This past week, we had a reminder of what can happen when truth is bent way out of shape, and the resulting lie then repeated over and again until it gains an unchallengeable veneer of veracity. The just (and justly) resigned publisher of The Atlanta Jewish Times, in an opinion column, clearly and unambiguously suggested that Israel should assassinate the president of the United States.
In his column, the unthinking publisher wrote that assassinating President Barack Obama was an option that had to be considered. It would put Vice President Joe Biden into the Oval Office. Unlike Obama, he said, Biden is a true friend of Israel who cares for its security. In addition, he wrote, Obama is the sole reason why the United States has not acted decisively against Tehran’s nuclear program. Biden would shut down the Iranian threat with all deliberate speed.
The suggestion is despicable in every respect. What lurks beneath it, however, is even more insidious: The publisher is convinced that Obama is Israel’s enemy and cannot be trusted to help prevent its annihilation. It is a belief held by many in and out of the Jewish world.
What the president believes in his heart about Israel is probably known only to the president. None of us is God; none of us can know what is in anyone’s heart but our own.
We can, however, look at the record to see what clues it offers. That record, like it or not, puts this president firmly in the “friend of Israel” column; the myths regarding Obama notwithstanding, Israel itself acknowledges that.
The unprecedented security cooperation between the two countries puts the president firmly in another column – “cares for Israel’s security.” Obama referred to this in his State of the Union message Tuesday evening. “Our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest cooperation between our countries in history,” he said.
That is not a lie. Its truth was demonstrated yet again last Friday, Jan. 20, when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, visited Israel. “We have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time,” Dempsey said, “and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we’ll all be.” Translated, that means the United States and Israel need to get even closer as the Middle East becomes ever more unsettled.
Earlier this month, The Jewish Standard devoted a considerable amount of space to exploding the myths that dominate the discussion of where Obama stands regarding Israel. Some readers saw this coverage as a pro-Obama piece of propaganda. It was what it was advertised to be – an honest, unbiased comparison of myths to facts. If printing the truth is seen as taking sides, our democracy is in serious peril.
Jews, especially, know the evil that is the Big Lie. It was the most powerful weapon the Nazis wielded in their effort to make ordinary Germans and others complicit in our extermination.
The Standard’s motive was not to help re-elect the president but to begin an effort to “dial down” the rhetoric that depicts him as Israel’s greatest enemy of all time. We began to discuss this coverage in late November, coincidentally around the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Obama today is being demonized as Rabin was demonized. The demonization cost Rabin his life. On the evening of Nov. 4, 1995, he was cut down by a man who allowed myths to obscure his judgment. Now, a seemingly rational and responsible man has suggested that Obama deserves the same fate.
In a democratic society, votes should be cast based on facts coupled with gut instinct. “Whenever people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson said. Ignorance is not an acceptable substitute for informed opinion. We must not allow ourselves to be swayed by fantasies merely because we are too busy or too lazy to search out the facts.
It is okay to look at those facts and say that, nevertheless, we cannot vote for someone because we do not trust his or her sincerity.
It is not okay – not now, not in 1995, not ever – to so distort the truth that a target is painted on the forehead of another.