Michael Che said “Israel is reporting that they have vaccinated half of their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half” on the “Weekend Update” segment of February 20, 2021 Saturday Night Live.
What often makes the “Weekend Update” segment funny, is how Michael Che and Colin Jost share an element of truth about what is happening in the news.
Numerous organizations and individuals have accused Che’s statement as being anti-Semitic including the ADL’s CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt: “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 antisemitic trope in the process.”1
The problem is that Che is telling the truth. Half of the people under Israeli control are not Jewish. Most of them are even denied citizenship. 70 percent of the people in Gaza are refugees; their homes are in Israel yet they are denied their Right of Return, a right that all people have according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention. And, as Che points out, they are not getting the vaccine—Israel has only allowed two thousand vaccines to enter Gaza for a population of two million.
The problem is that the ADL and other Jewish organizations are defending the state of Israel, a state that has numerous UN resolutions condemning it for its human rights violations. These Israel-loyal organizations claim to be offended and concerned about discrimination when they stand by and support a country that defeated a proposed law to treat all its citizens equally, a country that has occupied a population for over fifty years and blockaded a mostly child population (over 50 percent of the population of Gaza are under the age of eighteen) for over a decade.
The ADL and other organizations claim to be against bullying and to be against discrimination but they did not seem to be concerned about the joke that immediately preceded the one about the state of Israel: a joke about the Catholic church changing its policy about wiping ashes from foreheads on Ash Wednesday; Colin Jost said “I think no touching could just be a great new rule in general.”
If anyone is creating ill-will towards Jews, it is not Michael Che, it is those who claim that Israel represents Jewish values.
It’s also interesting to note how Americans are given a much more one-sided view of the response to Michael Che’s comments. The Insider published multiple versions of an article by Rachel E. Greenspan. In the Australian version of the Business Insider entitled “Why Michael Che’s ‘SNL’ joke about Israeli vaccinations sparked a debate about anti-Semitism,” the article quotes a tweet from Jewish Voice for Peace saying, “They say there’s a grain of truth to every joke, but this SNL one has 5 million,” referring to the 5 million Palestinians under Israeli occupation, not counted in Israeli vaccination numbers. The article mentions a couple of other Jews who stated that the comment was not anti-Semitic. The American version of the article was entitled “A top Jewish organization slammed Michael Che’s controversial joke about Israeli vaccinations on ‘SNL’ and reached out to Lorne Michaels,” did not include the quote from JVP, and only mentioned one person who disagreed with the anti-Semitism accusation. This single case was mentioned in the last paragraph of the article.2
Read the opinion piece in Haaretz by Joshua Shanes, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston and Director of its Arnold Center for Israel Studies. It is entitled: “No, ‘Saturday Night Live’ Isn’t Inciting the Mass Murder of Jews”