A maelstrom of controversy erupted this past week after the publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times made highly controversial remarks, suggesting, in an op-ed, the assassination of President Barack Obama as a possible means for Israel to achieve its foreign policy objectives. Publisher Andrew Adler wrote on January 13 that one option available to Israel was to “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.” [Editor’s note: It is unclear from Adler’s op-ed why he felt that Vice President Biden would be significantly more pro-Israel than President Obama.] Adler quickly said that he regretted the piece after the outrage the article generated, and the newspaper, which Adler owns, plans to publish a retraction and apology. Adler has since decided to resign and sell the paper.
Adler’s editorial was titled “What Would You Do?” In the piece, Adler discussed the options for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel in dealing with a potential major military conflict in the future which threatened the very existence of Israel, and could lead to missile attacks on major Israeli cities. He outlined three courses of action the prime minister could take now to forestall such a disaster scenario in five years. The first option involved making a preemptive strike against Hamas and Hezbollah, and the second consisted of calling for immediate dismantling of Iran’s nuclear facilities, no matter what the cost. The third option he lays out is the assassination of the president. “Yes, you read ‘three’ correctly. Order a hit on the president in order to preserve Israel’s existence,” Adler wrote, “You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table.”
Adler immediately regretted writing the column. “No, no, no. It’s unfathomable, unthinkable,” Adler said to The Guardian in response to charges that he seriously meant that Israel should consider assassinating Barack Obama. He claims that the purpose of the piece was not to actually suggest an assassination of the United States president, but rather to provoke a response from readers. He told ABC News that he has been inundated with calls about the column, and that he did not mean to advocate an assassination in any way and that he was an “idiot” who put “my pen in my mouth.” Secret Service spokesman Max Millan also told ABC that “We are aware of this matter, and we will make all appropriate, investigative follow-up in regard to this matter,” but Adler denied having heard from them.
Although he initially decided to simply print a retraction and apology in the next week’s edition, as of January 23, Adler chose to resign from the paper as well. He gave up control of day-to-day activities at the newspaper to staff writer John McCurdy.
The Jewish Federation of Atlanta demanded his immediate resignation and ceased all communication with the paper until that demand was met. The Federation commented that “While we acknowledge his public apology and remorse, the damage done to the people of Israel, the global Jewish people, and especially the Jewish Community of Atlanta is irreparable.”
Other prominent Jewish organizations also spoke out strongly in the face of Adler’s column and called for his resignation. “The damage inflicted on Israel and perhaps on U.S.-Israel relations is incalculable. We hope that Adler’s swift resignation will help quell any fallout from his outrageous scenario,” said B’nai B’rith International in a statement. The Anti-Defamation League’s Director Abraham H. Foxman issued a statement in which he said, “There is absolutely no excuse, no justification, no rationalization for this kind of rhetoric. It doesn’t even belong in fiction. These are irresponsible and extremist words. It is outrageous and beyond the pale. An apology cannot possibly repair the damage.” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris wrote, in a piece in the Jerusalem Post that “He should begin by asking himself whether he’s in the right business. “Harris wrote further that, “Owning a community newspaper and seeking to inform readers entails a larger responsibility, at least it should. That’s not consistent, shall we say, with conjuring up scenarios for the assassination of the American president or seeking to implicate Israel in such utterly unimaginable schemes.”
The Atlanta Jewish Times is over 80 years old, having begun publishing in 1925 as the Southern Israelite. Andrew Adler purchased the paper in April 2009. The paper is a weekly publication with between three and four thousand subscribers. With the quick fall of the Times, the Atlanta Jewish News announced today that it will begin a print edition of what had previously been an online-only presence. “The time is right for Atlanta Jewish News to publish a print edition,” said Marcy Levinson-Brooks, founder and editor-in-chief. “Atlanta benefits from a quality, comprehensive Jewish newspaper with insightful content, and our online success has laid the foundation for our move to print.”