I would hope that a real friend will tell me when I’m being an asshole and definitely when I’m committing a fucking war crime.