Andrew Adler, owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, appears on a local cable program to apologize for his recent column proposing that Israel assassinate President Obama. It’s a wrenchingly, gruesomely compelling scene of a broken man who plainly has no idea how he got himself in this mess.
I was basically writing the column to draw, you know, draw interest I guess to the Iranian situation and to get people’s reaction to it, and like in no ways, means or form to advocate anything… I just felt I was doing my job as an editor – an owner and publisher, to get the readers to wake up to what’s happening with Iran and Israel and the nuclear situation…
That’s actually a bit disingenuous. What he wrote in the column was, “You have got to believe, as I do, that all options are on the table.” In other words, I mean what I say. On the other hand, he repeats this idea over and over, that it was just a thought exercise, and you get the impression that he has convinced himself he didn’t mean it.
Call me stupid, call me naïve, call me morally insane, whatever words you want to apply… It’s storming outside as we speak and I’ve always felt that when a storm happens, that God’s angry with me.
Still. “The intentions were good, to get more people involved, to promote Israel’s side.” How could that be a bad thing?
One of the most intriguing threads is his recollection of his January 15 interview with Israel’s deputy consul general in Atlanta. Toward the end, he says, “she wanted to talk about Iran”:
I forget what she said, but it wasn’t a pleasant ending if we don’t wake up to what’s happening.
Again, as I wrote in my post last night, this is the end result of a campaign of incitement. The very healthy instinct among American Jews to want the best for Israel is exploited, fed with a deliberately exaggerated sense of threat and vulnerability, until anything seems imaginable. Let’s be clear: there is a real threat. But it’s less than it was a generation ago. And yet it seems that as the threat declines, the rage grows.
Most of us don’t cross the line, but there’s always someone who will. The interviewer alludes to that when she suggests to Adler that “some might be reminded” by his column of what happened to Yitzhak Rabin. His response is a befuddled: “True – I wasn’t – to look back on it, I screwed up.”
I’m at a loss as to what tomorrow will bring, what time will bring, what the next five minutes will bring. It’s something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. … I deserve the repercussions. All can say is, I am devastated, I’m stunned. I want to go to Israel. I probably won’t be welcome there now. I want to go anywhere in the Jewish community, people will look at me like I did — … To think that I could lose everything is devastating.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).