I can’t quite get my mind around the fierce reaction to an allegedly anti-Semitic joke told by Gen. Jim Jones, the Obama administration national security adviser, during a recent appearance before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank.
Those reactions range from ADL national director Abe Foxman’s relatively sedate label of “inappropiate” to emails I’ve received (the usual chain emails, suggesting Obama-inspired pogroms are just around the corner) calling his joke “outrageous” and “anti-Semitic.”
I’ve heard the joke in question many times, always told by Jews, usually to Jewish audiences, almost always to great laughter.
A good friend who has an apparent compulsion to distribute Jewish-themed jokes via the Internet has sent out this joke in slightly different versions multiple times over the years; this morning he told me he sees it as “glatt kosher” as well as funny.
Could it be that Jones’ only sin was failing to anticipate this reaction, much of it coming from Jews who hurl charges of anti-Semitism at the drop of a hat, always directed at those whose political views or positions on Israel they don’t like?
And if I get one more email that begins with classic urban legend language (“Please check out this outrageous, anti-Semitic statement…,” or “I just discovered this frightening fact about the Obama administration and thought you should know” ) I’m going to hurl.
I get why Foxman reacted in response to a reporter’s question; it’s his job to draw strict lines when it comes to language about Jews. What I find ugly and hurtful to Jewish concerns is the unseemly glee of others who are so eager to attack their political opponents using terms like “anti-Semitism” and “blood libel,” terms that are being devalued by the day by those who see them only as handy political weapons.
Jones has apologized – "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," he said in a statement.
Why do I think that will have absolutely no impact on those Jews who see a White House filled with Cossacks?
Here’s a video clip of the joke.