My word: The funny, the peculiar and the frightening

By
January 14, 2016 21:58

I’d rather laugh with the “common” Iranians than gag on the Swedish foreign minister so out of touch with reality that the joke’s on her, at our expense.




Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Standard wisdom has it that you can’t beat opening a column or a talk with a joke. Last week I came across a whole “banta” of jokes (along with that wonderful suggestion for a collective noun) when I least expected it.

Searching the Web for an update on the terror attack on Israeli Arab tourists in Cairo, I chanced upon not only some light relief but a ray of hope, courtesy of Iranians with a sense of humor and the BBC’s Trending site that shared it under the catchy title: “‘To cut diplomatic ties, press 9’ – and other Iranian jokes about tension with Saudi Arabia.”

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After the Saudi authorities executed prominent Shi’a cleric Nimr al-Nimr, Iranians stormed the Saudi Embassy and a consulate, and Saudi Arabia and many of its allies suspended diplomatic ties with Iran, some Iranians bravely took to social media to express their frustration with the latest turn of evvents.

“I slept for few hours and when I woke a few countries cut ties with us. I don’t even dare to take a nap now!” a Twitter user commented, according to the BBC site, after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sudan and Djibouti swiftly severed ties with Iran.

“One good thing that the snapping of ties with Saudi Arabia taught me is geography.

At least now I know where Djibouti is,” read a joke on mobile messaging app Telegram, according to the site. It reminded me of how Israelis quipped about learning local geography in the last war as the names and locations of little-known communities were announced on the radio as they came under Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza.

Many jokes concerned the storming of foreign embassies, a stereotypical Iranian response to express anger at another country’s policies.

The BBC site shared a joke doing the rounds on Facebook: “Have you climbed any embassy walls in the past 5 years? – New question to be added to visa application forms [for those applying from Iran].”

A plea on Telegram read: “Please leave some embassies for the future generations. They also have the right to seize embassies!” One of my favorites was the Twitter image and comments, also picked up by the BBC Trending site, concerning the unexpected difficulties some Iranian rioters encountered when they wanted to burn the Saudi flag and realized they first had to cut out the Islamic statement of faith written in white on the green background.

There is a chance for peace with the Iranian people (although not under the current regime), I concluded. A people with a sense of humor like this we can live with one day, inshallah, as long as they outnumber the flag-burners.

At this rate, there’s a better chance for peace with the citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran – and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – than with the foreign minister of Sweden, who seems bereft of both a sense of humor and common sense.

After a brief interlude last year in which she denounced Saudi Arabia’s 1,000-lashes flogging sentence for blogger Raif Badawi, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström is at it again: Like Iranians storming embassies and Saudis afflicting political and religious opponents, she just can’t seem to stop herself from demonizing Israel. This week, according to Swedish media reports, Wallström called in parliament for an investigation to determine whether Israel is guilty of “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians during the current wave of violence.

She has apparently completely accepted the Palestinian narrative that Israeli police and security forces have decided to shoot-to-kill people waving guns, knives and other sharp objects, or ramming their cars into crowds of innocent bystanders (can Israelis be innocent bystanders in Wallström’s world?), rather than exercise a wait-and-see policy: How many people have to die before shooting the attacker dead is considered a “proportional response”? I don’t seem to recall her having a similar problem with the French police who shot and killed a man wielding a meat cleaver, carrying a copy of the Islamic State flag and yelling “Allahu akbar,” as he tried to break into a Paris police station on January 7.

For that matter, I don’t want to start an international incident by wondering how the police handled the flag, which also has the Islamic statement of faith on it above the seal of the Prophet Muhammad.

The French and the Swedes both have enough problems at the moment.

Following the massacre in Paris in November, when Wallström was asked by Swedish state broadcaster SVT if she was concerned about the radicalization of young people in Sweden who are fighting for Islamic State (according to the Swedish security service some 300 Swedes have joined the terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq), she replied: “Clearly we have a reason to be worried not only here in Sweden but around the world because there are so many who are being radicalized.

“Here again, you come back to situations like that in the Middle East where not least the Palestinians see that there isn’t any future [for them]. [The Palestinians] either have to accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

Interestingly enough, Wallström doesn’t seem to have realized that the hundreds of thousands of migrant-refugees pouring into Europe are escaping dire circumstances and war, but very few of them come from either Israel or the Palestinian territories. The so-called Palestinian refugees are largely people leaving Lebanon or Syria, where their families have been denied full rights by their own brethren for nearly 70 years.

The Jews of Europe, on the other hand, are making the opposite journey: The Scandinavian Jewish community has dwindled to near disappearance due to anti-Semitism and fears that things will get worse with the greater influx of Muslim migrants (often supported by the far Left) and the likely rise of the far Right in response Events this week seem to bear them out: A pillar of the Jewish community in Paris was murdered (motive yet to be determined); two Israeli Arab medical students sought help from the embassy after being attacked in Dresden, Germany, apparently by far-rightwingers; a French Jew wearing a kippa at a port in Germany was mugged and cursed (in Arabic) as a “Jew”; and there were calls for Jews in Marseilles to forgo wearing kippot in public after a Jewish man was attacked by a teenager with a machete outside a synagogue there. He later claimed to have been inspired by both ISIS and the Palestinians attacking Israelis.

Wallström, whose country hasn’t been at war since a brief one with neighboring Norway in 1814, doesn’t seem to realize that today’s battles are taking place literally on her doorstep.

Perhaps she’s noticed – despite allegations that the Swedish press has systematically suppressed stories of rapes and other attacks involving Muslim migrants or citizens – but it’s easier to focus on Israel, the standard fall guy.

Maybe Israel should call for an international inquiry into the serious spate of arson attacks on asylum centers and mosques in Sweden, which according to some reports numbered more than 50 cases last year.

The images coming out of Madaya in Syria this week show what evil looks like: It’s reflected in the faces of scared, starving people – starved by Bashar Assad’s regime.

The aid finally delivered there, with the help of the UN, might be the answer to a riddle that’s been bothering me since I noted at the beginning of the month that the UN seems to have been involved in an extraordinary deal to facilitate the transfer of ISIS members from the area near Assad’s palace in Damascus to the relative safety of the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa. It’s possible that the arrangement, which removed a direct threat to Assad, was in return for allowing the aid to reach some of his victims.

It’s a strange and scary world we live in, agreed a tour-guide friend in Istanbul after the attack this week in which at least 10 people, most of them German tourists, were killed at a popular tourist spot – apparently by an ISIS suicide bomber.

ISIS also claimed responsibility for the attack on the Israeli tourists in Cairo on January 7, in response to a call by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to target Jews “everywhere,” according to a statement it released on the Internet. The group was not the least bit contrite that the victims were Israeli Arabs, not Jews. There’s no love lost between the Islamist extremists and the ordinary Israeli citizen of any religion.

I was looking for a statement of some type when I came across the Iranian jokes. Maybe the jokes are a statement in their own funny way.

And perhaps Wallström is just a bad joke.

In any case, I’d rather laugh with the “common” Iranians than gag on the Swedish foreign minister so out of touch with reality that the joke’s on her, at our expense.

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