*”Saturday Night Live” actor Michael Che is in hot water over a joke about 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 during the “Weekend Update” segment, “and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
Watch below, at the 1:33 mark:
The joke has led Jewish organizations and Israeli leaders to accuse Che of exploiting “an antisemitic trope.” Also, the Anti-Defamation League on Monday night suggested 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 tweeted statement.
Neither Che nor SNL has publicly responded to the controversy. Others are not only supporting Che, but praising him for questioning Israel’s vaccination program.
Israel, which has administered more than 7.3 million doses and has made anyone over age 16 eligible for a shot, boasts the world’s fastest vaccination program. But human rights groups have argued Israel has a moral and legal obligation to give access to vaccines to the roughly 5 million Palestinians living in territories the country controls, reported The Washington Post’s Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin. Israeli officials have cited the Oslo Accords in arguing that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are responsible for their own health systems.
A petition from the American Jewish Committee pushing for NBC to retract the joke claims that Che’s joke was “a modern twist on a classic antisemitic trope that has inspired the mass murder of countless Jews.” The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a news release that the group found the joke “deeply troubling.”
On Monday, Greenblatt said he had asked SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels “to take action both to repair the damage that’s been done and ensure that this does not happen again.”