John Oliver took a moment to share his thoughts on the Israel-Hamas war at the start of HBO‘s Last Week Tonight. In a rare move, the host addressed the audience before the title sequence aired on Sunday’s show.
“Without all the music and the lights and — at least theoretically — the laughter, I wanted to briefly talk to you about what has clearly been a terrible week,” he began. “The immense suffering in Israel and Gaza has been sickening to watch, and we’re not gonna be covering 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 and you’ll be watching it Sunday night or Monday morning through an illegal VPN. I do know who I’m talking to,” he quipped.
He went on to note that due to the timing of the taping, “a lot could change” between then and the episode’s premiere.
“But I do have a few broad thoughts that I think will still apply, and they have to do with sorrow, fear and anger,” he said. “Now, sorrow is the first and most overwhelming feeling, the images that we’ve seen this week from last Saturday onwards have been totally heartbreaking — thousands now dead in Israel and Gaza. It would be devastating, not just to those in the region, but to diaspora communities across the world. Whatever thoughts you have about the history of this region or the current state of affairs … it should be impossible to see grieving families and not be moved. So there’s been sorrow this week, a lot of it and also fear — understandable fear of further attacks in Israel and for those taken hostage and fear of what is to come in Gaza, as Israel’s leaders seem intent on embarking on a relentless bombing campaign, mass displacement and a potential ground invasion.”
Again noting the time gap between when the show is recorded and when it airs, he continued: “I don’t know where things stand in Gaza as you watch this right now. But all signs seem to be pointed toward a humanitarian catastrophe. Israeli officials announced plans to cut off food, water, fuel and power. Hospitals are running on generators. This has all the appearances of collective punishment, which is a war crime. And I think many Israelis and Palestinians are feeling justifiable anger right now, not just at Hamas, whose utterly heinous terrorist acts set this week’s events in motion, but also at the zealots and extremists across the board who consistently thwarted attempts at peace over the years. Israelis and Palestinians have been let down by their leadership time and time again. And I don’t have a great deal of faith in the leaders currently in charge to steer us toward peace.”
Oliver said he still has some hope given the number of ordinary citizens, both Israeli and Palestinian, who have “called for restraint this week and not revenge.”
He played an interview between CNN’s Jake Tapper and Noi Katzman, whose brother Chaim was killed last weekend in the Hamas terrorist attacks. Katzman ended his interview by saying he didn’t want his brother’s death to “be used to kill innocent people. … I don’t want anything to happen to people in Gaza like what happened to my brother, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have any either. So that’s my call to my government to stop killing innocent people. And that’s not the way that brings us peace and security to people in Israel.”
“People want and are entitled to peace, and I’m not going to tell either side how to get it — certainly not in this [British] accent, which has frankly done enough damage in that particular region to last a fucking lifetime,” he said. “But just know in the long term, all the people who want to live in that region are going to keep living there. So peace is not optional and will require some tough decisions. And I can’t say where a peace process ends, but it just has to start with that kind of ability to recognize our common humanity.”