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Is there a bigger message in the Atlanta Jewish Times fiasco?

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J Street, the Union for Reform Judaism, Americans for Peace Now and the Anti-Defamation League seem to agree that the Atlanta Jewish Times column speculating that Israel would consider assassinating Barack Obama has broader implications.

Andrew Adler, the author of the column and the paper’s owner-publisher, outlined three scenarios he believed could devolve from what he described as differences between the Obama administration and Israel on Iran. (The differences are not nearly as great as Adler imagines, by the way, but his thinking was so bizarre, this is almost beside the point .) One: Israel starts a regional war against Hezbollah and Hamas to disable them before their Iranian sponsors lend them a nuclear umbrella; Two: Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear program; Three: The Mossad kills Obama to bring in Israel-friendly Joe Biden.

In separate statements, the groups tie Adler’s speculation to broader rhetorical trends.

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Here’s J Street:

The extremism evinced by the Atlanta Jewish Times’ editor is enabled by a broader communal atmosphere in which critics of Israeli governmental policy are regularly called anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic.

While we welcome the outrage that is being focused around this latest incident, we hope that the American Jewish community will take this opportunity to consider the state of discourse over Israel more broadly.

We need to temper the rhetoric and recognize that disagreements over policy do not justify the vilification and smears that they too often bring.

We urge the community’s leadership to address this broader phenomenon directly and in a coordinated and meaningful manner.”

Here’s URJ, which came out after Adler said he had resigned today and is putting the paper up for sale:

While welcoming the news that Mr. Adler will no longer be at the helm of the paper, Religious Action Center Director Rabbi David Saperstein said, "It is not enough for the American Jewish community to only condemn this editorial in the strongest possible terms. We must reclaim the public dialogue around Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship from those who launch attacks for partisan political gain."

The ADL is a little more circumspect, but also wonders whether Adler was reflecting rather than initiating extremist thinking:

Irresponsible rhetoric metastasizes into more dangerous rhetoric.  The ideas expressed in Mr. Adler’s column reflect some of the extremist rhetoric that unfortunately exists — even in some segments of our community — that maliciously labels President Obama as an ‘enemy of the Jewish people.’

Here’s APN, like the ADL, a little more circumspect:

Words have consequences. Calls for murder may have disastrous consequences. We believe that people in positions of power – politicians, clerics, journalists or other opinion leaders, on all sides, bear a heavy responsibility of avoiding incendiary rhetoric.

Neither the American Jewish Committee, nor B’nai B’rith International place Adler’s speculation in a broader rhetorical context, although B’nai B’rith worries about the fallout:

 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.

Attempts to link Jared Loughner’s attempted killing of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) to heated rhetoric largely fizzled once the degree of Loughner’s deranged state became clear. And to be utterly fair to Adler, he didn’t quite endorse the scenario, but wondered whether Israel was considering it.

Still, there’s a "Discuss" question here: Is  Adler an outlier for even contemplating such a scenario? Or is this the natural extension of some of the tougher anti-Obama rhetoric?

UPDATED with APN statement.

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