Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama, Assassinations and Israel

As you may have heard by now, Andrew Adler, the owner of the Atlanta Jewish Times got himself into some hot water recently, by suggesting that Israel might consider assassinating President Obama, since he's such an obstacle to their security.

To say that this is disgusting is an enormous understatement. Thankfully, condemnation from around the Jewish world was swift and vehement. Adler has been forced to resign from his post as publisher, and has already put the newspaper up for sale. The buzz and expectation are that he's gotten himself into legal trouble, too, since threats against the President are criminal. No one that I've seen is supporting his loathsome "hypothetical."

But, the JTA published an interesting article today, asking why the Jewish world, even if it thankfully usually falls short of this kind of incitement, so often sees Obama as not just bad for Israel, but as outrightly sinister, and hell-bent on Israel's (and the Jews') destruction:

While few of those critics might go as far as Adler, it doesn’t take much discussion in certain Jewish circles to find those who see something far more sinister in Obama than a president whose policies are bad for the Jews and Israel.
“I think Obama’s overriding goal is to have Israel destroyed,” said XXX*. “He puts steps in motion to bring about the destruction of the State of Israel.”
One New Yorker who insisted on anonymity said, “He’s not a Hitler in the sense that he’s anti-Semitic and wants to put every Jew into a concentration camp -- at least not as we see things right now.”
* I was just contacted by this man, and at his request, I've removed his name (even though I obviously can't do so from the original article). He feels that he was unfairly misrepresented in the original JTA article, and that it's easy to infer from his inclusion that he supports or defends a call to assassinate Obama. He does not. So, out of respect to him, I've removed his name. I sincerely thank him for taking the time to contact me, and speak to me about this.

I guess it's easy (and possibly correct) to write this off as simply another example of the standard overheated rhetoric of our day. The combination of vicious partisan politics in Washington, and the nasty echo-chamber of the Internet just makes moderation impossible, and all but guarantees that the most extreme views imaginable will get voiced, and get noticed.

But, this kind of rhetoric (the fairly common "Obama is evil," not the even more extreme "let's kill him") still bugs me. As someone who (proudly) can usually see both sides of any issue, I just have trouble imagining believing anything this extreme.

Is Obama bad for Israel? He may be. He clearly is not as supportive of Israel as George W. Bush was. In my opinion, he falls far too easily into "cycle of violence" rhetoric, which doesn't acknowledge that this is not an equal conflict. He's made some troubling, subtle comments against Israel (such as inexplicably leaving them off a list of terror victims in a speech last year). And so on.

Of course, I've heard multiple times, once from an Israeli government official, that the cooperation between the US and Israeli militaries has been better under Obama than it ever has been, and significantly so. There are also those who believe (possibly through Rose-tinted glasses) that Bush's extreme pro-Israel stance made it harder for the Palestinians to even come to the table, since they felt that the deck was stacked against them.

So, I guess that reasonable people can disagree about, and even argue about, whether Obama is good for Israel or bad, and how much so. I'm open to that.

But, can't we also agree that, even if his views and policies aren't too good for Israel, that that doesn't make him Anti-Semitic, Hitler-esque or otherwise evil?

Is that so radical?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I think understand the "treasonous" concerns about a threat against the president, I'm concerned when people are fired from their positions because of stating opinions, controversial as they may be, in the public press. I'm ignorant of whether Israeli-American relations are better or worse under Obama than they were, whether Obama has an agenda against Israel, or is just doing his best to be even-handed in a scary world.

Further, I'm ignorant of whether Adler truly intended his hypothetical to "get a reaction" as he claimed in his apology. Should we have condemned Jonathan Swift for his own "modest proposal?"

At the risk of sounding extreme myself, is it so outlandish to suggest that Israel might consider assassinating a political enemy, or even an Iranian nuclear scientist, if it would protect millions of lives? Maybe it is distasteful to discuss, but to dismiss it is to be naive of the situation that Israel is in as well as world history. Mossad = Navy SEALS who don't kiss and tell.