NBC officials are facing calls to apologize over a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that accused Israel of vaccinating only its Jewish citizens against the novel coronavirus, a claim that critics lambasted as untrue and anti-Semitic.
Comedian Michael Che said during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment that “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population. And I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
The American Jewish Committee posted a petition Sunday blasting the joke as “dangerous, a modern twist on a classic antisemitic trope,” and calling on the network to “retract its outrageous claim and apologize immediately.”
“On February 20, during NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Michael Che accused Israel of vaccinating only its Jewish citizens,” said the AJC statement. “The claim is categorically false: every Israeli, regardless of religion or ethnicity, is eligible for the COVID vaccine, and more than two thirds of Israel‘s Arab citizens over 60 have already been vaccinated.”
The pro-Israel group StandWithUs asked supporters to join a letter-writing campaign asking the show and NBC to “apologize and disown this dangerous and misleading assertion,” describing it as an “antisemitic libel.”
“This may have been an uninformed comment, lacking in understanding of Israel’s diverse population or, worse, a ‘blood-libel’ and a lie dressed up and played for laughs,” said StandWithUs in a statement.
Claims that only Jewish residents are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine are being “perpetuated by antisemitic groups, eager to poison public discourse with misinformation about Israel’s rapid vaccination drive,” the group said.
“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,” said StandWithUs. “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.”
An NBCUniversal spokesperson said in an email Monday that “as of now we are not commenting.”
What SNL did is as false as it is vile. NBC needs to retract this. https://t.co/sF4aRc4gcv— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) February 22, 2021
Israel leads the world in administering COVID-19 vaccines to its population of nine million, which is about 75% Jewish and 20% Arab, inoculating more than 46% of citizens with at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine, according to the health ministry.
“So far Israel has fully vaccinated 32% of its population, all with the Pfizer vaccine, and now has the world’s highest per capita rate of vaccination against covid-19,” said MIT Technology Review in a Friday report.
All Israelis over the age of 16 have access to the inoculation under the campaign launched in December, which could result in herd immunity achieved by March, according to the review, citing a leaked health ministry and Pfizer report.
Israel has come under international pressure to vaccinate Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and while Israeli officials have said the responsibility lies with the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo accords, Israel sent 5,000 doses earlier this month to inoculate medical teams in the region.
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