In his column a few days ago, the owner-publiser of the Atlanta Jewish Times, a Jewish weekly newspaper independent of the local Jewish community federation, spun out the “option” (one of three posed) of Mossad agents killing Pres. Obama to get Vice Pres. Biden in office as a replacement more inclined to move militarily to forestall an Iranian nuclear bomb. He laid out this as a possibility:
Third, give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies. Yes, you read “three” correctly. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles?
This became a national story in the media, with a mandatory Secret Servicer investigation and a prompt apology & retraction by the publisher, Andrew Adler. This story has also been predictably distorted by hate-mongerers in the blogosphere, such as this site which claims:
The Atlanta Jewish Times, a newspaper representing the Jewish people in the Atlanta area, is taking donations for a fund to finance the murder of President Barak Obama on behalf of the Israeli government.
The Jewish community responded quickly, with indignant condemnations of Mr. Adler, including such stalwart defenders of Israel as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. The Jerusalem Post blog by David Harris, the executive director of the American
Jewish Committee, is entitled “Dear Atlanta Jewish Times Publisher Andrew Adler: How Revolting!” The more consistently dovish and liberal Israel Policy Forum dubbed its statement, “We will not stand for this.”
There’s not likely to be an actual Jewish conspiracy to assassinate the President, nor did Adler appear to write his column as a call for such a horrible deed, but he surely sullied the good name of both Israel and the Jewish community with this irresponsible flight of speculation. And clearly, it could inspire extremists and mishugenas to think in these terms.
The Inevitable Question of Iran
This episode also reminds us how unnerving the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb is to so many Jews (myself included). I hope and pray that a peaceful solution will be found to this problem.
My heart is with Roger Cohen, as expressed in his NY Times column, “Don’t Do It, Bibi.” I also found the recent op-ed co-authored by Shibley Telhami, “Preventing a Nuclear Iran Peacefully” somewhat promising. Telhami is a University of Maryland professor and highly-respected pollster of opinion in Middle Eastern countries.
I’ve met him twice: at a meeting a number of years ago of the Meretz USA board and at last year’s J Street conference. An Arab-American (interestingly, we resemble each other physically), he grew up in Israel and is a moderate on Mideast issues.
He plausibly suggests that if Israel were to open its nuclear facilities to international inspection, in concert with Iran doing the same, this would be a “game-changer.” He and his co-author Steven Kull contend:
… a nuclear-free zone may be hard for Iran to refuse. Iranian diplomats have said they would be open to an intrusive role for the United Nations if it accepted Iran’s right to enrich uranium for energy production — not to the higher levels necessary for weapons.
Wisely, Telhami does not suggest that a nuclear-free Middle East would immediately be in the offing. Many observers, including myself, see Israel’s actual nuclear disarmament as only possible following a general regional establishment of peace with the Jewish state (because Israel’s nuclear arsenal is a hedge against the overwhelming numerical superiority of its potential enemies). Even then, it may take years or decades for Israel to be confident enough to take this plunge. But it would be good for the journey to begin.