It is difficult to know how exactly to classify a recent column published in the Atlanta Jewish Times that, unbelievably, listed the assassination of President Obama, as one of Israel’s options in dealing with the threat of nuclear attack from Iran. But whether you term it over-the-top criticism of Obama or a case of non-ideological idiocy, it is the sort of thing that all people of good will, no matter what they think of the president’s policies, must condemn in the harshest possible terms. The vile canard that Israel would ever consider such a thing is the sort of thing we might expect to see in an anti-Semitic publication rather than one that serves a Jewish community. The author of the piece, the paper’s publisher Andrew Adler, has apologized but he still ought to be forced to step down from his position.
But whatever Adler’s fate turns out to be — and he will be having some rather uncomfortable conversations with the Secret Service — there will be those who will try to use his absurd article to prove that President Obama’s Jewish detractors are so deranged by hatred for him that they are willing to say or write anything. Indeed, we should expect Adler’s stupidity to be a frequent theme employed by apologists for the president who will seek to discredit all of those who argue that Obama’s policies are potentially harmful to Israel. Democrats who try to associate all of Obama critics with Adler will be wrong. But the Atlanta outrage should also serve as a reminder to those who rightly take the president to task that their comments must remain within the bounds of civility and fact.
We’ve often criticized liberals for indulging in hateful speech and inflammatory rhetoric aimed at conservatives while posing as guardians of civility in politics. The recent comments by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the National Democratic Committee, who tried to revive the smear linking the Tea Party to the shooting of Rep. Gabriele Giffords, is an excellent example. Indeed, when it comes to assassination fantasies, liberals who laughed at films and articles that made similar threats about President Bush are in no position to wax indignant about Adler. But it must be admitted that there are conservatives, including some Jewish conservatives, who are just as willing to accuse the president of anything.
Some Democrats may claim that the premise of Adler’s spy novel fantasy — that Obama is “unfriendly to Israel” — is as false as his claim that the Jewish state would even think of attacking the leader of their only ally. But one needn’t believe in Adler’s despicable suggestion to understand that Obama’s attitude toward Israel has been less than supportive of the Jewish state throughout his first three years in office. His distancing of America from Israel, the fights he has picked with the Netanyahu government and stands on Jerusalem have undermined its diplomatic position and strengthened Palestinian extremism.
Yet just as liberals try to ignore these truths, Obama’s opponents must not speak as if the U.S.-Israel alliance has already been completely destroyed or that security cooperation between the two countries has been abandoned. It may well be that an Obama second term would present severe challenges for Israel but that does not excuse those who wish to avert the president’s re-election from indulging in flights of rhetorical fancy or to make accusations that are not based in fact.
Atlanta’s Adler idiocy ought not to be used to smear those who point out Obama’s shortcomings on Israel. But neither should it be completely forgotten, especially by those on both the right and the left who can’t be trusted to tell the difference between a poor record and something far worse.