Saturday, January 21, 2012

Firestorm over Atlanta Jewish Times Publisher's Column Suggesting Israel Consider Obama Assassination

An international firestorm has erupted over a column written by Atlanta Jewish Times Publisher Andrew Adler which suggests a scenario where Israel should consider assassinating President Barack Obama.

In his January 13 column entitled “What would you do,” Adler imagines Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receiving a briefing that Hezbollah and Syria would launch an attack that rains 15,000 rockets and missiles into Israel, killing thousands; while Iran has reached nuclear capability and Israel can’t depend on U.S. assistance due to U.S. defense cuts and a continuing belief in diplomacy.

Adler suggests three plans of action, referencing the “Kobayashi Maru” test in “Star Trek” which is a no-win situation. First, pre-emptively strike Hezbollah and Hamas; second, go against U.S. preference and launch a full-scale assault on Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

His third scenario is “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.”

He reiterates that the third item was not a typo, and that he feels even Israel has discussed this “Tom Clancy-type scenario.”

He concludes, “How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives...Jews, Christians and Arabs alike?

“You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table.”

On Friday, Adler apologized for the column, telling JTA “"I very much regret it, I wish I hadn't made reference to it at all.” He will publish an apology in the next edition, and had received a lot of negative feedback.

Ophir Aviran, Israel’s consul general in Atlanta condemned the column “in the strongest possible terms,” saying he was “appalled at this deranged and morally repugnant assertion.”

The Anti-Defamation League denounced it as “outrageous and beyond the pale.” National Director Abraham Foxman said “An apology cannot possibly repair the damage,” and questioned Adler’s fitness to run a newspaper.

A Secret Service spokesman said “we will make all appropriate, investigative follow-up in regard to this matter.”

The Atlanta Jewish News, which as started in 2010 by a woman who was laid off by Adler shortly after he bought the AJT in 2009, condemned the piece and urged media outlets to not confuse the two — the Jerusalem Post was among those who mistakenly referenced the Atlanta Jewish News.

Marcy Levinson-Brooks, publisher of the Atlanta Jewish News, said “I am appalled by the nature, tone and overall insanity of Adler’s editorial column. My company absolutely condemns this printed insanity.”

Dov Wilker, director of the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta, said “While we acknowledge Mr. Adler's apology, we are flabbergasted that he could ever say such a thing in the first place. How could he even conceive of such a twisted idea?

"Mr. Adler surely owes immediate apologies to President Obama, as well as to the State of Israel and his readership, the Atlanta Jewish community."

The column first hit national prominence on Gawker.com, which said the AJT “appears to be a real community newspaper.”

One conspiratorial website latched onto the story, claiming the paper was soliciting donations to undertake such a hit on Obama, and that this flap would bring out the “truth” of Israel’s so-called “involvement” in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The AJT began as the Southern Israelite in Augusta, Ga., moving to Atlanta in 1925. In the 1980s it became part of the Buerger publishing empire, along with the Baltimore Jewish Times and Detroit Jewish News, among others.

In 2000, Buerger sold the Atlanta and Detroit papers to Jewish Renaissance Media, which also operated jewish.com. Though Atlanta and Detroit had similar-sized Jewish communities, the Atlanta paper had roughly half the subscription base of Detroit’s paper.

The AJT attempted a regional Jewish magazine, Jewish South, that produced four annual issues. By 2009, after an unsuccessful rebranding as JT, the Atlanta paper was sold to Adler, who had been publishing Metro Jewish News in Atlanta. At the time, it was reported that had he not bought the paper, the AJT was just days from closing its doors permanently.

According to reports, the AJT’s press run is currently around 3,000, less than one-third what it was a decade ago.