Ross Singer

John Oliver Please Keep Trying

Dear John Oliver and the audience of Last Week Tonight,

I just watched the latest episode on the Israel-Hamas war.

First of all I want to compliment you on your improved presentation of the complexity of the situation. I felt that you toned down your arrogance and turned up your empathy. I actually appreciated much of the episode. Nevertheless, for the sake of comedy that you hold sacred, and for the sake of a much needed laugh, I hope that your Israeli imitators can still find a way to poke fun of you as they did the last time you weighed in on our situation (if you dish it out you have to be ready to take it, no?).


In the meantime I want to share this serious critique of your performance. I can appreciate that you didn’t want to nor could you rehash the entire conflict. However, it seems to me that a sine quo non for understanding this moment is an appreciation of Hamas’s history of explicit antisemitism and their cruel use of innocents as human shields.

Hamas’s charter until 2017 based its understanding of Jewish national aspirations on the virulently antisemitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The charter also quotes a hadith that says, “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Hamas co-founder and former political leader, Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, told Jeffrey Goldberg in an interview in 2002, “People always talk about what the Germans did to the Jews, but the true question is, ‘What did the Jews do to the Germans?’”

In 2011, the former Hamas minister of culture, Atallah Abu al-Subh, said that “the Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth, because they have displayed hostility to Allah. Allah will kill the Jews in the hell of the world to come, just like they killed the believers in the hell of this world.”

John, you didn’t think that a word or two about this ideology was important in your half hour long segment?

Moreover, there is tons of credible evidence easily accessible on the web indicating that Hamas hides behind Gazan citizens. They shoot rockets from within and next to hospitals, schools, and kindergartens. Their cynical tactics give Israel the gut wrenching choice of either endangering innocent Gazans or leaving our own civilians vulnerable to Hamas’s intentionally indiscriminate violence.

Which brings me to your astonishment over the absence of calls for a ceasefire from some of the political leadership in the west. What does a ceasefire out of concern for innocent Gazans under the current circumstances mean? Many of us are worried that it means that Hamas can literally get away with murder. Their willingness to sacrifice Israeli and Gazan noncombatants can lead their despicable antisemitic program to victory.

And now I want to get personal. You focus a good deal of time on Israeli opposition to Netanyahu. I am one of the anti-Netanyahu government protesters you mentioned. Yet my anti-Netanyahu stance does not lead me to the conclusions that you seem to presume it might.

Ross Singer at an anti-Judicial Reform protest in Jerusalem

Rami Elchanan is an acquaintance of mine. I have brought many groups to meet with him and Bassam. They are amazing individuals and I stand in awe of them. Nevertheless, Rami in no way represents the dominant anti-Netanyahu government sentiment that I encountered. In fact, at this moment Jewish Israeli society and a large portion of its Arab society are rallying around this war effort. Why?

As I mentioned above, many many of us see this as a moment of choice between fighting Hamas with all that it entails or surrendering. Even Bernie Sanders when rejecting a ceasefire said there is no compromise with an organization like Hamas. And so, many of us perceive our predicament as a choice between the ascendance of evil or the maintenance of Jewish self-determination in our ancient homeland however flawed it may be. By and large, we are choosing the latter, but you give this dominant sentiment no voice. Your viewers are missing a major piece of the story, maybe its most important aspect.

I hope you will take this constructive criticism to heart and that if you produce a third segment on Israel/Gaza you will continue to improve. Even more than that, I hope and pray that we will find a way to live in this region in peace and that I will be able to return to laughing at your rantings about things far away from my home that I have the privilege of knowing nothing about. As I mentioned, we could all really use a good laugh around here.

About the Author
Ross Singer lives on Kibbutz Maale Gilboa and works as a tour guide, educator, and translator.