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What are we, Muslims?

A not that funny joke …

National Security Adviser, General James Jones, opened his remarks at the Washington Institute For Near East Policy with a Jewish joke. One that I thought was only slightly funny and which attempted to lighten the tone of a very somber subject: the security of the United States and its global relations.

Many people in media and some in the Jewish community decided to spin this story into a media event – one indicating racial insensitivity and inappropriateness – some going as far to review the General’s past and call it an effort bordering on anti-Semitism.

Perhaps it was inappropriate given the circumstances, but it did absolutely no harm. Nobody rose in protest. Nobody set cars on fire or looted local businesses. Nobody made death threats and nobody was killed.

Remember folks, this is a heavily Jewish institution and they are not Muslims: rioting, looting and killing at every imagined slight to their religion.

Here are the General Jones’ opening remarks …

“ On this, your twenty-fifth anniversary, let me commend all those who have made the Washington Institute for Near East Policy the respected institution it is today, especially past presidents Barbi Weinberg, Fred Lafer, Michael Stein, and your chairman, Howard Berkowitz.”

And here is the joke in video format …

For those without video download capabilities, here is the joke …

“A Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban, the jokes goes on, begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; they can sell you water. The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: ‘Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.’”

Not the greatest joke, nor is it the the appropriate forum to throw out a clinker, but it is OK – no harm, no foul.

The Jewish media . ..

According to the Jewish Forward

“After the speech, two participants suggested, in private conversations with the Forward, that Jones’ joke might have been inappropriate. After all, making jokes about greedy Jewish merchants can be seen at times as insensitive.”

“A prominent think-tank source who attended the event said the joke was “wrong in so many levels” and that it ‘demonstrated a lack of sensitivity.’ The source also asked: ‘Can you imagine him telling a black joke at an event of African Americans?’”

The White House may have been embarrassed …

Obviously the White House did not need additional tsuris (troubles), so they avoided the big megillah (long story) and edited the video and transcript accordingly. I am sure it wasn’t Administration censorship -- given the open, transparent, accountable ethical tone set by President Obama.

Bottom line …

Get over it! It was a Gentile (non-Jew) trying to be funny and it didn’t quite work. No biggie. Now if they had sent Don Rickles to lecture on foreign policy or General Colin Powell, who speaks fluent Yiddish, now that’s an another story.

-- steve

Reference Links …

Michael Stein Address featuring James L. Jones -- 2010 Soref Symposium

Gen. (Ret.) James L. Jones, USMC, President Obama's national security advisor, delivered the Michael Stein Address on U.S. Middle East Policy at The Washington Institute's 2010 Soref Symposium on April 21, 2010. The event honored the Institute's 25th anniversary.  

My favorite jokes – Jan Murray (March 11, 1978)

This is the original telling of the joke by Borscht Belt (Jewish comedy circuit) comedian Jan Murray.

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