SNL jokes: Israel vaccinates only Jews; comes under fire for anti-Semitism

Saturday Night Live has come under fire for joking that Israel’s world-famous vaccination campaign is focusing only on its Jewish population. 

“Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half,” actor Michael Che, the Weekend Update co-host, quipped on Saturday, insinuating that the Jewish state is purposely withholding the shot from its non-Jewish citizens.

This brought an instant storm of charges of anti-Semitism against the late-night comedy show. 

“Just to let you know that anti-Semitism is not funny, it is dangerous, and also a lie,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein wrote on Twitter. “By the way, in Israel, all residents regardless of religion and ethnicity have equal access to vaccines, and Israeli-Arabs enjoy one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.”

Israel has taken the world by storm, outpacing every other nation with its per capita vaccine rollout. More than 4.4 million Israelis have been vaccinated with at least the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Even children under 16 in certain circumstances and pregnant women – two groups on which the vaccine has not been tested – have received the vaccine.

Minister Edelstein tweeted, “Satire is supposed to be funny, not offensive and your ‘joke’ is nothing more than an anti-Semitic lie, which can have dangerous consequences in a country where only two and a half years ago eleven Jewish worshipers were murdered, just because they were Jews.” Edelstein was referring to the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh in 2018.

SNL might be confusing the fact that while Israel has made free vaccines available for every citizen and resident, including Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, Israel has contended that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is responsible to bring vaccines to its own four million residents in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel offers health insurance options to residents regardless of their ethnicity and even those without citizenship. The Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza get their insurance from the Palestinian Authority.

Nevertheless, Israel has transferred batches of its purchased vaccines to the PA for use for its medical teams. The United Nations and other countries are also donating vaccines to the PA for use on its population. 

Also, Israel has agreed to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel.

“Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for all health & social welfare needs,” Ellie Cohanim, who served as US deputy special envoy to combat anti-Semitism in the Trump administration, tweeted. “Contact SNL & NBC and demand they apologize for their modern-day blood libel against Jews.”

The Anti-Defamation League criticized SNL, saying it “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.”

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