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Joan Rivers’s Palestinian finale

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As just about everyone who comes to this site knows, the late Joan Rivers, whose obituaries hail her as a transgressive comic genius, ramped up her notoriety in the last weeks of her life with two off-the-cuff airport speeches saying Palestinians in Gaza deserve to be killed. Sadly, these racist smears were her finale.

Her rants against Palestinians are absent from the obituaries for the Jewish comedian in the Washington Post and New York Times. But National Public Radio touched on the insults in this report— and it’s clear that many political people will remember her for these comments. “The overriding theme I saw on twitter from Palestinians was that they wished her peace even though she said hateful things about them,” Adam Horowitz tells me. Variety reports frankly on the rants and says that they have triggered a Twitter trend, #karma.

What’s the record on Rivers’s last summer? Back in July, interviewed at LAX by TMZ, she said that the media were “insane” for focusing on Palestinian civilian deaths, and said the U.S. in Israel’s place would wipe out the Palestinians in Gaza.

Rivers: If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe them out.

Reporter: What about the civilian casualty rates?

Rivers: Don’t you dare put weapon stashes in private homes…

Reporter: Where are the civilians supposed to go?

Rivers: You’re all insane. They [Palestinians] started it. What are you all saying? They started it. The Israelis did not throw their– for months this has been going on. What are you supposed to do? How do I know? I have been over there. That’s how I know. And I wish the world would know. BBC should be ashamed of themselves. And CNN should be ashamed of themselves. And everybody, stop it already.

She followed up with another airport rant in August. On that occasion, below, she said that Benjamin Netanyahu had invited her to come show solidarity with Israelis, “I think that would be great and I’m planning to go.” Of the Israelis, she said, “All they want is peace.” She slagged Penelope Cruz and Selena Gomez (“that other little moron”) for expressing concern about the massacre.

The Palestinians who were killed deserve to be dead. “You’re dead. You deserve to be dead. You started it.”

As for Hamas, “They were reelected by a lot of stupid people who don’t even own a pencil.”

As the reporter pressed her on the death toll, 2000, she said, “Oh my god, tell that to the people in Hiroshima,” justifying Israel’s actions by U.S. actions. 100,000 killed in Hiroshima? “Good. Good.”

Rivers came in for widespread criticism over the comments. She later non-apology apologized for some of these remarks on Facebook:

“I am both saddened and disappointed that my statement about the tragedy of civilian casualties was totally taken out of context… What I said and stand behind is, war is hell and unfortunately civilians are victims of political conflicts. We, The United States, certainly know this as 69 years later we still feel the guilt of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The media, as usual, has decided to only quote the most out of context and inflammatory non sequitur rather than giving an accurate account of what my intentions were behind the statement. Along with every other sane person in this world, I am praying for peace. It is stupid and wrong and I am tired of bearing the brunt of attacks by people who want to sell newspapers or gain ratings by creating a scandal about me that is non-existent.”


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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44 Responses

  1. American on September 5, 2014, 10:37 am

    Rivers was not my idea of funny. Screaming insults about people, which was all her ‘comedy’ was , doesn’t take any talent.,

    I think the poor innocent me…” I am tired of bearing the brunt of attacks by people who want to sell newspapers or gain ratings by creating a scandal about me that is non-existent.”…..may have helped speed up her karma…maybe getting attacked for her hate filled rant contributed to her heart attack.

  2. Kay24 on September 5, 2014, 10:48 am

    Rivers had many faces….this one was the worst. She showed ugly racist signs, was anti Muslim, and her lack of empathy for Palestinian children, women, and the innocent civilians, who were being slaughtered even while she ranted was disgraceful. Her display of hatred, and the name calling for others who disagreed with her, while she was interviewed outside an airport, was that of an ignorant old woman, who was so misinformed, and incorrect, when she made such a ugly hate speech, which had it been from a Arab or Muslim person, would have been attacked as hate speech and anti-semitism.
    Philip is right, this is the last image many will have of this comedian.

  3. Balfour on September 5, 2014, 10:56 am

    Contrast Joan River’s comments about Palestinians to Helen Thomas’s comments about Jewish Israeli immigrants- two well known elderly American women expressing two different perspectives, with two different consequences upon their public character and reputations.

    • Kay24 on September 5, 2014, 1:29 pm

      I agree about the way these two women were treated. Poor Helen Thomas after years of experience as a professional journalist was attacked and denigrated until her last days.
      The power of the zio attack machine is unbelievable. Her fellow journalists were silent when
      she was taken down, no one spoke up for her, and reminded everyone she was simply exercising free speech in her own country, about an alien country.

      As for Rivers, she is venerated, loved, and her racist rants played down, she is the darling of zionists everywhere. Even Haaretz has written affectionate articles about her.

    • munro on September 6, 2014, 2:01 pm

      Joan Rivers: “We finally know what made Helen Thomas so mad: Her makeup artist is Jewish. Look at her! That sonoabitch for 30 years has made her look like a pig. I’d be furious too!”

  4. DaveS on September 5, 2014, 11:01 am

    One disagreement, Phil, on your use of the word “apologized.” I don’t see her statement as an apology. Instead, she attacks those who accurately quoted her but failed to give “an accurate account of what my intentions were.” She was “saddened and disappointed” about what others did to her by quoting her words rather than reading her mind. While she said that Palestinian civilian deaths were “deserved,” she really meant that they were “unfortunate.” She herself would respond if someone else made such a claim, “Oh please!” and then go on an extemporaneous rant that would be far funnier and more clever than I could conjure.

    Like many other people — Elizabeth Warren and Bill Maher come to mind immediately — she had some good qualities but was God-awful on Israel.

  5. just on September 5, 2014, 11:09 am

    The last words I heard her say were the ones I will remember her by.

    I never enjoyed her ‘humor’ much at all. She and Don Rickles were my least favorite superstar comedians of that generation. I found their shtick to be mean- spirited toward others and self- centered in the extreme.

    It made me squirm. Never was one for public humiliation.

    • Philemon on September 5, 2014, 8:48 pm

      Don Rickles could be very funny on occasion. He told some amusing anecdotes about Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and, on occasion, Johnny Carson, when he was hosting the Tonight Show. Mostly affectionate. He never seemed to be able to take anything political seriously, including Israel. I remember that he made fun of Israelis when they popped up, just as much as anything else.

      Even at his worst, he was never as raunchy as Joan Rivers.

  6. seafoid on September 5, 2014, 11:14 am

    Her unchanging face and the inanity of what she had to say. Like she was a afraid of real life.
    Like Zionism.

  7. Nevada Ned on September 5, 2014, 11:33 am

    Joan Rivers’ final words were NOT “taken out of context”. She called for genocide, calling for “wiping out Gaza”.

    Later she tried to cloud the issue. Somebody must have advised her that a lot of people think Arabs are human beings, so calling openly for genocide isn’t cool.

    I can certainly understand why Netanyahu wanted to invite her to Israel as a propaganda ploy. Israel propaganda is often crude, but so was Joan Rivers.

    Joan Rivers was fairly typical of Jews of her generation. Younger US Jews are more likely to think of Palestinians as human beings, with human rights.

  8. American on September 5, 2014, 11:39 am

    One other thing…..I noticed the TV shows coverage of her death…….all praise.
    Shows you how thoroughly low brow and superficial Hollywoody all our media have become that Rivers brand of crass comedy could make her a “star”.

  9. amigo on September 5, 2014, 11:39 am

    When Edward Said died some ten years ago , his passing rated not one word on Irish TV or Radio.Not a murmur.It did however make the” Prominent Deaths” page of the Irish Times.

    The death of Joan Rivers was given full attention on Radio and TV and even included an interview (from late 90,s she had with Pat Kenny ( prominent talk show host).
    Over two full minutes dedicated to her memory and repeated every hour.

    Sickening , given this hateful racist deviant,s pure poisonous diatribe against Palestinians.

    I penned a letter to the Irish Times and included her recent remarks about Palestinians being responsible for their own deaths.

    Not holding my breath.

  10. Mooser on September 5, 2014, 12:21 pm

    Ever since the Reagens, America has worshipped senility. What choice do we have? They live for freakin’ ever and they hold all the assets we hope to inherit.

  11. John O on September 5, 2014, 12:28 pm

    I was not particularly familiar with Joan Rivers’ material, and what I had seen or heard, I disliked. The papers and websites have been full of her “20 best one-liners” and so forth today. After reading some of these, my conclusion – even without her recent appalling comments on Gaza – is she was racist, sexist, homophobic, out-of-date and profoundly unoriginal. Even her material about her facelifts and sex life is the kind of thing we had on TV here in the UK (from people like Bernard Manning) 40 years ago and is now quite unbroadcastable.

  12. annie on September 5, 2014, 12:36 pm

    Variety reports frankly on the rants and says that they have triggered a Twitter trend, #karma.

    i wonder if anyone used it before this tweet.

    • just on September 5, 2014, 12:38 pm

      our own ever amazing annie!

      • annie on September 5, 2014, 1:04 pm

        when i heard she was in a coma, i had only one thought. #karma. her reputation will be protected, but this finale of hers will not be forgotten in the collective memory…ever.

  13. RobertB on September 5, 2014, 1:10 pm

    The Zionist propaganda machine & assembly lines…Israel, AIPAC, ADL, Hollywood and the MSM…they use the likes of Joan Rivers and many other high profile figures to constantly echo their repeated lies…their zionist agendas…

    Its all geared to influence and sway the American people to keep their support at a high level and to keep those $$$ taxpayers billions flowing to Israel…and more land theft.

  14. biorabbi on September 5, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Annie, so Joan is in a coma and that your thought is #karma? Your heart is in the right place; you would make a fine Jihadi-Isis bride.

    • Anonymous on September 5, 2014, 2:51 pm

      After Rivers’ callous display and complete lack of compassion for the deaths of innocent civilians (many of whom were children), whom she called stupid for not having pencils (now whose fault is that?), I think Annie’s comment was spot-on. And let’s face it, many of us were thinking the same thing.

    • just on September 5, 2014, 2:53 pm

      Disgusting comment.

      You can go ahead and mourn “Joan” your own way, biorabbi.

      wth is a “Jihadi-Isis bride”??? Did you come up with that trash all by yourself?

    • marc b. on September 5, 2014, 3:48 pm

      pay no attention, rabbi. it’s just jealousy. please, if you could explain what Joan has meant to you, I would appreciate it.

    • Kay24 on September 5, 2014, 4:23 pm

      So do share rabbi, what would YOU call River’s spewing hatred for ALL Palestinians, and saying they should all be killed? A show of love, compassion, and mercy?

      “‘You’re dead, you deserve to be dead – you started it’: Joan Rivers in astonishing attack on ‘stupid’ Palestinians
      Joan Rivers filmed ranting about the Gaza conflict outside airport
      She said she did not feel bad because the Palestinians ‘started it’
      The 81-year-old said the civilian victims ‘deserve to be dead’
      She said ‘at least the ones killed were the ones with very low IQs’
      Later released a statement saying she stood by what she had said

      Read more:

      I think Joan would have made a fine IDF member, or perhaps one of those despised settlers who resort to “terroristic activities”.

      Annie did not make a hate speech, like dear Joan did, so the name calling was totally inappropriate. The fact that Joan passed away a short time after such a horrible display of
      hatred, has not gone unnoticed by many.

    • bilal a on September 5, 2014, 6:21 pm

      Many older people praise the child deaths in Gaza and Hiroshima , she was not unique to the ‘Greatest Generation ‘ the one that murdered some ten million German civilians. But we should listen to those who knew her best, Johny Carson her career sponsor stopped talking to her after the betrayal, and her late husband, whose suicide she mentioned often.

      “At home that night, not knowing what to expect, they opened two manila envelopes left for them by Edgar in his Philadelphia hotel room. They were addressed to Melissa Rosenberg and Joan Rosenberg, and each was marked with three kisses—XXX. They found that in his meticulous way, Edgar was putting their affairs in order, sending them papers for estate planning, lists of the contents of the house, bank account numbers, his case of keys. Melissa received his money clip, the last gift from his mother, who died before Melissa was born. On tape cassettes were his personal messages. Melissa will listen to hers soon. Joan has decided that she cannot, and will not, listen to hers now; she will wait months, until she has the strength to face it. ”,,20097002,00.html


    • Rooster on September 5, 2014, 7:34 pm

      Pointing out that what goes around, comes around, isn’t
      Isis-Jihadi, or Zionist, or anti-Zionist.

      The karma twitter tag is merely pointing out that Rivers’ death illustrates karma at work perfectly.

      There are many of us who would rather have had Ms Rivers’ final public scene be about equality of value of life and rights within that one nation in the middle east.

      But she, at the delicate age of 81, CHOSE to send another message.

      Her final words. Her call.

      We all choose our messages (unless hasbarists are putting words in our mouths…). Some choose equality and justice. Some choose supremacy and birthright.

      I sincerely wish Rivers had chosen differently. She had ample opportunity and responsibility(?) to do so.

    • Mooser on September 5, 2014, 9:49 pm

      “you would make a fine Jihadi-Isis bride.”

      What the hell is that supposed to mean? Go have your Ziocaine Syndrome episode somewhere else.

    • CliosBitch on September 6, 2014, 1:18 am

      Annie, so Joan is in a coma and that your thought is #karma? Your heart is in the right place; you would make a fine Jihadi-Isis bride.

      Ooh, ooh, can I play?

      “Jihadshead Revisited.”
      “Three Weddings and a Funeral (the death therein used as a fallacious pretext to illegally invade Gaza.)”
      “Pride and (Anti-Arab) Prejudice.”
      “Indecent Proposal (yikes, I don’t even have to change this one.”
      “Middlemarch… the out past Judea and Samaria; that land is ours.”
      “Olive Cutherridge.”

      And of course

      “Sleeping With the Enemy. (Yeah don’t have to change this one either.)”

      I remain convinced that ineptitude and creepy tendresse for marrying off female political adversaries aside (seriously, way to differentiate your racist patriarchal ideology from those of ISIS by collapsing Annie into flesh-chattel) that there’s no shortage of some Kaufman mojo infecting these people.

      Zionists are literally too stupid to not be working comedy on some level.

      Or to borrow from the well known-saying.

      “Colonialism is easy. Comedy is hard.”

  15. adele on September 5, 2014, 3:48 pm

    London Transit pays proper comic tribute to Joan Rivers

  16. just on September 5, 2014, 3:57 pm

    From Max’s twitter:

    “New Yorkers, the Gaza Film Fest begins today at NYU at 5 PM. See excellent works like Where Should The Birds Fly.”

    Wish I could be there…

  17. eGuard on September 5, 2014, 4:04 pm

    I didn’t know she did ‘comedy’, before her kill-the-Palestinians Summer Shoutings. I thought she was a character from Dallas (you know, that bitchy one).

    And even today I have not seen one good joke by her in the obituaries YouTube links.

  18. a blah chick on September 5, 2014, 10:07 pm

    Did anyone notice how angry she was as she spewed her bile on Palestine? That was the thing that got me, how angry and upset she sounded. Really, where did that come from? What had the Palestinians ever done to her? I think it is a reflection of that generation of Zionists who are not able to forgive Palestinians for resisting their conquest. Or for vanishing into the fog of history and leaving the stage to them.

    And perhaps a little guilt too.

    • just on September 5, 2014, 10:49 pm

      Zionists don’t ‘do’ guilt.

    • Anonymous on September 6, 2014, 9:43 am

      “Or for [not] vanishing into the fog of history and leaving the stage to them.”

      Yeah, I’d say it was this.

      Hadley Freeman wrote a piece in the Graun a while ago titled “Don’t tell me what to think about Israel” wherein she had the sheer nerve to call Israel the Holocaust’s happy ending. And I think this is where that kind of fury originates – how dare those damn indigenous people refuse to leave, resist, make us look bad and, FFS, even SPOIL our happy ending.

      Utterly grotesque.

      • W.Jones on September 6, 2014, 1:52 pm

        That’s probably true. The thinking must run like this: Look at the good things about us, and we were victims and now came back to our homeland. People there don’t want us to have country there, so they are bad. And they are fighting us even after we conquered them, so that’s bad too.

      • Anonymous on September 6, 2014, 3:17 pm

        YES! Exactly this.

  19. michelle on September 6, 2014, 12:10 pm

    Rest In Peace Robin Williams
    you knew what funny was
    G-d Bless

  20. Marnie on September 6, 2014, 2:41 pm

    I think her comedy was horrible and that mouth of hers was disgusting, which made me wonder what was wrong with her throat – too much acid in her remarks for her esophagus to tolerate probly. The airport remarks will be the way I remember her. Yep, karma is a bitch named Joan.

  21. jambo33 on September 8, 2014, 7:20 pm

    What Joan Rivers said in that interview was vindictive and ignorant. IMO Innocent civilians and children never deserve to die! I don’t agree with the right wing views she held. I understand why people were/are angry about these remarks. But I will say that there was a lot of misquotations & misrepresentations on the internet about that interview. The basic premise of JR’s argument during that interview was if a country attacks your country/people then you must expect there will be retaliation. To her mind Israel was attacked by Hamas – whether this is true I don’t know – there are many that would say the exact opposite that Palestine has been attacked for decades and the act of firing rockets was self defence. She seemed ignorant and a bit out of touch but still believe what she said. Also there are many Zionists, pro Israelis and other people all round the world who probably share a similar view i.e. if you attack a Nation and its civilians then you can expect consequences and retaliation. But anyway good on those Palestinians who forgave her – that is truly inspiring.

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