On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the host cold-opened the show to briefly discuss the Israel-Hamas war while calling for peace.
Similar to how Pete Davidson opened Saturday Night Live the day before, Oliver appeared on camera before any sort of music, lights or fanfare had begun to deliver his message.
He pointed out the “terrible week” that has just taken place with the “immense suffering” in Israel and Gaza being “sickening to watch.” But he said that he wouldn’t be covering it during the main portion of the show because of how “horrific” it all is in nature, and because they taped the episode and Saturday afternoon and “a lot could change” between then and Sunday night or Monday morning.
With that said, Oliver then delivered some “broad thoughts” that he felt would still apply.
“They have to do with sorrow, fear and anger,” he said. “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.”
He added that whatever thoughts people have about the history or current state of affairs in the region — including thoughts he has shared before on his show — “it should be impossible to see grieving families and not be moved.”
For “fear” he pointed to the possibility of further attacks in Israel along with those taken hostage and what is yet to come in Gaza. And speaking of what is to come, Oliver understands the feelings of anger.
“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.”
Oliver also said that Israelis and Palestinians have been repeatedly “let down” by their leadership and he doesn’t see the current leaders steering anyone “toward peace.”
“But I do still have some hope. Because the easiest thing to do in the world after a week like this is engage in bloodthirsty rhetoric, and there has certainly been plenty of that from those in power,” he said. “But I will say that I have been struck by the many ordinary citizens, both Israeli and Palestinian, who called for restraint this week and not revenge.”
Oliver then played a CNN interview with Noi Katzman, whose brother Chaim was killed last weekend in the Hamas terrorist attacks. Katzman’s closing sentiment was that he didn’t want his brother’s death to “be used to kill innocent people,” adding, “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.”
On that topic of peace, Oliver agreed with Katzman and expanded on what he thinks needs to happen.
“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 f*****g lifetime,” Oliver 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.”
John Oliver did an opening monologue about Palestine/Israel that was so good.
— Arturo Dominguez 🇨🇺🇺🇲 (@ExtremeArturo) October 16, 2023
John Oliver put together a good and moving statement on the Isreal-Palestine situation. Glad he mentioned it before the show.
— madpooper (@scoopacoop) October 16, 2023
After the cold open, Oliver proceeded with the show as usual and put most of his focus into the ongoing struggles on Capitol Hill and the Republican party trying to pick a new speaker. And then also what was the main story of the night about food safety. AKA the reason some viewers are now avoiding salad for the rest of their lives.
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver airs Sundays at 11 p.m. on HBO.
Carol Dennis is an entertainment aficionado with an eye for all things pop culture. She dives into the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, from movie premieres to music festivals. Carol’s passion for storytelling extends beyond her reporting, as she’s an aspiring screenwriter in her free time.