by Hugh Fitzgerald
By now you’ve heard the whole story. In SNL’s “Weekend Update” skit, the newsman played by Michael Che announced that “Israel has vaccinated half of its population..[Pause] The Jewish half.”
There was nothing funny about this remark. It was a lie, and it did harm to Israel and to Jews. For it made a charge that fits right in with the medieval accusations, leading to pogroms, that Jews deliberately spread plagues and other diseases. The report on SNL’s skit is here: “Israeli Health Minister Rebukes NBC Over ‘Dangerous and False’ Vaccine Segment on ‘SNL,’” Algemeiner, February 22, 2021:
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein joined those condemning NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” for cast member Michael Che’s comments suggesting that Israel had only vaccinated the “Jewish half” of its population against COVID-19, as the network has remained silent.
“I inform you that anti-Semitism is not funny. It is dangerous and false,” wrote Edelstein on Twitter Monday, in Hebrew.
“In Israel, we have vaccinated more Arabs than most countries in the world. Satire is meant to be entertaining, not shocking. Your ‘joke’ is an antisemitic lie that can have dangerous consequences in a country where two and a half years ago 11 Jewish worshipers were murdered, just because they were Jews,” he continued.
Israel has indeed been vaccinating Arabs and Jews, with the same vaccines, given to the same sub-populations in the same order (health workers, the elderly, those with underlying health problems, and so on). Yuli Edelstein is right: Israel has vaccinated more Arabs than any Arab country has yet done. And it has been conducting a massive campaign to persuade Arabs, who have shown some reluctance, to get the shot. That doesn’t sound like a country that is indifferent to its Arab citizens, and interested only in vaccinating its “Jewish half.”
The problem is that most people, while they have by now heard that Israel leads the world in the percentage of its population that has been vaccinated, have not heard — because it is almost never mentioned — that Israel is vaccinating it Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens without distinction.
And while SNL may be dismissed by some as simply a comedy show, and its impact not to be taken too seriously, all of the polling data suggests that young people get much of their news not from traditional outlets, like newspapers, but from comedy shows including SNL, Late Night With Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and others of that ilk, and are unable to distinguish fact from fiction, as presented on shows whose purpose is not to enlighten but to amuse.
The power of SNL to influence is very great. Consider how Tina Fey’s imitation of Sarah Palin (“I can see Russia from my house”) ended the Alaskan’s chances of being taken seriously. SNL’s audience of 9 million is larger than that for any newspaper; the New York Times, by comparison, has 7 million subscribers. SNL’s predominantly young viewers are not always capable of distinguishing fact from fiction, and that is especially true of the Weekend Update segment.
NBC declined to comment when reached by The Algemeiner Monday….
His remarks joined those from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and other Jewish groups criticizing the Saturday segment, who said that it recalls age-old antisemitic conspiracies blaming Jews for plague and disease….
It is good that every major Jewish organization has expressed its anger, and they have demanded that NBC apologize and – even more important – set the record straight on Israel’s vaccination of Arabs. But so far there has been silence from both NBC and SNL. What could possibly be keeping them from addressing this matter? I don’t think there would have been the slightest delay in apologizing, if there had been a joke that offended Muslims or Arabs.
Imagine, say, a joke about the upcoming Palestinian elections. The facts are absurd enough:
“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the sixteenth year of his four-year term, has just announced he will be running again for President in the new elections called for this July. Of his three rivals, the first is in exile in Abu Dhabi and will be promptly imprisoned on corruption charges if he returns to campaign; the second is in an Israeli prison serving five life sentences; the third, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, has just announced he won’t be running after all since he’ll be moving into a new seaside villa this summer. Abbas says he thinks he has a good chance, but he’s taking nothing for granted.”
There would have been a furious response, followed immediately by swift apologies from both NBC and SNL. The writer of the joke, and even the SNL staff member who delivered it, would likely have been fired to assuage the fury of CAIR, Linda Sarsour, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, the PA, and the Arab League.
The “joke” about Israel’s vaccination campaign is unsurprising; Jews, or Israelis, are often the butt of jokes at SNL. Lorne Michaels should ask himself why this is, and whether he plans to do anything about it. And if there is going to be an apology, it should not be a quick expression of chagrin. It should be detailed, explaining why it was so particularly disturbing.
Such a mea-culpa statement from Lorne Michaels might go something like this:
“Recently one of the SNL skits included the claim that Israel led the world in vaccinations and that it had vaccinated half its population – ‘the Jewish half.’ In fact, Israel vaccinates without distinction its Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens. The joke was based on a lie. And correcting that lie matters so much because, historically, Jews have suffered from the antisemitic charge that they have been responsible for deliberately spreading plagues in the past. So I am here to apologize and to assure you that nothing like it will ever happen again on SNL.”
That would fit the bill.
First published in Jihad Watch.