It’s not particularly hilarious, but– unlike Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League– I don’t find this joke told by President Obama’s national security adviser James Jones inappropriate or tasteless.
Clearly the fact that it involved a Jewish merchant was relevant to the story. And the joke was just as obviously on the Taliban soldier, not the merchant.
Then again if some people (not necessarily Foxman) are looking for reasons to find the Obama administration unsympathetic to Jews, they’ll latch onto anything.
Update: 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.
In the same speech that included the joke, Jones said:
Since there has been a lot of distortion and misrepresentation of our policy recently, let me take this opportunity to address our relationship with our ally Israel. Like any two nations, we will have disagreements, but we will always resolve them as allies. And we will never forget that since the first minutes of Israeli independence, the United States has had a special relationship with Israel. And that will not change.
Why? Because this is not a commitment of Democrats or Republicans; it is a national commitment based on shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests.