I would love to debate HBO’s John Oliver on the rightness of Israel’s cause against Hamas

I would love to debate (and by that, I mean to have a respectful discussion) HBO’s John Oliver, but seeing that he probably is not willing and certainly doesn’t know who I am, let me address some of his nearsighted comments in this blog. (We did over $10,000 of aid to children in Gaza yesterday if he would take me up on my offer.)

John Oliver: Both sides (Israel and Hamas) are firing rockets, but one side has one of the most advanced militaries in the world.

Ron Cantor: The reason we have one of the most “advanced militaries in the world” is because if we don’t, we would cease to exist. There is a reason that the other Muslim nations do not attack us, and it’s not because they love us. We have no choice but to have a strong military.

For instance, right now, there would probably be 1,000 dead Israelis from the nearly 4,000 Hamas rockets that have been fired on Israeli population centers, if not for our Iron Dome technology.

And please do not forget Mr. Oliver, we did not start this war. We left Gaza in 2005 and since then, they have started war after war with Israel, firing deadly rockets at our women and children. Just because we learned how to deal with it doesn’t make us evil; it makes us responsible towards our population. The most sacred duty of government is to protect its citizens. Israel should not have to apologize to you for doing that effectively.

John Oliver: Both sides are suffering heartbreaking casualties, but one side is suffering them exponentially.

Ron Cantor: Again, let me remind you, Hamas started firing rockets at Israel on May 10th at 6:00pm. They took what was a real estate dispute in Jerusalem, that turned into protests on the Temple Mount, and turned it into a deadly war. And yet, all certain members of congress can talk about is Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israelis. There is suffering, but it is at the hands of Hamas.

Israel is always accused of responding disproportionately, but what do you call it when a terrorist organization escalates protests into all-out war? I would call that disproportionate. Where is your condemnation of that?

The fact remains that not one person in Gaza would have been killed by an Israeli response, if Hamas had not started with sending hundreds of rockets at a time on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and all of our cities in southern Israel. You may think we’re not suffering, but you come here and sleep in a hot, sweaty bomb shelter overnight. You pull your car over on the side of the highway, and throw your body over your children as the siren indicates incoming Hamas rockets. Let’s see you wake up five times a night to run for your life with your children in tow.

Do you know what it’s like to hear the sound of a washing machine and think that it’s a siren alerting you to incoming missiles? Do you know what it’s like to be buying milk for your family and suddenly have to run for your life because the sirens go off? Of course, you don’t. If you think we’re so good at protecting ourselves let me invite you to spend a month in Ashkelon and endure 1,000 rockets. There is no way you can understand what is happening here from your fake desk in America.

John Oliver: If you believe Israel’s actions are warranted and proportionate this week, you’re welcome to try and make that argument.

Ron Cantor: Why is it you only talk about things being disproportionate when it comes to Israel? You don’t think it’s disproportionate to turn a protest into a war? Where is your condemnation?

And the argument is easy. What what any other country do if a neighboring terror state launched 1,000 rockets at its civilians? In addition to killing and wounding people, it cripples the economy, after a year of corona and traumatizes children. The response is meant to deter aggression.

Don’t you wish that Britain had the qualitative edge over Hitler in World War II? How many British lives could have been saved if Britain had been much stronger than Hitler? Chamberlain tried to negotiate, but like Hamas, Hitler was bent on murder.

John Oliver: None of this frees Hamas from responsibility, but Hamas doesn’t represent all Palestinians.

Ron Cantor: This is your harshest language for terrorists? Have you even studied what Hamas has done to the people of Gaza? They have robbed them of aid money to build tunnels and rockets. They behead suspected collaborators and then drag their headless bodies throughout the street. A teen was beaten senseless for using hair gel! Hair gel, John! Women are treated as property and yet your most heated critique is: “None of this frees Hamas from responsibility.” Come on, John!

Actually, Hamas does represent all Palestinians, at least the ones living in Gaza. They were voted into power in 2006.

The second Palestinian legislative election took place on 25 January 2006, which resulted in a decisive victory for Hamas. The second PLC was sworn in on 18 February 2006. Subsequently, the Hamas government was formed and sworn in on 29 March 2006. —Wikipedia
They are the legal representatives of Palestinians. And they were set to win big again in the coming elections, taking place 15 years after the last ones, but were abruptly canceled by Mahmoud Abbas, when he realized that Hamas was going to win a lot of seats.

You don’t even seem to understand why Hamas started this war. It has not been a war against Israel; it has been a war against the PLO. By launching strikes on Jerusalem, they have become the heroes of not only Gaza but the West Bank. Now they will win even more seats in the coming Palestinian elections, if they ever happen. I don’t like to call people names, but you are so utterly ignorant of the facts on the ground.

John Oliver: Lots is complicated here. But some things are pretty simple. One side is suffering much more.

Ron Cantor: I take no pleasure in the suffering of Palestinians. But I blame Hamas, not Israel. Just imagine if they had chosen peace instead of war. Israelis would have rushed into Gaza to help them build farms and strengthen their economy. Go look at how our farmers cooperate with Jordanian farmers in the desert. We have given them our technology and even mentored them on how to make the desert prosper.

Our farming technology is exported all over the world, but when we left Gaza in 2005, Hamas destroyed all of the Israeli green houses that we left for the people of Gaza. The average Israeli would love nothing more than to make peace with the people of Gaza and to see them prosper. But they have chosen carnage over careers, terrorism over technology, and murder over money.

If they want peace, Israelis stand willing and ready to make that peace and to help them prosper. But until then, we will protect ourselves from terrorism. It seems like you would have us kill dozens of our own people, just to keep things proportionate. Nobody in the history of warfare has ever fought a war with the goal of being proportionate—the goal is to win and protect your people, and make the enemy think twice before attacking again.

Once again, let me be clear, I do not wish any harm on the people of Gaza, and I, along with 99% of Israelis, would love to make peace with them. Maybe you can help that happen with your TV show.

John 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.

Ron Cantor: So, you don’t think that suffering in Gaza has something to do with the fact that they are governed by religious fanatics who promote Islamic education over math and science? There is no apartheid. We’re not in Gaza. They have their own government. In Israel proper, there are 1.5 million Arabs with full rights. One of our three Supreme Court justices is an Arab. Not Apartheid! Did South Africa have black judges under apartheid?

If Gaza is an open-air prison, it is not because Israel created it. By all accounts from 1948 until 1967, when Egypt controlled Gaza, it was indeed an open-air prison. But when we, Israel, liberated Gaza in 1967 (that’s right, I said liberated!—because that’s how the people of Gaza treated us—as liberators), we elevated their economy and brought freedom.. My wife’s father used to take her shopping in Gaza and everyone got along fine. But the PLO turned them to terror.

Again, we left Gaza in 2005 without conditions. Hamas celebrated that as a sign of Israeli weakness and began firing rockets at us. It is amazing how your historical lectures start at a very convenient time “14 years” ago … and seem to forget that we turned Gaza over to the Palestinians in 2005, 16 years ago, and their response was to send tens of thousands of rockets. This is a fact, Mr. Oliver. We left Gaza, their response was more terrorism.

John Oliver: But we have got to start having this conversation honestly, and falling back on convenient, sanitized terms like “real estate disputes” and “airstrikes on militants” feels a little disingenuous when what you’re describing is forcing people from the homes they’ve lived in for decades and killing civilians and children.

Ron Cantor: Yes, that is why we are offering $10K in aid to Gaza if we, you and I, can have “this conversation honestly.” Because you show a very elementary understanding of the facts on the ground—and for you to use your TV show without a better understanding to stir up tensions is irresponsible to say the least.

But I do find it interesting that you think it is wrong to force people from their homes they’ve lived in for decades. Why do you think the PLO and Hamas won’t make peace with Israel? They want to force us from our homes that we have lived in since 1948 and 1967 (many go back to the 1800s and beyond). They say we’re illegitimate. But by your reasoning, having lived somewhere for decades, makes you legitimate. You just accidentally legitimized us.

But let’s just address briefly the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood situation to which you are alluding. It’s not so simple as you say. The Palestinians are being evicted for not paying rent. These are Jewish homes and homes built on Jewish lands according to Jordanian law. When Israel recovered these lands in 1967, they did not evict the Arabs. The Israeli law states that the Arabs cannot be evicted as long as they pay rent. They never have. What do you do to tenants who don’t pay their rent?

I certainly hope that next time you will do a bit more research before you spout off on national television with emotional arguments and very little factual evidence.

This article originally appeared on roncanor.com, May 20, 2021, and reposted with permission.

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Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.