A quick-fire joke about Israel’s vaccination rollout on US comedy show Saturday Night Live has caused uproar and demands for an apology.
In a parody of a news report, one of its actors joked that Israel – which has had the quickest rollout of any nation – has only been vaccinating its Jewish citizens.
“Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half,” cracked “Weekend Update” co-host Michael Che to a chuckling audience.
The single-line joke has been met with condemnation from Jewish groups that say it is anti-Semitic and referred to an ancient trope that Jews are responsible for plagues.
Those defending the joke, say Israel is refusing to vaccinate the millions of Palestinians in its occupied territories and even blocking vaccines from reaching the regions.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) began circulating a petition on Sunday demanding that SNL apologise.
“Saturday Night Live’s ‘joke’ isn’t just untrue – it’s dangerous, a modern twist on a classic anti-Semitic trope that has inspired the mass murder of countless Jews throughout the centuries,” the petition read.
AJC managing director of Global Communications Avi Mayer said the joke wasn’t funny at all.
“It’s all fun and games until you start promoting anti-Semitic myths,” he said.
“Every Israeli citizen – Jewish and Arab, Muslim, Christian, of any or no faith – is eligible to be vaccinated; two-thirds of Israel’s Arab citizens over 60 already have been.
“In the Middle Ages, Jews were blamed for the Black Death in Europe and accused of protecting only themselves. Thousands were murdered by their Christian neighbours.”
On the other side of the debate the anti-occupation group IfNotNow defended SNL.
“The familiar cycle begins,” the group wrote. “1) Media calls out Israeli government for structural inequalities between Jews and Palestinians. 2) Israel-Can-Do-No-Wrong crowd calls criticism anti-Semitic. 3) Demand an apology to refocus conversation on words, not ongoing denial of Palestinian rights.”
As of Sunday, over 4.3 million Israelis have received their first vaccine dose, and almost three million have received the second, out of a population of nine million.
However, the state is refusing to vaccinate the millions of Palestinians living under its control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Health Minister, Mai al-Kaila, said last week that the Israeli authorities had blocked a shipment of 2000 doses of Sputnik V – the Russian-made COVID-19 vaccine – to the Gaza Strip.
Ms al-Kaila condemned Israel’s move, remarking that the doses were intended for frontline health workers and medical staff working in the intensive care units for COVID-19 patients.
As an Occupying Power, Israel is under obligation to ensure “the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics,” as outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention.
There was a breakthrough yesterday, when around 20,000 coronavirus vaccine doses from the UAE arrived in Gaza – a delivery reportedly orchestrated by a rival of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas three months before scheduled Palestinian elections.
The shipment came the same day Gaza lifted restrictions in place since August on gatherings at wedding halls and gyms.
The Russian-made Sputnik V doses entered Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, AFP journalists said – meaning they did not pass through Israel, which has maintained a tight blockade on Gaza since 2007.
Last week, Mohammed Dahlan, a former top member of Abbas’s Fatah party, now exiled in the United Arab Emirates, announced the delivery of the vaccines as a “generous grant” from Abu Dhabi.
Mr Dahlan, currently a security adviser to UAE strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, has claimed credit for the delivery, which some Palestinians are seeing as a political move ahead of May and July legislative and presidential polls.
A statement on Sunday from the Reform Movement, the dissident branch of the Fatah party Dahlan controls, said the vaccines were for “medical teams” in Gaza, which has not yet begun a general vaccination campaign.
Sufyan Abu Zaida, head of the Reform Movement in the strip, said the Gaza shipment was thanks to a “generous donation from the brotherly UAE and a result of the efforts made by Mohammed Dahlan to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people”.
– with AFP