A newspaper serving the orthodox Jewish community of New York and New Jersey has apologised for joking about Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians. A February edition of the Jewish Link appeared to mock the death of Palestinians by running the headline, "100,000 Palestinians shot by Israeli soldiers." It joked that Palestinians were volunteering to be shot by the Israeli "Sharpshooters" unit that is dispensing the COVID-19 vaccine.
The article said that Israel was dispensing the vaccine free to Palestinians so as "to improve relations with its Arab neighbors," and the "doses are being injected by an elite unit of Israeli soldiers, who are specially trained in the use of hypodermic needles."
Mocking the death of Palestinians the article said that the Health Ministry was "skeptical that Palestinians would volunteer to be shot by the Israeli military," but "to their surprise, in the program's first week, more than 100,000 Palestinians were vaccinated." Continuing to mock the death of Palestinians the piece went on to say that "after all the Arabs are shot once, we look forward to shooting them a second time…"
Though it was claimed the piece was a "Purim satire", which is a Jewish holiday celebrating the biblical story of Queen Esther overthrowing a Persian plot to kill Jews, it triggered a backlash.
The writer/musician Rich Siegel wrote a letter to the editor of the Jewish Link saying that "any decent person would find [the item] to be in extremely bad taste."
"In case you don't understand why your joke is beyond offensive, let me remind you that many many thousands of Palestinians and other Arabs have been shot and killed, or shot and maimed, in the bloody history of your racist apartheid country…"
"What would your response be if anyone were to make jokes about Auschwitz?"
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and American Muslims for Palestine of New Jersey also criticised the paper for making light of violence against Palestinians.
"Suggesting the systematic murder of 100,000 people of an oppressed minority will never make for good comedy," Selaedin Maksut, the executive director of CAIR-NJ, said in a statement, reported the Times of Israel.
Acknowledging their mistake the paper published an apology. "We apologize," read a brief statement in last Thursday's edition of the Link, which included a letter of complaint from the president of the Muslim Society of Bergen County. "It was offensive, in poor taste, and we regret it." The article was removed from the online version of the paper.