I Don’t Think John Oliver is “Funny.”

What he’s doing is a bit more important than comedy. In my opinion he’s a better version of John Stewart, who was sometimes distractingly funny. Oliver, unlike Stewart, has never managed to get Tucker Carlson even the least bit cancelled, whereas Stewart went into the belly of the beast and revealed him to be such a helpless hack that Crossfire was, actually, cancelled. Oliver’s funny, to be sure, but I worry that he’s mostly funny to my demographic: nerdy ageing white guys.

Oliver recently did a piece about Israel, which was a pretty typical John Oliver performance: a bunch of background, and some humorish analysis thrown on top on the way out. In case you have not seen it, it’s [here].

That video triggered a cascade of “oh, yeah!?” videos from various other people who are considered to be funny-ish, responding to Oliver. Let’s pause for a moment and consider the unfortunate state of affairs in which – as usual – “comedians” are the people talking about an important issue of human rights, while the politicians are talking about damn near anything else, because most of them are scared to touch a topic of substance. As a lover of comedy, I find this all painful – it’s as though Comedy has been drafted into World War I, given a “doughboy” steel hat and a rifle, and sent to the Somme. Ha, ha, ha, rofl. See what I mean? This is not a topic for comedy and it’s an accusation of professional negligence on the part of The News. Don’t get me started on Saturday Night Live, please.

Anyhow, one of the counter-battery broadsides fired in return at John’s departing back is this one:

It somewhat reminds me of Sam Harris’ piece in the same vein, from 2018 [stderr] which is a similarly inept piece of propaganda. I remember when Sam published that; I killed an entire day of my time writing a line-by-line decompilation of his argument, such as it was. Part of the problem with these video pieces (including John’s) is that a lot of stuff flies at you and it’s easy to miss a few important bits, such as how terribly bad many of the arguments are.

Tom Aharon: @0:00
Hello people of the world. You probably don’t know me; I am the tallest person in Israel. These are difficult times for my people, as we find ourselves in yet another round of war. Our days are filled with death, destruction, and horror on both sides. As always, we pay close attention to the international reaction to our actions, and – as always – reactions are quite critical.

I’m going to foreshadow you a bit, here, Tom, because I don’t know if you’re going to get around to mentioning that the “death, destruction, and horror on both sides” may be on both sides but it’s hardly fair. When one side is experiencing a few rockets getting through some high-tech defenses, resulting in less than a handful of killed and a some dozens wounded it’s almost not “both sides” when the other side is subjected to over 150 air strikes including precision 1,000lb bombs that collapse entire buildings and have killed entire families in an instant. This is an important point, because I predict that Tom will eventually complain that “Hamas started it” or something like that, thereby justifying what the International Criminal Court and International Humanitarian Law describe as “collective punishment” – a crime against humanity when committed by an occupying power against a subjugated population. So, let me just plant that thought and get back to Tom’s piece:

Tom Aharon@0:27
Dua Lipa, for example, posted on Instagram calling to “Free Sheik Jarrah.” Model Gigi Hadid posted a story saying “You will not Erase Palestine.” The Weeknd reposted stories accusing Israel of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ DJ Khaled said he expects oral sex but won’t return the favor, in an interview from 2014 which is completely unrelated yet always fun to remember.

I’m actually a bit proud of not knowing who these Instagrammers are. Generally I reject the Instagram influencer class as just a bunch of marketing special effects with too much plastic surgery and mediocre photographers that do way too much photoshop. But I think the real point is that it’s sad that Tom feels he has to go after stupid Instagrammers, instead of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who might be a bit more qualified to have an opinion on the topic. [un] It’s easy to find someone ignorant to argue with (a favorite strategy of performing clowns like Ben Shapiro) (and, yes, John Oliver) Best of all, professional diplomats are generally, urr… diplomatic:

“The fighting risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region,” he said.

“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole, potentially creating a new locus of dangerous instability,”

Of course it’d be better to quote inflammatory statements from one side or the other, but the truth is that nobody should give a shit. Actions are what matter when we’re talking about crimes against humanity, and it doesn’t matter who said what, when. There are plenty of thoughtless remarks that can be cherry-picked from everyone down from the top on both sides: Netanyahu and Hamas, Biden and Tlaib. I do think it’s an important point, worth making, that the US has been consistently using its UN veto to prevent the UN from making any statement on the topic – because the entire UN except the US and Israel, has repeatedly tried to condemn Israel’s actions but the US keeps stomping on the statements with its veto. That’s a hell of a way to have an international discussion.

The UN envoy added that the humanitarian and security situation in the densely packed Gaza Strip grows increasingly dire by the day.

The embattled health system is already overwhelmed by chronic shortages of medicine and equipment, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additionally, over 34,000 people have been displaced, and more than 40 schools operated by UN agency UNRWA are now serving as shelters.

“As a result of the military operations, seven factories, 40 schools and at least four hospitals sustained complete or partial damage,” he said.  

“At least 18 buildings, including four high-rise towers, including one hosting international media outlets, have been destroyed and over 350 buildings damaged. According to the IDF, these buildings contained Hamas military installations.”

Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for immediate de-escalation, Mr Wennesland said the UN is working tirelessly on all sides to restore calm.

That ought to help you understand why Tom Aharon wants to argue against Instagrammers; the professional diplomats are perhaps a bit too on point.

Tom Aharon@00:51:
But make no mistake, the pro-Israeli lists of celebrities is nothing if not shiny. 49 year-old Argentinian actor Facundo Arana has shown support for an Israeli friend in a private conversation later made public on her Instagram account. So. You know: strong figures on both sides.

I’d prefer if you talked about the UN Secretary General’s statement, personally, rather than Instagram stars. But then, I believe that this problem has suffered from a lot of discussion being deliberately killed off, where it matters. Which is not Instagram. I’m referring to a US Congressmember, of course, who was accused of anti-semitism for her declaration of support for the Palestinians (remember: she’s Palestinian, if that matters to you) [wapo] These Instagram idiots are not being silenced as a matter of public policy by the US or Israeli government, so maybe we should fall back upon “let the UN speak” except, you know, that pesky US veto that keeps silencing them, too. Apologies to Tom Aharon, but I don’t care what the cast of Game of Thrones think, either. Or some football player or maybe a soccer fan. I’m interested in what professional diplomats, who have been tracking this problem their whole careers, think. If only the US would un-gag them a bit.

Tom Aharon@01:06:
But in this fight over public opinion, the Israeli side has taken a serious blow, this week. (cut to John Oliver … ending at the bit where Oliver says, “I would hope a real friend would tell me if I was being an asshole, or committing a fucking war crime.”) and I am wishing I had a fraction of a white man’s confidence when talking about things that happen thousands of miles from where I live. Shit, I don’t even have that much certainty about things that happen in my own home. I found my dog eating off the table one day and was like, “I don’t think you should do that.”

Tom, you’re not white? Really? I’m not sure what to make of that: are you trying to remind us of hundreds of years of christian anti-semitism? Or are you referring to the triangle trade, in which your ancestors were sold as chattel? I feel like I’d better set that one aside because I don’t think I want to try to engage with it, and I’m thinking Tom probably shouldn’t have either.

Tom Aharon@01:50:
And I don’t want to sound defensive, everyone has a right to criticize Israel, it’s OK. I mean, the Holocaust did just happen but.. OK, if you have to. That’s how I make my living.

I’m sorry for you, if that’s how you make your living. Because “being funny” is also not a great niche for you. Comedians have to produce witty social commentary, not ahistorical … I actually don’t know the word for that.

But let’s talk about it, because Tom brought it up: the Holocaust. This is a popular pro-Israel (or should we say, “Anti-Palestinian”) axis of argument. The Germans did some bad shit. Never mind that European Christians’ relentless pogroms and anti-semitism had created a drive for establishment of a safe state for Jews, starting in the late 1890s, which morphed into a settler program of European Jews by 1920, which was already planning to conquer “greater Israel” out of Palestine, well before the Holocaust. The Holocaust is an unarguable reason for Jews wanting to get the hell out of Europe, and rational people the world over should have been pointing at Germany and Poland and Russia and demanding that they make reparations for their antisemitic crimes – none of which were committed by the Palestinians. It’s as if Joe steals Jim’s bicycle and Jim goes to the police, who beat the shit out of Joe’s sister and give her bicycle to Jim. Except the Palestinians were less involved in German crimes than being related to the criminal. I’m a bit embarrassed that Tom jumped straight into his defense of Israel by referencing a horribly immoral proposition, namely that what the Germans did somehow justifies what the Israelis are doing right now to the Palestinians (who, during the Holocaust, were mostly busy being driven from their own homes by Israeli settlers). Some of us, in the international community, are disappointed and amazed that the Israelis, being familiar with the pain of being driven from their homes, would turn around and inflict that on an uninvolved third party, but my nihilist philosopher friends assure me that “humans are shit” and we shouldn’t expect the Israelis to show any sympathy for people who are suffering what they suffered.

Even though I’m a nihilist, I’ve got to say I find Tom’s argument aesthetically disappointing, i.e.: disgustingly ignorant. I don’t know where he learned his version of comedy or morality from, but he needs to do a bit of review.

Tom Aharon@02:00:
Everyone has a right to consider the facts and the context. Some might even conclude that we’re the bad guys. I mean, someone’s got to be it, right?

Considering facts and forming opinions is not a right, it’s a fact. People are going to do it, whether they are given permission to, or not.

I’ve been considering the facts in this situation, as I have been able to discern them, for years now, and I think Israel are “the bad guys” and have been since the original settlers looked at the parts of the UN Mandate and Balfour Declaration that enjoined peaceful interaction with the existing population of Palestine, and set about preparing military conquest. I understand why they did that: they were sick and tired of European anti-semitism, as any decent people should be. Unfortunately, Zionism took a dark no-holds-barred turn when Polish colonists decided to conquer the land. This is all documented history: facts and context.

I wonder if Tom knows the facts and context, and is lying, or is merely ignorant. If it’s the latter, he should be honest with himself and us and be ashamed to spout ignorance and propaganda in service of a state that is, absolutely, “the bad guys.”

Tom Aharon@02:08:
But I also believe that simplifying a complex matter does not do justice to either side. I think it’s a luxury for bystanders to make cutting statements on a century-long conflict that people live through every day.

Aha. So, Tom implicitly sneaks in that he knows that the Holocaust (which happened 80 years ago) was not the beginning of this century-long conflict. That’s good. So, why did Tom throw that out there as if it’s a justification of some kind? I don’t want to give a poor propagandist strategic advice but he’d have done better to reference the thousand+ years of christian anti-semitism and pogroms, culminating in Jews’ deciding to form a homeland in Palestine and negotiating with the British for it, as the British were parceling up the spoils from WWI. Does that sound less “good”? It’s more “true” and I’m going to respect someone who deals in truth more than I will someone who thinks they can bullshit me.

Next: Bystanders have no moral right to judge and make cutting statements about a century-long conflict? The problem with that reasoning is that Tom has just described the role of every judge and jury, ever. The whole point of having a justice system is to try to determine matters of right and wrong from outside of a situation by applying the relevant laws and expressing opinions. What Tom is advocating is a fairly common position I’ve heard from Israel-supporters: “you’re an outsider and are not qualified to judge.” But the problem with that is, actually outsiders are the only people who are qualified to judge. That’s why we ask lawyers or judges to recuse themselves if they find themselves ruling on a matter in which they have an interest.

More importantly, bystanders – namely the UN and International Red Cross (who implement the human rights tribunal at The Hague) – keep trying to weigh in from the sidelines. They are silenced by parliamentary maneuvers in the UN, and the US’ relentless attacks against the ICRC’s legitimacy – i.e.: the very bystanders that are most qualified to have an opinion on this matter: are being silenced. This is an extremely important point, because:

If Israel were sure the UN or ICRC would exonerate them of war crimes, they would not be trying so hard to suppress any discussion war crimes. That is not the behavior of a party that knows themself to be innocent. In fact, it is only ever the behavior of a party that knows itself to be guilty.

Tom cannot claim that bystanders on the bench have no business commenting on this centuries-old conflict because they’re the motherfuckers who are empaneled by the international community to do exactly that.

Tom Aharon@02:00:
And it is my humble opinion that the opening monologue from this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight – the incredibly popular HBO show I never stole format from – is doing just that.

Can we add “erects fields of strawmen and mows them down with artillery” to Tom’s personal war crimes, or shall we just stick with “makes bad arguments and is not very funny”?

Tom establishes that it is his opinion that bystanders should not make snarky opinions, and therefore Last Week Tonight is wrong, but I do not agree and have not accepted his premise, therefore I reject his conclusion that Last Week Tonight has no business commenting on Israel. Sorry, Tom. That’s how reasoning honestly works. You’re welcome to your opinion, of course.

Tom Aharon@02:24:
(breaks to more John Oliver, talking about the disproportionate casualty ratio between Hamas’ war crimes and Israel’s)

OK, first of all you said “tit”. Secondly, I don’t think anyone denies that there is, in fact, an imbalance of power between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But imbalance, in itself, is not immoral. Does being stronger bear certain responsibilities? Sure.  I guess. I don’t know. I have never been personally stronger than anyone. But – so I hear. But does it automatically mean you’re at fault? Of course not.

No, what means Israel is at fault is that they are an occupying power and under international humanitarian law they are committing war crimes when they bomb civilians and engage in collective punishment. The point John Oliver is trying to make is that the disproportion of harm is a result of the fact that we are seeing a modern military being deployed to kill against civilian targets. I.e.: a war crime.

What Hamas is doing is also a war crime, by the way. So both sides are committing war crimes. Hamas just isn’t very good at it, and Israel is.

Tom Aharon@03:27
It almost sounds like you’re mad at us for not taking more casualties.
(cut back to John Oliver saying that it is reprehensible that Palestinian militant groups fired over 1,000 rockets at Israel last week) (Oliver then goes into the massive imbalance, again)
Let me get this straight: Hamas fired over 1,000 missiles at civilians but they don’t count because we stopped them in mid-air? That doesn’t make any sense.

I have to agree with Tom, here. It’s a stupid argument; people in the outside world should just focus on: 1) Israel is an occupying power 2) bombing civilians that are under your control via occupation, and collectively punishing them for any act of resistance is a war crime. It does not matter if it’s one shell or one bullet or one missile or one rock. It’s war crimes.

Talking about how disproportionately powerful Israel is, is a losing game. It’s understandable, because Israel’s actions appear more heinous because of the power imbalance, but the Israelis are right: “what do you expect us to do, give up our advantage?” No, actually: “stop doing war crimes and stop occupying Gaza.”

Tom Aharon@04:10:
That’s like me going to a nursing home and injecting every elder with a live COVID stick and the nurses are like “well they’re all vaccinated so I guess that’s cool.” “You only got a really small number of them!”

That’s what it’s like, huh? I have trouble finding the right flourescent language to convey my contempt for Tom’s facile bullshit, here. Maybe he even believes it. But think about that for a few: he actually said this in public.

I don’t think Hamas is doing the Palestinians or themselves any favors. For one thing: they are committing war crimes and that’s a bad look. Do I have suggestions? Nobody’s going to listen to me but I think Hamas needs to study how to propaganda better, and realize that they are not going to win a military engagement and need to be smarter.

Tom Aharon@04:26:
Doesn’t the intent matter at all?

It does! That’s why people are complaining about Israel’s intentional bombing of civilians too.

What I don’t think Tom has noticed, because he’s too busy calling in air-strikes on fields full of straw-men, is that most progressives are calling on both Hamas and Israel to stop with the war crimes. Guess what? Prosecution for war crimes, or otherwise stopping them, brings up that same imbalance Tom was talking about earlier: he was saying “of course Israel is causing more casualties!” that’s  because Israel does war crimes harder and better. Stupid own-goaling bloodthirsty jackass. The intent of war crimes club is to commit war crimes – most of us on the sidelines are looking at both sides going, “you guys suck.” Let’s not argue about who sucks worse; whichever side stops sucking first is going to have a huge advantage in terms of public relations, propaganda, and international strategy. But periodically yelling “Holocaust” as Tom did at 1:50 – Israel is doing a really bad job of making moral arguments for why collective punishment and bombing civilian targets is acceptable (“we call them and warn them first”)

Tom Aharon@04:30:
We do have to address the fact that Hamas targets civilians almost exclusively, while the IDF makes an effort to avoid it.

The IDF has a couple of covers that they often use for war crimes, such as warning the civilians in a building that it is about to be blown up – but that doesn’t mean they are not war crimes. Tom is making a ridiculous argument: what if Hamas said they were only targeting Israeli infrastructure, it’s just that their rockets aren’t very accurate – would that magically make it OK? Of course not. This is why most people on the sidelines (like me) see the whole thing as a bunch of unfortunate decisions and war crimes/crimes against humanity. If Hamas wants me to come over there and lecture them about international humanitarian law, I’d be willing to do so, but I’m pretty sure they already know they’re not doing themselves any favors with their strategy.

We have to address the fact that Hamas are a bunch of war criminals, and so are IDF. Here’s where that gets tricky: Israeli military is committing war crimes as a matter of state policy – they’re not a bunch of irregulars like Hamas; they are making the entire state of Israel culpable because it is aiding and abetting the IDF’s war crimes. See how that works? The fact that Hamas are politically neutered yutzes doesn’t excuse them, but it really turns a focus on IDF, who are supposedly the sharp end of foreign policy for Israel. I’d like to see Hamas’ leadership and the Israeli leadership in the defendants’ box in The Hague.

Tom Aharon@04:39:
And I actually agree with your criticism of the times which the IDF doesn’t do enough. I, too, think that taking down civilian buildings is an extreme measure and should only be used as a last resort, which is pretty fucking hard considering how deeply Hamas is rooted in everyday Palestinian life in Gaza.

(Cut to John Oliver “the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza are not part of Hamas”)
Yes that is, of course, correct. Unfortunately, we can’t change the regime in Gaza.

Tom, you’re a shallow thinker. I’ve met golden retrievers (not known to be the sharpest of the canidae) who reason better than you do. What Hamas is, basically, saying is “we can’t change the regime in Israel.”

Wait, see how that works? It doesn’t. Hamas still isn’t justified in shooting rockets at civilians, because Israel won’t let Palestine enjoy any political self-determination. I think that, because I’m a decent human being. But Tom appears to think that, because Israel is occupying Palestine it has the right to bomb Palestinian civilians that show any resistance to Israel. Remember: the UN has said (along with many others) that Israel is an occupying power and it has no right to be engaging in land grabs in Palestine, but Israel continues to attack civilians in order to displace them for settlers. That’s what’s really going on. If you accept that Israel is an occupying power, as the UN does, then the Palestinians have a right to resist. Crazy, huh? The civilians in a country under military occupation have a right to resist the occupying military, which is why I feel Hamas is stupid to be launching rockets at Israel; if they started studying how the Vietcong drove the US out of Vietnam, the entire situation would be profoundly different. Though most progressives (including me) will tell you that the Vietcong’s route is the last resort if economic blockade such as the one that collapsed South Africa isn’t successful. Of course, Israel could withdraw its troops and settlements to the borders established by the UN so long ago; that’s another option.

But Tom is saying “Hamas is deeply rooted in Palestine” and I guess that justifies bombing Palestinian civilians? Well, Likud is deeply rooted in Israel, does that justify bombing Israel?” Not to a decent, rational person, but Tom’s not even pretending anymore.

Tom Aharon@05:20:
We can’t even change the regime in Israel, and we’ve had like 20 elections in 1 year. This guy (Netanyahu) really can’t take the hint.

A decent person would never use that as a justification to bomb Israel, but Tom uses it as a justification to bomb Palestine. Way to go, Tom, you’re a monster. Israel’s full of them, we know. That’s what those of us on the sidelines throwing shade are talking about.

Tom Aharon@05:28:
Like every dictatorship and every terrorist group, Hamas feeds off its citizens, and uses them as protection.

Israel, of course, doesn’t do that. Like every occupying power, Israel feeds off the civilians under occupation and threatens them with dire consequences in retaliation if they attempt to struggle for freedom, or protest. Remember how Israeli troops were shooting at the lower legs of protesters and journalists? Like every dictatorship with too many guns, does. The IDF, for all its bullshit about trying to be the good guys, are using the same tactics as the Malaysian military against protesters: live ammo and shoot the cameras first so none of this shows up on international news.

If Hamas is using civilians for protection, in other words, it doesn’t work very well. That’s why there have been 3 or 4 Israeli deaths stacked up against hundreds of Palestinian civilians. I get so sick of this shitty argument coming from pro-Israelis: if Hamas is using human shields, stop killing so many civilians and you won’t look like war criminals; then document how Hamas is using human shields (a war crime). Piece of cake, right? Except for the fact that a population under occupation has a right to attack the military that is occupying it. Hamas has no right to attack Israeli civilians, but Israeli tanks? They’re the invader.

If Tom actually believed this stuff he’s saying, he’d have to be supporting the Palestinians. But he’s not, because he’s just a mouthpiece for bad propaganda, who probably doesn’t believe a damn thing he’s saying.

Tom Aharon@05:35:
… and by no means does that free Israel from responsibility. But it does provide context, much needed context to examine the conflict through.

Here is some much needed conflict: the UN has said repeatedly that Israel’s occupation of parts of Palestine that are not Israeli territory under the UN compact (prior to the 6-day war) is occupied land and Israel is violating international humanitarian law by creating settlements and displacing the population. This isn’t Joe Shmoe down at the barbershop saying this, it’s the fucking United Nations.

As an occupying power, Gaza and the West Bank are Israeli’s charges; the fate of the people within are the responsibility of the occupying power. That’s the context. Literally, we are talking that those regions are open-air prisons, and Israel keeps shooting the prisoners, displacing them, and putting settlements within the cleared areas. All of these things are crimes under International Humanitarian Law. That’s your context.

Saying “you need more context” or “you need to understand” is like a burglar, who takes over the downstairs of your house and says they are armed and prepared to shoot if you try to get them to leave – then they say “you need to understand the context better.” No, really, I’ve already got the context: you’re a criminal, get the fuck out of my house.

Tom Aharon@05:48:
As someone who follows American politics, I sometimes get the feeling that the two sides of every argument are the one side that automatically supports the weak, and the other side automatically supports the strong. But sometimes, the reality is more complex. Claiming that imbalance is immoral is the privilege of those who don’t need to make the choices between their own safety and their care for others. We can’t be weak.

This is a problematically stupid argument. Tom is saying, in effect, that Israel’s actions are justified by its strength. But if some nation wishes to assert its right to rule is based on power, then Tom’s saying, in effect, that every ancient empire that was overthrown and replaced by another – the new empire’s right to rule is based on power. It’s right to crush its predecessors is, too. After all, nobody is sitting around, today, bitching about how Rome took over Palestine, or how the Ottomans did. Maybe Israel’s problem is that it didn’t do a good enough job of learning back on its justification for settler colonialism as a consequence of European antisemitism – instead of complaining about the Palestinians. It is a fact, unfortunately, that prior to the Zionist colonization of the region, Jews and Arabs had lived in peace for about 700 years. I get annoyed when I hear about this alleged ‘Omerta’ against Jews from the Arabs; it’s a convenient fiction but it’s a fiction.

I think Tom is right, progressives tend to support the weak, because usually the weak are being oppressed by the strong. That’s why the strong want to be strong, after all. The weak do not wish to be weak so they can get on that good ole Oppression Meal Ticket. At best they want to be left the fuck alone or treated fairly. Tom is, basically, acknowledging that people who criticize Israel for oppressing the Palestinians have a point. But, he blames the victim. You have to be an expert in that kind of mental gymnastics to be an Israeli.

Tom Aharon@06:11:
 … but we can also be callous; and that is why I made this monologue.

When I encounter people (Peter Boghossian was the last one) who are unreflecting proponents of bad arguments, I usually research their address and send them a small desktop mirror as a gift. Because a mirror is one hell of an important tool. I don’t know how I’d reach Tom, but he needs a mirror, badly.

Saying “we had to” to justify bombing civilians makes him a pretty shitty person. There are shittier people. The American settler colonialists and inventors of slavery are worse. The Nazis were worse. The KKK are worse. There are lots and lots of shittier people than Tom. But Tom is excusing and justifying some pretty shitty stuff. Here’s a crazy thing: I don’t have a single friend who has ever had to justify bombing civilians. Decent people don’t have to justify bombing civilians. It’s that simple.

Tom Aharon@06:15:
Not in defense of Israel, or in defense of war. Fuck war. It is because it pains me to see a personal hero of mine saying something as unfair, unjust, as simplistic, as “I expect oral sex but won’t return the favor.”

Thank you, may we all live in peace.


I feel like Tom is really close to breaking through to something, but he probably won’t. He says “Fuck war” but then dismisses the war as simplistic, and other people’s analysis of Israel’s actions as unfair and unjust.

All Tom has to do is ask “why is it OK for injustice to be visited on the Palestinians?” and please don’t say the Nazis. Say “the British.” And then explain why British imperial policy in Palestine had anything to do with justice. Tom’s just arguing (and flailing around helplessly) that justice is due only to Israel, on Israeli terms. Never mind the grumpusses in the UN, never mind international law, Justice, damn it! None of those people are qualified to talk about it because they’re not there – except for the senior Israeli figures who also speak out against Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the people in the UN who have equally profound experience with genocide; experience Tom only has second-hand. When he dismisses criticism of Israel as unfair, unjust, and simplistic, he’s dismissing the experiences of a lot of people who leave him in the dust, personally and morally, as insignificant. What a little man. He should write a book on morality, like Sam Harris. He’s already demonstrated absolute incompetence in that department so he’d be in good company.

As I said, I don’t think that the progressive wing has done a good job, yet, of formulating its arguments. That will come eventually, as it did for South Africa. The “… but Hamas!” argument needs to be defeated, and the obvious way to do that is shut down Hamas. Israel would not allow that; a non-stupid Hamas is an existential threat to them. It’d be like when the IRA split into the violent part and the non-violent part, and used its renounciation of its violent past to ask for a seat at the grown-up table. There’s a lesson there, laddies.

The linchpin of all of this is the US government’s attitude. Many of us sit and go “what the fuck is going on there!?” but the truth is that Israel is a military colony that allows the US to control the Middle East. It’s our forward operating base. It doesn’t serve our bidding as eagerly as we’d wish but generally it’s pretty well-behaved so we keep giving them war-toys. None of this is because the US loves Israel or its people. In fact, some US Christian sects are hoping for the return of Jesus so the nuclear war that turns Jerusalem to glass, can happen. Let’s talk about antisemitism, OK? The Christians have done a great job of blaming everyone else for their antisemitism (Hey: Holocaust!) while deflecting any discussion about the origins of German, Austrian Polish, and Russian antisemitism in their various goofy sects of Christianity.

We should all be raining Shit on the French and British, for their ruthless antisemitism and their sloppy imperial-ness as they parceled up the winnings from World War I. Greedy imperialist motherfuckers, and anti-semitic, besides. They also cheerfully jumped on the “blame the Germans for everything!” train – never mind the Polish and Russian participation in the Holocaust [I know, some people will be shocked at the inclusion of Stalin in the Holocaust, but all I can say is: read your history] I’m seriously pissed at how the Palestinians have been shoved into the role of being punished; meanwhile nobody should fail to notice that Nazi German was mostly let off the hook, after a few symbolic hangings and whatnot, the US created an ideology that it was mostly Hitler and his inner circle’s fault but, in fact, it was the entire German and Austrian government(s) and everything in the heirarchy below. The US needed to put that conflict to bed because it was spinning up a nuclear confrontation with the USSR and China and didn’t have time for any naughty Germans anymore. Basically, “fuck the jews” – did you catch that? The US upper crust were some antisemitic bastards that might have embarrassed the Nazis; in fact John Foster Dulles – the US Secretary of State – was a fucking Nazi, himself. I don’t mean “sympathizer” I mean, he helped fund the Nazis. He was so bad that the law firm he worked for had to “cancel” him. This guy was a US Senator; do you think he might have had some effect on US/Israel policy?


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Let’s pause for a moment and consider the unfortunate state of affairs in which – as usual – “comedians” are the people talking about an important issue of human rights, while the politicians are talking about damn near anything else, because most of them are scared to touch a topic of substance.

    Nothing unfortunate about it. Comedy has been the most effective way to convince others of the absurdity of poitics since…Aristophanes? Probably way before him. Laughter (often bitter) is an excellent pairing with outrage.

  2. says

    “And I don’t want to sound defensive, everyone has a right to criticize Israel, it’s OK. I mean, the Holocaust did just happen but.. OK, if you have to.”

    You already took him to task for this, but holy shit is this not just disingenuous bullshit but actively harmful to the Jewish people.

    Off topic, it’s okay not to know who people who are more newly famous are but brushing them all off as just Instagrammers instead of entertainers is like calling every sport “sports ball”. Dua Lipa is a singer, and DJ Khaled is a DJ who is mostly famous for occasionally shouting in songs while talented singers actually perform the song. Seriously, it’s funnier to poke fun at Khaled being Khaled than to just call him an Instagrammer.

  3. says

    like calling every sport “sports ball”

    I do that, too!

    Except for golf. I know enough about golf to hate it explicitly and precisely. I even know who Nicklaus and Woods are. I care about every single Instagrammer more than all of golf. It’s not personal animus against them, it’s my personal aesthetics.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    WMDKitty @4: Hamas are thugs. The Israeli government are better-armed thugs. I guess in Thug World, that gives Hamas justification. Cool.

  5. Sam N says

    @4,5 well, you could say this, at least. I would venture that far more Palestinians have died and truly suffered from Israeli state violence than Israelis have from Palestinian violence. I would venture most of the violent Hamas have deep-seated traumatic motivations, whereas most of the violent Israelis are conscripted into the army and trained to by the state to perform violence.

    I see a pretty massive difference there. Even though I find it fair to call Hamas thugs, they’re likely thugs with a more justified motivation. Israel is just fortunate that they are so overwhelmingly powerful and cruel to the Palestinians that their creation of so many Hamas thugs has had minimal impact on the lives of their Jewish populace. (Their actions in creating such Hamas thugs is used then as justification for continuing repression of Israeli Arabs as full citizens).

    Maybe someday when Israel’s march to the right wing possibly estranges them from USA veto support and they begin to get sanctions they may begin to change their tune. Only then they will have to deal with the radicalized elements of a population they abused so continuously and terribly.

  6. jrkrideau says

    As a minor point, Hamas may be a bunch of war criminals but they are also the legitimately erected government of Palestine. Of course the USA and Israel immediately organized a coup d’état putting Fatah (?) back in power on the West Bank though Hamas held on to Gaza.

    One has to wonder if they might have been a bit more reasonable if they had taken power rather than have Israel and the USA try to exterminate them.

  7. says

    WMDKitty — Survivor@#4:
    Hamas is fighting back against an invading force, their attacks are justified.

    If Hamas were fighting back against the Israeli military, rather than engaging in attacks on Israeli civilians, then maybe we could argue they were justified. Targeting civilians is not justified in any situation in international law.

    Of course, the US and Israel would not respect Hamas’ right to resist the Israeli military, any more than the US (as an occupier) respected the Taliban’s right to resist the US military occupation of Afghanistan. Everyone seems to want to forget that the Taliban were, for what it’s worth, the duly constituted government of Afghanistan, until the US came in and stomped them. Their attempts to resist were met with further stompings and massive civilian casualties. Kind of explains why the US is so concerned with establishing its immunity from the ICC, huh? You know, “the ICC doesn’t apply to us…” like everyone who is innocent never, ever says. Innocent people would be trying to exonerate themselves, not place themselves above the court.

  8. lochaber says

    I rather enjoy John Olliver. As well as Samantha Bee, some of Seth Meyers’ stuff, and Cody Johnston’s Some More News on Youtube.

    I’m wondering if part of this trend? of comedians doing news is because so much is so fucking absurd, it would be almost funny if people weren’t suffering and dying over it. For fuck’s sake, goddamned trump was the president, and a non-zero segment of the US population thought that was a great idea…

  9. says

    I’m surprised you haven’t at least heard of The Weeknd, Marcus. He’s currently one of the big pop stars, having sold 75 million albums.

  10. kurt1 says

    If the start of the conflict in someones analysis is “Hamas startet by firing rockets” that person can be ignored. “It’s really complicated” and “Israel really needs to be a jewish state because the Holocaust happened” are also part of Hasbara-Bingo. The person either understands nothing about the situation (out of laziness or brainwashing) or just wants to bullshit people who don’t understand this conflict into supporting apartheit. It is pretty amazing how effective and pervasive Israeli propaganda used to be. Even during the last escalation in 2018 there were way more voices online who may have dismissed Israels shooting of journalists and paramedics, but were more cautions when coming out for palestinian rights. This time there seems to be way stronger support for palestinians as a whole.

    I want to know where defenders of Israeli nationalism see the endpoint of the conflict. It has to be complete displacement of palestinians, with maybe a small minority remaining as 3rd class citizens to perform menial labour. The zionist dream can only be achieved through unjust means, through apartheit, oppression and in the worst case genocide. Zionists (like Bari Weiss) know this and now even admitting as much. But in their mind the only way jewish people can have a future is by further establishing the jewish ethnostate.

    Eli Valley – Theodor Herzl

  11. seachange says

    Yes, both sides are war criminals.

    Presumably, WMD Kitty thinks that the destruction of the World Trade Center towers was justified. Because the USofA are occupying the middle east, oh yes we most certainly are. We also have bases all over the world.

    Marcus is correct, Israel is our forward base. This is not accidental. The Koran says that you are allowed to lie, eat haram, or submit to your enemy if it means your very survival. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc. all charge the USofA heavy fees for using their territories for the USofA’s own purposes, because people-of-the-book are allowed to exist as long as they pay a fine/zakat of some sort. This fine could be quite heavy, and sometimes in zakat the rich of which the USofA is, they are expected to pay more. This is the fig-leaf of dignity laid over their actions that they use for their own survival.

    The USofA would not have the threat-leverage against them if the base in Israel didn’t exist. And this is why bin Laden was in a spider hole and those who were suspected truly or not of helping us find them were lynched/star chambered.

    The USofA has this forward base, because we depend on oil and capitalism. The word depend, it has multiple meanings, it coming from a natural language like English. Not depend like a husband depends on his husband, but like an addict depends on heroin. This addiction is killing the world, and is making us do shitty things. Addicts do that stuff.

    Either Hamas is a bunch of irregulars or they are a government, but not both. Their percieved incompetence is the point, because they think and deeply believe that they must must must jihad and realize the buck doesn’t stop at Israel. It works. It works on all y’all.

    Whether or not it meets a nihilist’s description of “Just War” -whatever that might be-, it IS a war. A slow-burning civilization-corrupting war. Wars are about seizing territory or retaining territory, because the world bank is not the some bulding World Bank in Geneva it is this world this planet this earth where wealth, food, clothing, and safety ultimately can be had. And, in wars, sometimes they are asymmetrical and one side gets ker-stomped.

    For now, the USofA is still an addict. So of course we will support the side that gets us our fix in the laziest soonest way possible. Dunno if any of all y’all have ever spoken to many of the political sortsa folk who donate money to politicians in support of Israel, but most of them I have ever spoken to from the point of view of a volunteer in a non-profit or two or three talking to donors is: if you talk to them for any length of time, they don’t like Jews much.

    If our nation goes Green, I expect things will be different we have plenty already developed oil for non-fuel reasons. It’s in the Koran that you should help those out of slavery free them by any means you can, buy them, or enable them to buy themselves out. If the nations surrounding Israel acted on their …belief…, they’d accept all 5.2 million refugees. But yeah, it looks like even if we go Green there is only one true end to this Marcus one way or another, just like you have said.

  12. anat says

    To kurt1 @13:

    I want to know where defenders of Israeli nationalism see the endpoint of the conflict.

    The late Israeli author Amos Oz (one of the founders of Peace Now!) believed the conflict has to unfold like a Chekovian tragedy.

    From here

    “I think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as opposed to the Israeli-Libyan or Israeli-Iraqi conflict, is a tragedy in the exact sense of the word,” he said in a 1994 speech. “It is a clash between one very powerful claim and another no less powerful.”

    The best solution he could hope for, he said, was the kind of tragedy in the stories of Anton Chekhov.

    “At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy,” Oz said, “the stage is strewn with dead bodies and maybe there’s a measure of justice hovering high above. A Chekhovian tragedy, on the other hand, ends with everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed – indeed, absolutely shattered, but still alive.”

    Or here

    The word oz means “strength” in Hebrew. Young Amos Klausner changed his last name when he started living on a kibbutz. It was among the many changes for the young man, who broke from the rightward Zionism of his parents to become a Labor Zionist. “I was very concerned in those days to break from my father and his politics,” he says. His experience in the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors led him to become one of the earliest prominent exponents of “the two-state solution.”

    Characteristically, he says that solution “is not the best, but it is the only one possible. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are going anywhere. Neither have anywhere to go. They must divide the house, into two semidetached apartments. The day they do will be a bitter day.” If it’s inevitable, why hasn’t it happened? “I would say the patient is sadly ready for surgery, but the surgeons are cowards,” he says. (Oz unnervingly seems to speak in perfect sentences.)

    Again, disappointment. Oz calls Israel “a dream come true – but it is in the nature of dreams to be disappointing when they come true. The only way to keep a dream intact is never to fulfill it.”

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