'Sure Seems Like a War Crime': John Oliver Blasts 'Both-siding' Israel-Gaza War

Comedian Trevor Noah also chimes into the conversation, asking 'when you have this much power, what is your responsibility?'

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a six-story building which was destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City.
A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a six-story building which was destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City.Credit: Khalil Hamra,AP

Comedian John Oliver said Israeli airstrikes on civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip "sure seem like a war crime" during a monologue in which he blasted Israel for using disproportionate force in the violent conflict that erupted last week, and has claimed the lives of 213 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel.

Oliver criticized several news reports that framed of the violence as a tit-for-tat war, as one side suffered ten times the number of casualties, "something which speaks to both the severe power imbalance at play here and how that often gets obscured by how we choose to talk about it."

"While some things are incredibly complex and require a great deal of context, others are just wrong," the comedian added.

Oliver further called out the use of "sanitized terms like evictions or property disputes" when referring Jewish settlers attempting to force Palestinian families out of their homes in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

"It is true, the militant groups from Palestinian groups like Hamas fired over a thousand rockets towards Israel this week. And that is reprehensible...but the majority of those rockets thankfully didn't reach those targets for a very clear reason," Oliver said, pointing to Israel's Iron Dome defense missile system.

"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 capability."

"They hit their targets, including a house in a refugee camp, a building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, and [a] 13-story office and apartment building. And while Israel insisted that there were military targets in that building and they destroyed it as humanely as possible, even warning people to evacuate it beforehand, destroying a civilian residence sure seems like a war crime, regardless of whether you send a courtesy heads-up text.”

Oliver also brought up the Israel Defense Force turning a bombed building in Gaza into a before and after meme online.

“In general, you should probably never meme a war crime,” said Oliver.

“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 echoed by both international and Israeli human rights groups,” Oliver said.

“Life in Gaza is hard even when they’re not being bombed, and the U.S. government has implicitly co-signed on the brutally hard line Israel’s been taking.”

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah also spoke about recent events in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, asking "when you have this much power, what is your responsibility?”

“No matter how much you try and break it down, people are always going to say that you’re leaving out some crucial piece of context. And you know what? You’re probably right,” Noah said.  

Instead, Noah posed a different question: “If you are in a fight where the other person cannot beat you, how hard should you retaliate when they try to hurt you?”