Israeli comedian Tom Aharon confronts John Oliver over criticism of Israel
JTA – In case you missed it, British-American comedian John Oliver landed in Israel in a widely watched segment of his weekly HBO show “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday night.
Unsurprisingly, it drew heated reactions on social media on both sides, but it also inspired an extended response from a popular Israeli comedian who modeled his own show after Oliver’s.
Tom Aharon hosted “Pa’am Be’shavu’a im Tom Aharon” (“Once a Week with Tom Aharon”) on Israeli TV from 2018-2020 and is currently developing a new show. He is of Mizrahi descent and often criticizes his home country, but he argues in a seven-minute video that Oliver’s criticism has gone too far.
“I hope I will someday have a fraction of the confidence of a white man when I talk about things happening thousands of miles from my home,” he said in the video released Wednesday, which Thursday morning had collected nearly 44,000 YouTube views in one day. “Damn, I’m not even so sure what’s going on in my own house.
Aharon begins by pointing out some of the many celebrities who have spoken out strongly against Israel’s actions in the ongoing military conflict with Gaza. It also shows clips from Oliver’s segment, including one in which Oliver raises his voice to call Israel “a hole.”
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“Everyone has the right to criticize Israel, that’s okay – I mean, the Holocaust happened, but okay, if you have to do it, that’s how I make a living,” says he in response. “Some might even conclude that we’re the bad guys – someone has to agree?” But I also think that simplifying a complex question does neither justice. ”
Aharon then goes on to elaborate on Oliver’s arguments, including one on the imbalance of military power between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Does being stronger have certain responsibilities? Sure. But does that automatically mean you’re at fault? Of course not. It almost sounds like you’re mad at us for not killing more, ”he said.
“To pretend that imbalance is immoral is the privilege of those who do not need to choose between their own safety and their concern for others.”
Like Oliver, whose career took off as a correspondent for Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show”, Aharon became a known comedian through appearances on Lior Schlein’s satirical Israeli news show “Gav HaUma ”- Israel’s closest thing to a“ Daily Show ”equivalent. Aharon then modeled his own show on Oliver’s HBO series, which he humorously calls “the incredibly popular HBO show that I never stole a format from”.
“It pained me to see one of my heroes say something” that he found so “unfair, unfair” and “simplistic”, added Aharon.