A few days ago, during the Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live, Michael Che made a “joke” about Israel having vaccinated half of their population and suggested that it was the Jewish half that was vaccinated. The statement got some laughs from the live audience but here in Israel, no one is finding this to be a laughing matter.
I personally have never been in favor of censoring comedy. Comedy should be dark and twisted sometimes. Its purpose is to shine a light on serious matters in a way that helps us process them and see them from a different perspective. It should make us think and of course, laugh. Comedy can only really do its job when we let it take on the most controversial of topics. When we start monitoring and censoring that and holding comedians up to the same politically correct standards that we hold everyone else up to these days, we effectively cancel comedy as we know it and we stop laughing. Especially during such a hard and serious time, we need comedy as a way to cope and decompress. I would never want to see that come to an end. And yet, we still need to recognize when comedy goes from being funny and smart to be dangerous and harmful.
Israel fights a daily battle against anti-semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments. No matter what we do, it seems that our actions are twisted to fit the narrative of BDS and the PA — regardless of whether that narrative is based on fact. In this particular incident, Che’s remark was based on nothing but a modern-day blood libel being circulated by anti-Israel groups. I can’t say if his statement was given with malicious intent or just as an easy way to get a rise out of people but the result is the same. Groups that actively work against Israel now have more fuel for their fire. They latch on to exclamations like Che’s and run with it, using it as an excuse to justify terror in the name of “oppression”. And no one will care to even find out that Che’s statement couldn’t be less true.
Israel respects and values the sanctity of life above all else. That goes for every single one of its citizens — Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and everything in between. Israel has made every effort possible to encourage every single one of its citizens to get vaccinated. Israel has accomplished an unbelievable feat in vaccinating so many of our population at such an impressive rate. This is something that should be celebrated around the world. Every step forward in getting out of this pandemic is a step forward for the world. Yet instead of celebrating Israel and learning from us, anti-Israel groups are doing whatever they can to undermine us and cast us into the shadows.
Here’s the more troubling part though and what we should be paying attention to. This isn’t the first time Michael Che has been in hot water. He’s been slammed for being transphobic as recently as last month. And he was condemned by civil rights groups and advocates across the board for that. Where’s the outrage now? Other than Jewish groups who have come out strongly against Che’s statement, there hasn’t exactly been any widespread condemnation. And that’s exactly why what Che said is exactly as bad as we’re making it out to be. Sadly, anti-Israel rhetoric is not a once in a blue moon issue. It’s starting to become more mainstream than ever. While Michael Che himself may have just been out for a cheap laugh, those that are listening to him are taking him literally. Agreeing with him. Using his words as just another way to attack and condemn Israel. Those voices are growing and the silence surrounding Che’s statement is deafening.
By continuing to allow sentiments like Che’s to go unchecked, the world is showing us where they stand, and that should be of grave concern to anyone that supports Israel. It’s not good enough anymore for just the Jewish groups to speak up for Israel. The ICC’s judgment on Israel is just a recent example of the tide turning against us on the world stage. We all need to stand up and fight against lies and slander. We need to show those that speak against us that we won’t quietly accept it. We need to demand an apology and retraction from Michael Che and Saturday Night Live. We need to actively educate those around us on the facts about Israel. We all need to start being proactive instead of reactive. It may have been an ill-made joke this time but next time might not be and it’s up to all of us in Israel and those that support us to ensure that we don’t get there.