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SNL’s Michael Che said Israel only vaccinated its ‘Jewish half.’ Critics call the joke ‘an antisemitic trope.’
Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:32 a.m. EST
As “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” fired off jokes about the pandemic this weekend, anchor Michael Che turned his attention to Israel’s world-leading vaccination program, which has faced criticism for not extending access to Palestinian territories.
“Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half of their population,” said Che, the show’s co-head writer, “and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
The eight-second segment, which was met with stifled laughter from viewers inside Studio 8H, has led Jewish organizations and Israeli leaders to accuse Che of leaning into “an antisemitic trope,” with the Anti-Defamation League on Monday night suggesting that “Weekend Update” this year had leaned into jokes that “inappropriately use Jews as the punchline.”
“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,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Neither Che nor SNL has publicly responded to the blowback, while others have come to the comedian’s defense and even praised him for questioning Israel’s vaccination program. An editorial in the Jerusalem Post on Monday called the criticism “unreasonable,” noting that the Jewish community’s messaging toward more explicit examples of antisemitism would be diluted “when the same ammunition is loaded up to deal with Che’s joke.”
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