Thursday, February 25, 2021

Jewish Groups Condemn Michael Che for Vaccine Joke

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Aaron Bandler is a staff writer for the Jewish Journal, mainly covering anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

Aaron Bandler
Aaron Bandler is a staff writer for the Jewish Journal, mainly covering anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

For Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s commentary about this controversy, click here.

Jewish groups as well as Israeli government officials have called on Saturday Night Live to apologize for comedian Michael Che’s joke about Israel only vaccinating its Jewish population.

The clip, which was first highlighted by Israellycool blogger David Lange, features Che stating, “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population. And I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”


Many Jewish groups denounced Che’s remarks. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) said in a statement that Che’s joke “isn’t just untrue—it’s dangerous, a modern twist on a classic antisemitic trope that has inspired the mass murder of countless Jews throughout the centuries. In the Middle Ages, thousands of Jews were burnt at the stake after being blamed for the Black Death and accused of protecting only themselves. In the 20th century, the Nazis accused Jews of spreading disease and seized on that falsehood to justify imprisoning Jews in ghettos and carrying out the mass murder of European Jewry.

“Words have consequences, and Jews are at risk when a major American TV company joins with those who claim Israel is favoring only a portion of its citizens in its admirable efforts, praised by Dr. Anthony Fauci and others, to vaccinate all of its residents.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted that only anti-Semites laughed at Che’s joke.

“Through pandemic heroic Israeli Arab medical workers show compassion for elderly Jewish victims of Covid some on death bed,” the Jewish group wrote. “All eligible Israelis getting vaccine. Good luck in NY #MichaelChe.”


StandWithUs also started a campaign urging people to write letters to NBC and “Saturday Night Live” to apologize for Che’s joke. “This lie has been perpetuated by antisemitic groups, eager to poison public discourse with misinformation about Israel’s rapid vaccination drive,” the StandWithUs statement read.

“The truth is that this inoculation campaign benefits all Israel’s citizens. Every Israeli, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, is able to receive the Covid vaccination. Israel’s healthcare system is available and equal to all and an example of coexistence. Those who allege otherwise tend to be extremist groups, who have already relished this ‘joke’ on social media.”

Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein and Chair Mark Levenson similarly said in a statement that the 1993 Oslo Accords explicitly state that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is solely responsible for health care matters involving the Palestinians and the PA has rejected Israel’s offers to help.

“Despite the PA’s refusal, Israel delivered vaccines and other supplies to combat COVID and medical training to the PA,” Klein and Levenson said. “The PA has been using the Israeli vaccines, without crediting Israel! In addition, Israel’s Magen David Adom has been vaccinating PA citizens who hold permits to work in Israel.”

They added that it’s “especially dangerous to falsely imply that Israel is endangering the health of its Arab, Muslim and Christian citizens. This type of blood libel that Jews are causing disease or a plague has been perpetrated over the centuries, and has led to the massacres of large numbers of innocent Jews. In an era of rising antisemitism and demonization of Israel, this type of hideous falsehood is extremely dangerous.” Klein and Levenson called on NBC and Che to apologize for the remarks.

The Stop Antisemitism.org watchdog also tweeted, “SNL Producers: There’s not enough antisemitic blood libels coming out of Israel. Let’s add some more by lying about who those (((   ))) are vaccinating. Michael Che: Yeah, cool man.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of Union for Reform Judaism, tweeted that Che’s “joke was in poor taste. In fact, Israel is a world leader in Covid vaccinations, protecting Jewish and Arab citizens alike. As Israel shares its scientific data, the world’s fight against Covid is getting stronger. The truth isn’t funny but it is worth knowing.”


William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tweeted, “We find the use of age-old antisemitic tropes on last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live to be deeply troubling. It is particularly painful for this to occur at a time when antisemitic incidents, some resulting in death and injury, are at record highs.”


Israeli Ambassador to the United States and United Nations Gilad Erdan also tweeted to “Saturday Night Live,” “I’m a big fan of humor but, perpetuating antisemitism is just not funny. Your “joke” is ignorant-the fact is that the success of our vaccination drive is exactly because every citizen of Israel — Jewish, Muslim, Christian — is entitled it. Apologize!”

On the other hand, IKAR founder Rabbi Sharon Brous tweeted out a Times of Israel blog post stating that it’s “unfathomable” that Israel isn’t “doing everything in our power to offer the vaccine to every person in this land who wants one.”


The progressive group IfNotNow also tweeted that Israel is “vaccinating illegal Jewish settlers and not Palestinians living under occupation there. SNL’s [mediocre] jokes about Israel’s unjust distribution of the vaccine are not harming Jews. Excuse us. We’ve got real antisemitism to fight.”

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