‘Saturday Night Live’ made a joke about Israel discriminating against non-Jews and U.S. Jewish groups accused it of bloodcurdling antisemitism. It wasn’t anti-Semitic at all.
The show’s “Weekend Update” is a satirical news skit segment with nearly a half-century of tradition behind it. The premise is always the same. The beginning of the joke is a true story from the past week, typically something that the audience knows well, followed by a punchline that is either a ridiculous lie or a ridiculous exaggeration of the true story.
Last weekend, segment host Michael Che joked about Israel discriminating against non-Jews. He said Israel has announced half of its population has been vaccinated against COVID-19 (that was the true part). The invented punchline was that it was probably “the Jewish half.”
Jewish organizations and social media attacked almost immediately, accusing the comedian, SNL and NBC of anti-Semitism.
But the joke is not a twist on any traditional anti-Jewish trope. Jews in this joke are not an international conspiracy – the most important of all such myths – nor are they a minority community blamed for deliberately spreading disease among non-Jews.
Pointing out Israeli systemic discrimination against non-Jews is not anti-Semitic.