I saw this video on YouTube yesterday, and was willing to give General Jones the benefit of the doubt. It is an old joke, one I had read years ago in a joke book. Not the worst joke ever, and possibly not even intended in a bad way...But, now that General Jones has apologized, it unfortunately needs to be taken a little more seriously--by the Israeli government, if not by the American Jewish community. If he has apologized, then General Jones has admitted that his intent was not, in fact, innocent. It was a reflection of a deeper bias against, prejudice towards, and even contempt for Jews and Israel (he mentioned Israel explicitly in the joke). If he had said, "No apology necessary, no offense was intended," it would have been different.
IMHO, Israel should issue a diplomatic protest against General Jones, asap. The Israelis need to ask for another National Security Adviser, who has not demonstrated such insensitivity, if nothing else. The American Jewish community, likewise, needs to formally protest and ask for a new National Security Adviser in the interest of the United States--where no group of citizens of any religion should be singled out for humiliation at the hands of a government official (especially a top Presidential adviser). Imagine what would have happened if General Jones had joked about Muslims, and use that as a single standard for judging behavior.
General Jones may have started with a banal joke, but if his apology isn't evidence of intentional defamation against Jews, I don't know what is... And if not stopped now, who knows where this might end, especially given recent demonization of Israel by General Petraeus and the Obama administration?
It's a "Macaca" moment of truth for General Jones, as former Virginia Governor George Allen might tell him...
UPDATE: I've received this response from the Anti-Defamation League Media Relations Department to my inquiry about their reaction:
(ADL MediaP.S. I prefer Barry Rubin's analysis, here:
Mr. Foxman’s reaction to Gen Jones’ joke as cited below in the ABC blog was widely reported in the media.
ADL has accepted Jones’ apology
Home > Politics > Political Punch
Power, pop, and probings from ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper
Anti-Defamation League: National Security Adviser Jones Told “Inappropriate, Stereotypic” Joke About Jewish Merchant
April 26, 2010 11:19 AM
While many in the largely Jewish audience laughed, others didn’t find it so funny, including Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
“It's inappropriate,” Foxman told ABC News. “it's stereotypic. Some people believe they need to start a speech with a joke; this was about the worst kind of joke the head of the National Security Council could have told.”
“To make fun of Jews in terms of ‘Jews won’t help you in need, Jews want to sell to you?’ Whoa!” Foxman says. “Where's the sensitivity? The irony of it is General Jones went to this forum to reach out to the Jewish community. Of all the jokes this is probably the worst one he could have picked.”
National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones has apologized for his offensive joke. Abe Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League have accepted his apology.
Statement from General Jones about the joke he told during his remarks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
“I wish that I had not made this off the cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it. It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct.” – General Jim Jones, National Security Advisor
I could talk about more but let me focus on two that I think are inescapable and have policy consequences. It is interesting to note that both aspects relate to changes Jones made in the way the joke has been told by Jews.
First, the story is set in Afghanistan. Why there of all places where there have never been any Jews and there is only one in the whole country today? When it has appeared onJewish sites, the joke was set in the Sahara Desert. Note also Jones insisted--part of the joke but also revealing--that it was based on a "true" story.
Well, Afghanistan is the main theatre of operations for the U.S. military, especially if one takes into account future plans. So it shows that even in Afghanistan, there are people obsessed with theIsrael -Palestinian conflict. (That's not true by the way.) The idea that the conflict is the central issue in the world determining everything has become a theme of ObamaAdministration foreign policy. True, it is a Hamas guy and not a Taliban guy. Yet one cannot help but make the connection.
Second, instead of an individual Jew, the focus of the story is switched to Israel by making it a Hamas guy, putting in references to Israel, and making an Afghan Jew describe Israel as "my country."
The Jew, now made into a representative of Israel--in effect--rather than a generic Jew, seeks to charge (presumably overcharge) for letting the Hamas guy in to get what he needs. Indeed,Israel does demand an admissions' fee into peace for Hamas and also the Palestinian Authority: that they must show they are serious about peace as well as make compromises.
The tendency of the current U.S. government and of Europe is-and I don't want to overstate this-to say that such a barrier is unnecessary. End the sanctions on the Gaza Strip, they say, let Hamas into the talks (I'm not saying the Obamaadministration endorses this idea), give the PA a state. Then everything will be okay and peace will prevail.
The adaptation of this into the joke is to let the Hamas guy in without a tie and trust him to pay at the end of the meal. Indeed, that if you do so he will stop cursingIsrael and want to be friends. After all, most restaurants today have given up their tie and jacket requirement.
Now here's the joke I'll tell when they ask me to speak at the National Security Council:
An Israeli is walking through a dangerous desert, beset by enemies on every side. He comes upon an American general who is national security advisor. "Please help me," says the Israeli, "I'm out of ammunition."
"I'd love to help you," says the general, "but I can only sell you a tie. It's because I'm helping you that they are all out to get me!"
"No thanks on the tie," says the Israeli, "I'd rather have your support as an ally against those antisemitic, anti-American totalitarian forces which are out to destroy you any way."