Response to Michael Che's SNL joke is unreasonable

If everything is antisemitic, then nothing is, so the appellation must be used sparingly.

Comedians Michael Che and Colin Jost from the NBC series "Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update"  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Comedians Michael Che and Colin Jost from the NBC series "Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update"
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 Call it a case of getting the wheat mixed up with the chaff.
On the most recent episode of NBC’s popular American television show Saturday Night Live, comedian Michael Che dropped a stupid joke about Israel and the coronavirus vaccine: “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population,” Che said. “I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
It was a bad joke, an insensitive joke, a joke that not only distorted reality but played into all the ugly antisemitic stereotypes about selfish Jews caring only about themselves. It’s a joke that would have been better off left unspoken. It was also completely wrong. All Israelis over 16 are eligible to receive the vaccine, and that includes seven million Jewish citizens and two million Arab citizens.
Ironically, it’s also the type of joke that one could imagine being cracked on any of the numerous political satire shows airing on Israeli television networks.  But clearly, because of the intended audience, there is a difference between saying that type of joke in the US and saying it in Israel.
It’s one thing for us to make fun of ourselves to each other here, and quite another for someone else to make fun of us to others over there. That type of joke in Israel will not spur someone with antisemitic tendencies to go dab a swastika on the wall of a synagogue, or worse. In America it may.
But still, a little proportion is in order.
Did the American Jewish Committee really have to issue a statement, organize a petition, and demand an apology?
Did the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations need to weigh in with a statement of its own saying that “NBC should know better, and must not only stop spreading harmful misinformation, but take action to undo this damage caused by propagating Jew-hatred under the guise of comedy?”
And is this really something that Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to both the US and the UN and a man whose two jobs must keep him very busy, really needed to tweet about?
Might that not be a little overkill?
Is Saturday Night Live antisemitic? Is NBC? Do the Jewish people or Israel gain anything from insinuating antisemitism was at play here?
If everything is antisemitic, than nothing is, so the appellation must be used sparingly.
Two weeks before the SNL episode, Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor and former CNN contributor who was fired in 2018 for including the genocidal phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” in a speech at the UN, took part in a panel hosted by the Democratic Socialists of America entitled “DSA, BDS and Palestine Solidarity.”
And here is where it is imperative to distinguish between what is important and what is less so, because on that panel Hill let rip a comment that could be used as an illustration of the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition of antisemitism.”
“Let’s imagine new possibilities, and one of the new possibilities they have imagined is a world that is anti-imperialist,” Hill said. “They don’t want to just nation build, they want to world make. So Black Lives Matter very explicitly is talking about the dismantling of a Zionist project, the dismantling of the settler-colonialist project, and is very explicitly embracing BDS on those grounds.”
It is against comments such as those, which are explicitly antisemitic – since they deny Jews the right of self-determination – that the fury and harsh condemnations of American Jewish organizations, and Israel’s representatives in the US, should be directed. 
But the message is diluted and even cheapened when the same ammunition is loaded up to deal with Che’s joke.
Antisemitism is a serious charge. It is the heavy ammo. And you don’t need to take out the cannons to kill a mosquito. If you do, not only will you be wasting valuable ammunition, but when you actually do need to use the big guns, they will make much less of an impact since everyone will have become inured to the blast, having heard it so many times before.