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May 19, 2021 12:42 pm
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John Oliver Blames Israel for Hamas War Crimes

avatar by Emanuel Miller

Opinion

Smoke trails are seen as a rocket is launched from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip to Israel on May 10, 2021. Photo: Atia Mohammed/Flash90

John Oliver is one of the world’s leading comedians, venerated by many for his passion, eloquence, and willingness to tackle important issues thoughtfully and wittily, without fear or apology.

All of this makes it so disappointing that Oliver got it wrong entirely in choosing to furiously single out Israel for criticism in a segment in his eponymous HBO series, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. By the end of the segment, Oliver was describing Israel as a “war crime-committing a***hole.”

Why? Because of Israel’s totally legitimate response to the some 3,000 missiles fired by Hamas into Israeli territory over the last week.

Blaming Israel for Hamas’ War Crimes

Many Israelis and Jews have seen the video of Oliver’s show, and reacted with utter shock and disgust. Oliver acts as if Israelis don’t know about the deaths of children in Gaza, or worse, don’t care.

Israelis do know, and do care. Each death of an innocent child is a tragedy. But in laying the blame firmly at Israel’s door, rather than at that of Hamas, Oliver falls for the bait laid for naive observers who expect things to have a semblance of “fairness.”

Oliver’s entire monologue is predicated on the puerile view that if one side is weaker, and has more casualties, then it must automatically be in the right.

But that’s not how life works. That’s not how war works. Should Israel and the Palestinians fight round after round of endless war with each side being killed in equal numbers? Surely not. Far better that Israel defeats the terrorists once and for all, so that the rest of us — Arabs and Jews alike — can live together side-by-side in harmony.

The point of war is to win. That Israel is winning is nothing to be ashamed of.

Each missile fired by Hamas at civilians is a legitimate casus belli — cause for war — under international law. Each missile is an indisputable double war crime, because it is fired at Israeli civilians, from behind the cover of human shields. And Israel has every right under international law to stop these war crimes through the use of military force.

Israel’s Mission: Put an End to War Crimes

Oliver starts out by venting frustration at the term used by CBS in its coverage: “tit-for-tat war.”

Believe it or not, Israelis can actually agree with this objection. This is not “tit-for-tat,” and Israel isn’t simply “retaliating,” phrases used so frequently in media reports.

Journalists reflexively describing the violence using such terms do a disservice to their viewers and readers. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and a clutch of assorted smaller Palestinian militias are deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, as they have done for decades. Israel is trying to stop them, as it has done for decades. This isn’t “tit-for-tat;” it’s about putting an end to war crimes that no other country in the world would tolerate.

Not All Deaths Are Equal

Oliver complains that “one side has suffered over ten times the casualties.” This is true. But the number of people killed is not the only metric that matters.

What matters is how many of those people prove to be terrorists. What matters is whether those terrorists deliberately position themselves and their military assets in close proximity to civilians. What matters is that Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not always wear uniforms, as stipulated under international law, thus making it even harder for Israel to land a clean strike and much more likely that innocent civilians be killed.

Yet, Oliver takes precisely none of this into account before tearing into Israel.

Instead, he assumes the very worst about Israel, describing its acts of self-defense as “war crimes” and “child murder.” These claims are reprehensible because they are completely, utterly without evidence, and legitimize a vicious hatred of Israel.

Minimizing Death: Israel Praised For Targeting Terrorists Who Use Human Shields

In reality, neutral observers can refer back to previous military operations Israel has waged against terrorists based in Gaza.

Israel has been praised by experts for its attempts to reduce civilian casualties. While other wars have resulted in far higher numbers of civilians killed, Israel has managed to repeatedly isolate and target terrorists, despite their well-documented illegal practice of using human shields.

See, for example, the video below of an Al-Arabiya journalist expressing shock in 2009 that Hamas fired a Grad rocket at Israel from under the building in which she was located. “They launched from under the office,” she exclaims.

Regrettably, mistakes do happen, though. In the fog of war and in the absence of fully accurate information, or sometimes by human error, Israel’s military makes mistakes. The difference between a plumber or an accountant making a mistake, and a soldier making a mistake, is that in the context of war, the end result is that civilians may die.

That’s tragic, and we can stand together in extending our sympathies to the innocent people whose lives are affected by this war. But to take such events and use them to portray Israel as bloodthirsty or murderously detached — without a shred of evidence — is to be guilty of spreading a modern-day blood libel against the Jewish State.

So while Oliver may posture to the cameras about how none of this seems “fair,” Israel will continue to defend itself, even if the price is killing innocent civilians in Gaza, because ultimately international law is generally on Israel’s side: the party responsible for the consequences of using human shields is Hamas.

Covering for Hamas Condemns Gaza’s Palestinians

Oliver is right about one thing, though: some things don’t need that much context.

The fact that Hamas — a brutal Islamist terror organization that is not only committed to Israel’s destruction but openly praises and advocates for the murder of Jews around the world — has established a dictatorship in Gaza, where it brutally suppresses freedom of expression and routinely attacks its own citizens, should be of immense concern.

Similarly, Gaza’s Christian community has dwindled under ceaseless persecution from Hamas, and women are denied basic rights, If Oliver really cares about Gazans, then he has to recognize that Gazans need to be rid of Hamas.

So the real losers here are the many Gazans caught in the middle, but who have no chance of standing up to the tyrants who make their lives a misery.

Next time John Oliver makes a video about this conflict he himself admits to knowing little about, let’s hope he focuses a bit more on the party really responsible for all this suffering and bloodshed.

Emanuel Miller is a writer-researcher for HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias.

This article originally appeared at HonestReporting, which is providing vital work in correcting anti-Israel narratives during the current crisis.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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