SNL Accused of Anti-Semitic Humor After Vaccination Joke

Israeli ambassador joins criticism, though newspaper calls accusation overblown
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2021 5:35 PM CST
SNL Joke About Israel's Vaccination Draws Outrage
Colin Jost, left, and Michael Che deliver "Weekend Update" in February 2020.   (Will Heath/NBC via AP)

Saturday Night Live is getting an earful about a joke on last weekend's show. "Saturday's deeply offensive joke about Israel's COVID-19 vaccination process not only missed the mark, but crossed the line—basing the premise of the joke on factual inaccuracies and playing into an anti-Semitic trope in the process," Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted. The bit, delivered on the "Weekend Update" segment by Michael Che, was: "Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half of their population, and I’m going to guess it's the Jewish half." Israel is vaccinating people at the fastest rate in the world, the Washington Post reports, but it's been criticized by human rights groups for not providing the 5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with full access to the vaccines. The government argues that's the responsibility of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, though it's taken a step to change that stance. Israel indeed has vaccinated nearly half its population, per USA Today.

Israel's ambassador to the US also objected. "I'm a big fan of humor but, perpetuating anti-Semitism is just not funny," Gilad Erdan tweeted. "Your 'joke' is ignorant—the fact is that the success of our vaccination drive is exactly because every citizen of Israel—Jewish, Muslim, Christian—is entitled [to] it. Apologize!" A group of Jewish American organizations called the joke "especially painful" at a time when anti-Semitic incidents are increasing. But the Jerusalem Post said the "anti-Semitic" reaction to a TV bit was over the top. "If everything is anti-Semitic, [then] nothing is, so the appellation must be used sparingly," the editorial said. The JDL also complained that "Weekend Update" this year has stepped up jokes that "inappropriately use Jews as the punchline." Greenblatt said he's contacted SNL boss Lorne Michaels to ask him "to take action both to repair the damage that’s been done and ensure that this does not happen again." The show hasn't commented on the issue. (Read more Saturday Night Live stories.)

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