During the most recent episode of 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' on Sunday, 12 November, the 46-year-old British-American comedian and political commentator dived into the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Oliver chose to sidestep the intricate history of animosity between Gazans and Israelis, funnily noting that he's "not a school teacher". Instead, he shed light on the deceptive nature of media coverage around the conflict and aimed to focus on "one of the biggest misconceptions."
“The tendency to collapse leaders and citizens when discussing this. To assume that Netanyahu speaks for all Israelis, or that Hamas speaks for all Palestinians, because that is emphatically not the case.”John Oliver
John Oliver began with Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has held control over Gaza for at least 17 years, and addressed the widely circulated notion that the entire populous of Gaza rallies around Hamas "since they elected the group to power."
However, he said that there are "huge asterisks" around the election, such as:
The lack of a referendum since Hamas' election in 2006
Children, who were born after the election, now make up roughly half of Gaza's population
Hamas won the election after it pitched itself as a moderate group which believed in democratic pluralism, as compared to their rival party Fatah, known for widespread corruption
He further noted:
“It is true that at one point, Gazans did elect Hamas...But if you think that makes them all complicit in war crimes their government commits, then boy, do I have some bad news for you about decades of US foreign policy.”
Oliver also considered a scenario where "all Palestinians in Gaza did support Hamas, which they do not" and strongly stated that even then, "the relentless bombings of civilians there would still be abhorrent."
“Collective punishment is a war crime... Palestinians in Gaza are not a monolith. And nor, importantly, are Israelis.”
Citing a poll conducted before the 7 October attacks by Hamas, which found that close to 73 percent of Gazans rather have a peaceful settlement of the conflict with Israel, Oliver concluded, "The truth is, many Gazans will say that they don’t want Hamas in charge."
He provided a second statistic – this time about Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) – where he said that according to polls, 76 percent of Israel's populous wants Bibi to exit office, largely due to purported secutity lapses which led to the 7 October attacks.
Before the recent outbreak of war, Israel witnessed approximately 40 weeks of protests against Netanyahu.
Despite these demonstrations, he secured his re-election in 2022 by forming a coalition with far-right politicians, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted on at least eight charges (including supporting terrorism and racism.)
Oliver said that while Netanyahu "has always been hard right," it is worth "taking a minute to underscore just how extreme his current government is." The comedian said that Bibi's cabinet remains "stocked with extremists"
Moreover, he pointed out how the United States has “emphatically picked a side” with its decision to provide $3.8 billion in yearly aid to Israel, which includes weapons used to attack Gaza, added that he refuses to show any images or videos of atrocities in Gaza, and instead, played clips of displaced and confused Palestinian children in a refugee camp.
“It should be impossible to see those kids and not feel shattered. There is a natural human impulse to protect children – to grab a toddler you don’t know if you see them running into traffic. And if that impulse is broken or dis-incentivized by a government, then there is absolutely a humanitarian crisis no matter what any a*****e has to say about it.”John Oliver
Oliver said that a ceasefire "has to be the first step," even though he acknowledged his lack of a solution for peace in the region, and added that even if he did, “this really would be the worst voice in which to relay that message."
“Continuing down this path only creates more extremists, which is the last thing that anybody needs," the 46-year-old said.
John Oliver also began an episode, nearly 10 days after the attacks on 7 October, by acknowledging the conflict. "Before the music and the lights and, at least theoretically, the laughter," Oliver started, "I wanted to briefly talk to you about what has clearly been a terrible week."
For the first five minutes before the show's title card appeared, Oliver addressed "the immense suffering in Israel and Gaza," acknowledging that "it has been sickening to watch."
"We're not going to cover it in the main body of our show tonight for a couple of reasons. First, it's horrific. I don't really want to tell jokes about carnage right now. And I'm pretty sure that you don't want to hear them. And second, we're taping this on Saturday afternoon. You'll be watching it Sunday night – or Monday morning through an illegal VPN; I do know who I am talking to."