It wasn’t shocking that this past Saturday night, an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel (yes, anti-Zionism is equivalent to anti-Semitism) joke was casually said on the NBC show “Saturday Night Live.” What was surprising was that the “comedy” bit made the social-media rounds shortly afterward, mostly in disgust by Jews who still watch the tiresome show. Anti-Zionism racism most strongly entered the mainstream during the Obama years, when the BDS movement really took hold in liberal colleges across North America. The Jewish homeland was erroneously maligned while pro-Israel advocates were being labeled as “radicals” for standing up to student groups espousing anti-Semitism.
Jews have always been able to take a collective joke well, even if it falls within the news framework. Jews don’t behead anyone Charlie Hebdo-style for making fun of prophets, nor do they find fault with those who make humorous observations about myriad mannerisms, cultural practices and dietary laws (particularly of the Ashkenazi variety). However, there is a fine line between comedy and untruths. Humor halts though when the only Jewish country in the world—one that gives its Arab minority equal rights, and where they freely vote, and yes, get vaccinated like any other citizen of Israel—is falsely accused of trying to withhold life-saving coronavirus support.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that gave refuge not only to the nearly 1 million Jews expelled from the Arab world, to the European Jewish survivors of the Holocaust—the vilest atrocity in modern history—but has given a home to the Circassians and the Baha’i who were persecuted in Iran. And lest the anti-Semites forget, Israel did not banish Arabs who wished to remain in 1948 as regional Arab armies were attacking Israel while promising a swift annihilation of the Jews.
Anti-Semitism should have been the original #MeToo movement, but for decades, it only applied to neo-Nazi hate—not to anti-Israel casual cultural anti-Semitism, which is far more pervasive. It took the likes of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to equate Jews to termites, as well as other horrific slurs and tropes iterated in the United States and elsewhere before a real backlash occurred. In 2020, as COVID raged globally, out came old anti-Semitic quips from TV celebrities, sports stars, musicians and more. Social media became the ideal outlet to spread falsehoods about Israel and the Jews.
The entertainment industry is just one piece of the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel puzzle; elected politicians have entered the mix. Congress includes Jew-hatred coming from Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), both anti-Israel activists, and instead of being pariahs within their party, they ended up on the cover of Vanity Fair with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Just recently, Omar was promoted to a senior role on a foreign-relations sub-committee dealing with human rights. Routinely, Israel is libeled on MSNBC, CNN and the BBC without pushback. Therein lay the danger of mainstream modes of media lying about the Jewish homeland. And these lies give ammunition, figuratively and literally, to Israel’s physical enemies—Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran—and to its political enemies—the largely anti-Semitic European Union and America’s leftists.
Although Jews are a minority in this country, they educate the misinformed within both the Jewish and general population. Yet many know the facts and choose to ignore them. As such, it is essential to explain why “SNL” writer, comedian and “Weekend Update” anchor Michael Che’s sketch was incorrect. When even well-meaning Jews use incorrect verbiage such as “Palestinians” instead of Palestinian Arabs to denote those who live in Judea and Samaria, and Gazans who reside in Gaza, anti-Israel lies will continue to persist. And one can lose count of the number of times the word “occupation” is used as a political tool against the only Jewish nation when the above areas are now fully run by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, respectively.
Che bears the brunt of the rightful outrage following the show’s lie-filled attempt at comedy, but where was Lorne Michaels, a member of the tribe, who has been known to approve every sketch? What occurred this past weekend was the culmination of rendering anti-Zionism anti-Semitism as irrelevant, prior to it entering the American mainstream.
Laureen Lipsky is a pro-Israel advocate living in New York and the founder of “Taking Back the Narrative.”