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.”


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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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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.

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… Read more »

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… Read more »