By Sarah Brill, Science & Technology Editor
On February 20, 2021, Saturday Night Live (SNL) aired as usual. The Weekend Update section kicked off with hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che, the show’s comedic “news reporters.” Both men were cracking jokes about the pandemic and the coronavirus when they got to the segment on the vaccine. Michael Che stated, “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half.” This joke received scattered applause from audience members, however, on the other end of the screen, hundreds of Jewish watchers stared in disbelief at their screens. Many of the comments made on the Weekend Update section are based in fact and truth and usually based on real events that happen throughout the week. This comment and “joke” was not only an assumption, it was baseless and highly unanticipated.
The claim that only the Jewish half of the population in Israel is being vaccinated is not only factless, but it is also laying claim that the Israeli government is being discriminatory against other religions. Because Che specifically said “guess it’s the Jewish half,” he is automatically singling out the Jewish community as discriminatory and inhumane, quite frankly. It is common knowledge that Israel, while being the Jewish home state, is also home to many Muslims and Christians, so to insinuate that those populations are not getting proper healthcare from “the Jewish half” is ignorant and wrong.
According to the Washington Post, quoting Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, “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.” In choosing his joke, Che has set the stage for more jokes, using Jews as the punchline, to occur.
Of course, this is not the first time that someone has stated inaccurate information regarding either the Jewish or Israeli communities, but to have it come from a comedic outlet on NBC is just ridiculous. The American Jewish Committee has asked Michael Che to reply and apologize but the comedian has yet to do so.