John Oliver urges US to reconsider its position on Israel

Last Week Tonight host criticises President Joe Biden’s response to escalating conflict

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Monday 17 May 2021 17:44
John Oliver urges US to reconsider its position on Israel
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John Oliver devoted a 10-minute segment to the Israel-Palestine conflict on Sunday’s episode of his weekly late-night show.

“If I may quote the riskiest thing you could possibly say on a first date, let’s talk about Israel,” he said at the opening of the segment, which he delivered in his traditional monologue style on Last Week Tonight.

Oliver criticised what he called the “sanitised terms” in some of the media coverage surrounding the conflict.

“The vast majority of the Palestinians in Gaza are not part of Hamas,” he said. “They don’t get together and all decide to launch rockets. It’s not a f****** co-op board. But when Israel fires rockets at Gaza, it endangers all Palestinians there.”

The latest escalation in the conflict broke out last Monday, after weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.

Asked about the situation last week, US President Joe Biden stated that “Israel has a right to defend itself,” and said he hoped the violence would end soon.

“[Biden’s] administration’s response this week has been deeply underwhelming,” Oliver said, calling the president’s statement “generic”. “It’s the exact same line that Obama said and that Bush said before him.”

He added: “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 recognise there are also areas where it’s simply not.”

Oliver acknowledged that “lots is complicated here” and suggested that the US “might want to seriously consider changing its long-held position”.

In his segment, Oliver took a stance similar to those recently expressed by US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and US Senator Bernie Sanders.

“If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to?” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted over the weekend. “How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights?”

Sanders wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times last week: “In this moment of crisis, the United States should be urging an immediate cease-fire.”

“With a new president, the United States now has the opportunity to develop a new approach to the world — one based on justice and democracy,” he added. “Whether it is helping poor countries get the vaccines they need, leading the world to combat climate change or fighting for democracy and human rights around the globe, the United States must lead by promoting cooperation over conflict.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press