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Jones apologizes for joke about Jewish merchant

Updated 4:26 p.m.
By Anne E. Kornblut
National security adviser Jim Jones has apologized for telling a Jewish joke last week.

The joke -- about a Jewish salesman who refuses to give water to a member of the Taliban -- has been making the rounds via e-mail for more than a month. It was not clear how Jones came across it, or decided it would be a good idea to add it to his speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In his statement of apology, issued Monday through the White House, Jones said it was just "off the cuff."

The speech was recorded by C-SPAN, and here is the Jones joke, verbatim: "I'd just like to tell you a story that I think is true. It happened recently in southern Afghanistan. A member of the Taliban was separated from his fighting party and wandered around for a few days in the desert, lost, out of food, no water. And he looked on the horizon and he saw what looked like a little shack and he walked towards that shack. And as he got to it, it turned out it was a little store owned by a Jewish merchant. And the Taliban warrior went up to him and said, 'I need water. Give me some water.' And the merchant said, 'I'm sorry, I don't have any water, but would you like a tie? We have a nice sale of ties today.'

"Whereupon the Taliban erupted into a stream of language that I can't repeat, but about Israel, about Jewish people, about the man himself, about his family, and just said, 'I need water, you try to sell me ties, you people don't get it.'

"And impassively the merchant stood there until the Taliban was through with his diatribe and said, 'Well I'm sorry that I don't have water for you and I forgive you for all of the insults you've levied against me, my family, my country. But I will help you out. If you go over that hill and walk about two miles, there is a restaurant there and they have all the water you need.' And the Taliban, instead of saying thanks, still muttering under his breath, disappears over the hill, only to come back an hour later. And walking up to the merchant says, 'Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.' "

One attendee of the dinner was Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He told ABC News, "This was about the worst kind of joke the head of the National Security Council could have told."

Foxman added, "To make fun of Jews in terms of 'Jews won't help you in need, Jews want to sell to you?' Whoa! Where's the sensitivity?

Jones said Monday after word of his joke got out. "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.

By Anne E. Kornblut  |  April 26, 2010; 4:22 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Cast of Characters  
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Comments

Have Americans lost their sense of humor? A guy tells a funny story, obviously with tongue in cheek and suddenly a whole bunch of people are offended? My Jewish friends and I thought it was very funny. Less anal retention and more humor please.

Posted by: GaneezinOz | April 30, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

All of the sudden, we in America are obsessed, totally and paranoiac-ly obsessed with religion. How? When? Why?
Because we have a 14% of Jewish Senators, a 20% of Judges of everything, and innumerable Jewish mind-bending Media-makers (from a 2% of Jewish/American citizenry).
While we give Israel $3 Billions yearly cash, plus other $3 Billions yearly in weaponry. And while our Generals cannot tell a (submissive)Jewish joke.
And we want to be the brightest kids in the block. Ha! No wonder China is taking over.

Posted by: SouthStar | April 29, 2010 1:38 AM | Report abuse

"My best friend, a Jew, has told me countless jokes like this about the Jewish culture. On the other hand, I always knew that he'd be offended if I told one" sdavis3398 | April 28, 2010 11:47 AM

Lucky you that you can call that your "best friend".
On the other hand, ask yourself if your "best friend" has not told you one or more, jokes about the pedophile Christian supposing you're Christian or about the pedophile Martian supposing you're Martian? Disregarding whether you feel embarrased in your faith? Or perhaps with the embeded intention to diminish your self-appreciation (and pickpocket you in the motion)?
I don't mind to get jokes from anybody, what I do mind is that in my country, this anti-American arrogance is rampant.
Ask General Jones whether he feels now the least inclination to oppose giving more US Taxpayers' Billions to Israel.

Posted by: SouthStar | April 29, 2010 1:17 AM | Report abuse

This situation, forcing Jones, a whole United States' Security Adviser to humiliate and apologize and making so much scandal of something so inoffensive if not even convenient for the Jewish as this joke, simply underscores that the Jewish are intolerant and totalitarian.
They wont allow you even the smallest criticism of them.
All the while, using-and-abusing of us Americans at the tone of American Taxpayers' Trillion$ spent on this absurd, primitive and inhumane Jewish/Muslim war, and having killed thousands of educated, loved and gullible American kids, while Israeli-Americans do not even go to fight there.
Way to go Obama; keep sending American kids to die to the ME; now obey Israel and bomb and terrorize and hinder the development of the People of Iran, too.
After all, if you don't do it, they will have you publicly humiliating and apologizing too soon, very soon, as the US of America General Jones.

Posted by: SouthStar | April 29, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

Rotbart should have made an insulting remark about Pope Benedict. He would have gotten a gold star from the liberal media and applauded for his open mindedness.

Posted by: Rotbart | April 28, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm African American and I must admit, I didn't get the joke . . . now the Pollock joke that Matt Millen told toward NFL guru Ron Jaworski during the NFL draft, that was funny . . . too bad Millen had to apologize about 10 minutes later . . .I'm from Buffalo, New York and my mother used to tell Pollock jokes all the time . . . I think that we have become too sensitive . . .but then again that's easy for me to say because I'm not Polish . . .

Posted by: yourpoliticalanimal | April 28, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

What a crock. This country is full of freakin' wimpy, overly-sensitive jerks.

Anyone offended by that joke, jewish, Taliban, black, green, purple, Catholic, whatever, needs to come to the realization that you've led a sheltered politically correct life that is in great need of some serious adversarial conflict. Holy crap. I just cannot believe that even one person is offended by that joke. That's a funny joke with some solid dry wit to it; and loved the jab to the Taliban (which is the funniest part of the joke to me). When you become a public official, you do not become a politically correct robot. Jim Jones tried some levity and now is pilloried for it??? Many complain about public figures/government officials being too soporific, dry, sticking to only the "talking points" and in general, talking in only politically correcct terms instead of just being human and speaking in a more normal, conversational manner.

Makes me crazy that people are even a little upset by this. You all need to do something akin to USMC bootcamp, VMI ratline to toughen you up a bit. What a bunch of pansies.

Semper Fi, Gen. Jones. I may be a Democrat, but on this issue, I must say that my inner Marine takes over; I support you %100 and I'm sorry that someone told you that you had to apologize for anything.

Please carry on and don't let the media/PC masses change your approach to giving an interesting/funny speech/lecture/press conference.

Posted by: RomeoJax1 | April 28, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I think we are too sensitive. Personally, I did not look at the joke in terms of not helping someone in need, or selling something to a Taliban dude like it was some kind of Merchant of Venice story.

It was funny. It had good ethnic humor.

I would say that people in the public sector should stay away from ethnic jokes of any kind and stick with sex jokes. Borrow one from Arlen Spector.

Read Harv: http://theHARVview.blogspot.com

Posted by: HarveyY | April 28, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm Jewish. The joke was pretty good, if predictable, but it was told by the wrong guy in the wrong forum.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | April 28, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

What nonsense. My mind didn't go there at all. I laughed at how cleverly the Jewish man got back at his "enemies". It was a hoot. Holy Cow, folks. We need to lighten up.

Posted by: PREMSHANTI | April 28, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

BFD! I've read many of the blog commentaries submitted about the "joke" and it would take me a while to develop an overall response to them but suffice it to say, I don't fault Jones. The joke simply underscores that Jews don't need to resort to violence to deal with many situations. Here, a thirsty Taliban criminal was brilliantly outwitted by a Jewish merchant by his simple and truthful use of words alone. What better ending than that the Taliban is made to continue his quest for water making him the butt of the joke by being forced to walk unnecessary distances. I don't think the fact that a Jewish "merchant" is involved should produce the response made by Foxman of the ADL. Foxman has missed the real point of the joke ; he needs to reduce the "gain" on his antennae. Not everything said with a Jew in the sentence is anti-semitic. By the way, I'm Jewish and I've told this joke many times to both Jews and non-Jews. The joke is simply funny and simply implies "don't screw around with the Jews or you'll likely end up on the short end of the stick."

Posted by: mhm1995 | April 28, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

BFD! I've read many of the blog commentaries submitted about the "joke" and it would take me a while to develop an overall response to them but suffice it to say, I don't fault Jones. The joke simply underscores that Jews don't need to resort to violence to deal with many situations. Here, a thirsty Taliban criminal was brilliantly outwitted by a Jewish merchant by this simple and truthful use of words alone. What better ending than that the Taliban is made to continue his quest for water making him the butt of the joke by being forced to walk unnecessary distances. I don't think the fact that a Jewish "merchant" is involved should produce the response made by Foxman of the ADL. Foxman has missed the real point of the joke ; he needs to reduce the "gain" on his antennae. Not everything said with a Jew in the sentence is anti-semitic. By the way, I'm Jewish and I've told this joke many times to both Jews and non-Jews. The joke is simply funny and simply implies "don't screw around with the Jews or you'll likely end up on the short end of the stick."

Posted by: mhm1995 | April 28, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Jones were a member of the Bush Administration, Democrats like myself would probably pile on. Turnabout is fair play. When you're a government official, jokes like that are simply not OK.

Having said that, it made me laugh. It poked fun at a cultural stereotype. My best friend, a Jew, has told me countless jokes like this about the Jewish culture. On the other hand, I always knew that he'd be offended if I told one. Fair enough. There are hot buttons like this for ALL of us. Senior government officials are supposed to know better.

Posted by: sdavis3398 | April 28, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Does this not turn your stomach? This is the security advisor to our President and he thinks it is appropriate to tell a Jewish joke?
This administration is inept. They embarrass themselves on a daily basis. Yesterday Obama insulted the Arizona police saying they were going out to harass dark skinned people taking their children for ice cream. This is disgraceful and I hope the Jewish people who consistently vote Democratic even though this administration has insulted Israel and kicked them to the curb, take note and quit helping these pathetic Democrats into office. This is what they think of Jews and their not shy about letting you know it either.

Posted by: greatgran1 | April 28, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Maybe would have been a smart thing to have bought the tie when offered!

Posted by: rebeccaweiss | April 28, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

He should have bought the tie first when offered!

Posted by: rebeccaweiss | April 28, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct," he said."

This is the tragedy; the joke is on the U S taxpayer.

Posted by: jackbrumbelow7 | April 27, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

"It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct," he said."

This is the real tragedy, the joke is on he US taxpayer.

Posted by: jackbrumbelow7 | April 27, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

"It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct," he said."

This is the real tragedy, the joke is on he US taxpayer.

Posted by: jackbrumbelow7 | April 27, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

That joke was funny. It's a Jewish joke, that is, a joke Jews tell to Jews. I know that's true because I'm a Jew and and I've told it a dozen times already - to Jews and even a few non-Jews and everyone laughed at it, nobody was offended, and those railing against it are simply humorless dumkops.

Posted by: Mark1941 | April 27, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

There are a great number of anti-catholic jokes, but nobody is apologizing.
I am getting tired when we can make a joke or a comment about anybody but Jews.
There are stereotypical jokes about Poles, Italians, Muslims, you name it and it is accepted. We really need to have a same treatment of all.

Anti-Semitism would stop if Jewish people would be treated as any other nation.

Posted by: jolandakp | April 27, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"Obviously, Jones isn't the sharpest piece of tooling in the shed, now is he?" (Jordan48)

He is not.

Posted by: egb3 | April 27, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

what's funny is usually true. but truth is sometimes not funny.
so madow, robt. rubin, summers, blankfein and countless others
prove shakespeare was right about shylock. jews can be innately
gonifs.

Posted by: giggles2 | April 27, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

O Dear we are getting a mite too touchy. As far as I am concerned anybody can make jokes about us Limeys and i will not turn a hair ( not that I have much hair to turn).

Posted by: Briteye | April 27, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

O Dear we are getting a mite too touchy. As far as I am concerned anybody can make jokes about us Limeys and i will not turn a hair ( not that I have much hair to turn).

Posted by: Briteye | April 27, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but that was funny.....maybe a good Sheister lawyer can sue me for laughing.

Posted by: yampaco | April 27, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Wow, are you people really that dense. The joke is obviously poking at the Taliban, and has nothing to do with insulting the Jew in the story. The merchant is making a fool out of a terrorist, making him walk all that way after insulting him.

Posted by: remission1 | April 27, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break!!!! Political correctnessd at it's worse. No longer are we to have a sense of humor, I have grown up with Italian jokes and they are FUNNY!!!! Anyone who takes a joke seriously is a freaking moron. Lighten up, get a life, and tell me a good Italian joke, if its frunny, I'll laugh, if its not...DUCK!!!!

Posted by: brooklynborn1 | April 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Imagine a Jew telling a joke about the rampant barnyard sodomy of the South or WASP incest. Would that be funny?

Posted by: Reesh | April 27, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

NewYorker3:

Personally I didn't find any humor in this "joke" and I like jokes that are funny. Obviously, Jones isn't the sharpest piece of tooling in the shed, now is he?

National Security Adviser? Boy, we are in trouble. As for Obamanations pre election commitments, can you count on one hand the number of promises he has broken since buying the Office of the Presidency? In my opinion, he is a deceiver and a liar, for the only time you can tell he is lying is when his lips are moving!

Posted by: Jordan48 | April 27, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Just imagine if a Jewish (or any other) politician had cracked a joke about black people. He'd be expected to resign immediately.

Posted by: tctexas | April 27, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

It strikes me that the merchant, without any violence, got the Taliban guy to walk a few miles for, basically, nothing. And by me, that's a better way of making the point of "you behave badly toward me, you are insolent, you are destructive, take a walk" than an I.E.D., isn't it?

It might be passive-aggressive, but it's not dangerous. And if the Taliban can force women to wear burkas, surely they could manage a tie. (g) The Taliban's basic stance toward the rest of the world is an insult; this joke is just a bird-flip in return. It doesn't seem anti-Jewish to me: it's anti-Taliban.

Posted by: Palladia1 | April 27, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Come on...must we be angry about a joke. Is there not enough to keep you busy, too much time to think, go out and help someone, laugh, take a walk, smell the flowers..We are too blessed here to make this a big deal.
love ya

Posted by: silverman5 | April 27, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Jews and Muslims..Muslims and Jews
Can't we all just get along?

Posted by: grunderpup | April 27, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

must have learned that crude joke from obama's friend and mentor rev. wright!!!!

Posted by: mklvntwar | April 27, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Lighten up Mr. Foxman. Can't anyone tell a joke these days without some politically correct jerk complaining?

Posted by: MKadyman | April 27, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm Jewish, and that was a pretty funny joke, but Jones doesn't have a very good delivery.

Posted by: noybizz | April 27, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Besides, he didn't tell it well.

Posted by: MAL9000 | April 27, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Wow, people need to lighten up. I'm pretty sure that America's Jewish population has nothing to fear when it comes to anti-semitism from the government. If this is the peak of anti-semitism then I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Posted by: junkerbach | April 27, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: bdballard | April 27, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

We can joke about anything but not about Jews or Mohammed. Phleeze!

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | April 27, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

This is not a new joke . . . updated for the Taliban maybe, but not new.

Posted by: AlanEisen | April 26, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

This was not anti-Semitic, it was anti-Taliban. On behalf of my Jewish friends and relatives, we are offended that you are offended. Pick your battles, folks. Jeez. You really think the national security adviser of the United States is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel? I'm pretty sure "do you support Israel" is question two in the interview, right behind "are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party."

Posted by: smokefilledroom | April 26, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I am offended by his "joke" and by his apology. He says: "I wish that I had not made this off-the-cuff joke at the top of my remarks,..." Why is he looking down to read this joke off his lecturn notes if it were an "off-the-cuff" remark?

Posted by: philpet | April 26, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

This is the national security advisor for our first African - American president, the one who made that wonderful speach about racism.
I am a Jew and I am deeply offended, and I am not sure how I should be placated by him saying it was an off the cuff remarks. If this president is serious about all racism,
he should have said something to the effect that this kind of talk is not tolerated in his administration. Or is this also part of the big chill that he subjects Israel to? Are we, American Jews, the next in line?

Posted by: newyorker3 | April 26, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

You can watch the video of Jones telling the joke here:
http://bit.ly/djDGMx

Posted by: mjwilstein | April 26, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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