Helen Thomas on being fired and the Middle East

By Real News Network

Thomas: Israel should get out of Occupied Territories; White House Correspondents Assn out of line.

Helen Thomas is an American news reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and author She was the first female officer of the National Press Club and the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association. Her latest book, co-authored with Craig Crawford is Listen Up, Mr President: Everything you Always Wanted Your President To Know and Do.

Also see Jay Paul’s June 2010 piece, In Defense of Helen Thomas:

Helen Thomas was the dean of the White House Press corp.  She has a fifty-year history of tough-minded journalism and is one of the very, very few journalists in the mainstream press who has had the guts to question US policy towards Israel. On Monday she was pressured into resigning, “effective immediately”.

On Friday she was asked by a guy who stuck a video camera in her face, for any comments on Israel and she said, “Tell them to get the get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people [the Palestinians] are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, it’s not Poland.” She was asked where they should go and she answered, “They should go home, to Poland, Germany and America”. The video has been making its way around the Internet.

This was said days after the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla that killed at least nine activists as their boat sailed in international waters. [NOTE: When I originally wrote this article, I was mistaken about the sequence of events. The video was shot on May 27th, a few days before the Israeli attack. It was released on the Internet on Friday. Of course it was after the Israeli war on Gaza and the blockade].

She later apologized in a short statement on her website “”I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Her apology was not enough to stop calls for her head from those who have wanted to shut Thomas up for years.

Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s press secretary, led the call in an e-mail Friday to the Huffington Post saying Thomas’ comments amount to “religious cleansing.”

“She should lose her job over this,” Fleischer wrote. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.”

Perhaps Fleishcher should also add that he is someone who knows something about apologies . . . being the leading apologist for the Bush administration as their war led to the deaths of at least one million Iraqis.

But Lanny Davis, former special counsel to and White House spokesman for President Bill Clinton, went even further than Fleischer. He issued a statement on Sunday saying Thomas, “has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot.”

Now, Davis should know something about apologies and apologists as well. TheHill.com reported that Davis led a lobbying effort against deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on behalf of Honduran business leaders. This is in defense of a regime that came to power in an illegal coup and is killing journalists and activists.  Hmmm  . . . defending those that kill activists . . .

Davis went on, “Her [Thomas] statement that Jews in Israel should leave Israel and go back to Poland or Germany is an ancient and well-known anti-Semitic stereotype of the Alien Jew not belonging in the ‘land of Israel’ — one that began 2,600 years with the first tragic and violent diaspora of the Jews at the hands of the Romans,” said Davis.

Thomas was not talking about Jews that lived in the region from Roman times. If she had been given more of a chance to explain herself, rather than the 30-second sound bite traveling around the web, she might have made it clear that she also wasn’t referring to the thousands of Jews who lived in Palestine prior to 1948.

What Thomas clearly did say she was talking about was Jews that had come from Germany, Poland and America. Now it’s likely that most of the Jewish refugees that came to Palestine from Europe just after the War, did so not because they “belong to the land of Israel”, but due to fact that the American, Canadian and British governments wouldn’t drop their anti-Jewish quotas even after the horrors of the genocide were fully exposed (let’s talk about some real anti-Semites).

I don’t know of any opinion polls taken at the time, but if those refugees had a real choice to go to some impoverished potentially war-filled land in the Middle East or join the Jewish community in New York, I know what I would have chosen.

The American Zionist organizations at the time did not fight for a more open immigration policy to allow Jews into America; they lobbied furiously for the Jewish refugees to go to Palestine as part of a move towards the founding of a Jewish state.

As is well known, this state was created in the process of expelling thousands of Palestinians from their lands, people who had nothing to do with the European genocide against the Jews. You cannot say the same about the Anglo-American countries that for much of the ’30s were quite happy to equip Hitler with cars and machinery. Quite content to shut their mouths as Hitler began an ethnic cleansing that would end in barbaric genocide.

As far as the American Jews that went to live in Israel after 1948, it’s difficult to believe they went to escape persecution, as many of the Jews from other places that went to Israel, in fact did. So, one can understand a certain specific resentment against American Jews who decided that it was ok, at someone else’s expense, to work out their identity crisis and pick up some free airline tickets to boot.

Lanny Davis statement continued, “If she had asked all blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials — much less a privileged honorary seat?”

Our defender of illegal coups knows very well this is not analogous.  The obvious comparison is asking all European Americans to “get the hell out”, and leave the land to its rightful owners, Native Americans.  One could argue Mexican Americans might have an argument to stay in certain parts of the country.

The European migration to America isn’t such a stretch if one thinks about it. Colonialism makes use of people fleeing religious persecution to populate their new possession . . .

At any rate, we all know what’s going on here. The hyper-pro-Israel lobby, in both parties, hasn’t much liked the fact that Helen Thomas dares to speak up and question that most sacred of topics, and right from the front row of the White House Press Gallery.  Heck, she had the gall to ask President Obama about Israel’s “secret” nuclear weapons. She even asked the current White House spokesman why the US had not condemned the Israeli attacks on the aid flotilla. No wonder they want her the hell out.

Do I think all Jews (that came after 1948) should get out of Palestine? Well, no more or less than Europeans should get out of North America, or the Portuguese should get out of Brazil, or the British should get the hell out of Australia. There does come a point where such things are simply not possible.

There’s really no need anyway, there’s plenty of land and resources. The only issue is, are the rights of the people who owned the land before colonization going to be respected now; is there proper compensation; do they have the right to self-determination and so on.

In the case of the Palestinians, what Israel needs to do has been made very clear in UN resolutions and in the demands of the Palestinians. In spite of the illegal blockade of Gaza, almost no one, including the Hamas representative I interviewed a few weeks ago, says the Jews have to get out. Ok there are some that say it, people get very angry after 62 years in a refugee camp, but what most Palestinians want is to live as equals with Jews in a truly democratic state.

It’s way past time that we can discuss Israel and Palestine without the McCarthyite witch hunt atmosphere that has ruled for sixty years.

I said in my last blog, not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism – but some is.

Helen Thomas’ isn’t.

14 responses to “Helen Thomas on being fired and the Middle East

  1. I was born a Jew. I think the problem, racism aside, is semantic. If people mean Isreal, then they should say the State of Israel. However, if they mean the Zionist Push or Zionism, then they should say that…to me there is a difference. I am anti-Zionist, and I think Israel should get the hell outta the occpied territories as well. But even as a non-practicing Jew, when some says “Isreal”, I think “Jewish”, and that leads to the thought of anti-semitism. Its a fine line here, because anti-semitism is so close to the surface in every country. I do not defend any of the aggressor actions by the State of Israel, or the Zionist block. And there are Jews living there that think this is nuts. So people need to be sensitive I think, to how they phrase the subject. And no, that is not an infringement of free speech, it is a human decency to be sensitive to others’ sensibilities. And I DO THINK HELEN SHOULD GET GER SEAT BACK!!! She’s the only one who had the chutzpah to say what she thought!

  2. Let me amend that with “when some people say “Israel” I think Jewish”. Its the way that they say it…and believe me, I have heard it all because I don’t “look Jewish”. So I get to hear all the insider-buddy-buddy-hush-whispered anti-Jewish stuff that’s out there. Thanks.

  3. In a BBC interview of Golda Meir, when she was prime minister of Israel, she was asked: “I just want to be sure that I understand what you’re saying… You are saying that in a doomsday situation Israel would be prepared to take the region and the world down with it?” Without the shortest of pauses for reflection, and in the gravel voice that could charm or intimidate American presidents according to need, she replied: “Yes! That’s exactly what I am saying.” Alan Hart

  4. Israel today has a major “murder-suicide” mentality. Their policies are suicidal, and their attitude towards their neighbors is murderous. They are in lock-step with the US’ own headlong descent into fasicsm. (Just because 21st century fascism doesn’t look like Hitler, doesn’t mean the Corporate State is any less of a reality).

  5. No arguments at all. Just my point. And in another comments section on another article, I stated that it was sad and tragic that “Israel had become the Reichstag and India had become the Raj”. I stand by that.

  6. Yes, that’s true, which is why I follow ahimsa…not-hating or not-harming, as proscribed by Gandhi. We all have to work on ourselves as well as on the externals, is my belief, or nothing good will be accomplished, as pointed out above, we only replace one tyranny with another.

  7. Good article and have a broader understanding, Thank you.

  8. Here’s a link to the Jay Paul piece, “In Defense of Helen Thomas”-
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/06/07-6

  9. I think we all need to remember that Mayer Rothschild had it out for the United States and the “American Experiment” and was dedicated to its undoing. His “impudent Americans” comment preceded the US Civil War and the Civil War preceded the death of John Steinbeck’s grandparents in Palestine as they participated in the “repatriation” of the Jews to “Zion”.

    I see this entire “end times” fiasco as a well-funded, intentional initiative to ensnare Muslims and Christians in an internecine battle designed to leave the “Rothschilds class” of humanity completely unmolested. And I use that name, “red shield,” as one would use Father Coughlin when referring to Christians. It is not the Jews who were the problem — ever. It was a class of individuals who happened to claim Jewish ancestry who did not care for the Jewish religion or its traditions, stooping to commiting apostacy in order to manipulate the world into accepting their rule without question or debate.

    I suspect that genetics will evidence a takeover of the Jewish race by those of Turkish extraction. These were the original merchant class who facilitated commerce between Muslims in Palestine and Christians in Europe, eventually foresaking their harsh shamanic religion for the more opportune and forgiving Jewish religion.

    I could be wrong, but I really believe this angle on the Abrahamic religions should be explored. Our lives could depend on it.

    • While the organized manipulation and tyranny you refer to is quite true, I’m not sure religion or ethnicity has anything to do with it. Given the opportunity, a small fraction of sociopaths is always ready/willing/able.

  10. I agree Laudy. And Volaar – even if what you say is true, you’re only one step away from saying all Jews run the banking systems of the entire world, and therefore feeding the beast. IMHO. Nothing personal.

    • Generalizations often get us in trouble, inadvertently. Looking at all the old white men in Congress…..we can see ‘Problem’ writ large. But there are plenty of old white men in shelters and food lines too.

  11. You’re right. Po’ ole’ white men! The problem really is the established paradigm…that’s what needs to change!

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