Back in Journalism school in the early 80's I had many 4th Estate idols, chief among them Edward R. Murrow, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the venerable Helen Thomas, who was still with UPI at the time. I greatly admired and respected the feisty and fearless old gal who put many a president on the hotseat. The lady had balls.
But Thomas's much revered news career came to an abrupt halt this week. The iconic 89-year-old journalist, who's covered 10 U.S. administrations and whose career dates back to 1943, on May 27th was asked by a rabbi outside the White House during a Jewish heritage month celebration if she had any comments to make about Israel. She said "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine... Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land; its not German, its not Poland's." Asked where they should go, she said "they should go home" to "Poland, Germany... America and everywhere else." Her remarks were shocking, and would've been the equivalent of hearing Larry King, Tom Brokaw or Barbara Walters telling blacks to go back to Africa.
Since then, Thomas has 'retired' from Hearst and was dropped from her speaking agency. So what happened? Why did Thomas so recklessly put a humiliating final chapter to such an illustrious career? Are we to assume that this Kentucky-born Christian of Lebanese descent is a life-long anti-Semite, especially given her often pro-Arab comments in the past? Are her controversial remarks the result of old age and the onset of dementia? Regardless, her remarks are reprehensible, and a sad reminder of how much racism and anti-Semitism still exists in America today, even among the intelligentsia and the media.
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I'm from Michigan and have followed Helen's career for a long time. It's very sad that it had to end this way. She's still a great lady.
She's right. The Jews are occupiers, and any consideration of how Palestinians are treated by Israel should consider that. Not that they should go back to Germany or anywhere, but they did take the land from those who lived there. Just because Jews were living there for thousands of years, does not somehow justify dislocation of those who lived there under British jurisdiction. Just as removal of the Jews from Palestine in not a solution to current issues, so to, the removal of Palestinians is not a solution, and will only perpetuate the pain.
As long as Israel denies the injustice to Palestinians, there will be no peace ... in the world. The wrongs that have been perpetuated on the Jews do not justify wrongs to others.
The sad thing is that for many years, Thomas - a person of Arab descent - was known to say many of the kinds of things that was finally caught on tape. Yet the mainstream media, which is typically anti-Israel, protected her.
She was indeed feisty and generally from a liberal perspective. So they protected her, in part because the mainstream liberal media tends to be anti-semitic as well, led by the self hating Jewish Sulzbergers at the New York Times.
Andy, I'm disappointed by your thoughts in this post. It's a shame that your usual sound reasoning is undermined every time an Israeli issue surfaces. There are far too many issues to address here, but I want to make two points to help you make your way back to a progressive analysis of the issue.
The first: your comparison of her comments to Brokaw and the like "telling blacks to go back to Africa" is unwarranted and structurally as distinct as an example can get. African Americans were enslaved and forced to the United States against their will; Israelis moved to Israel in order to settle it as a political (and sometimes religious) act backed by the world's superpowers. While we might be shocked by Thomas's comments, your comparison between slaves and Israelis isn't analogous. One may still criticize that position, but it's not analogous to dealing with the legacy of the slave trade.
Secondly, and this is the most obvious point, her remarks were anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Even if she is pro-Arab, being pro-Arab isn't the same as being anti-Semitic. What she said did not attack Israelis as an ethnically distinct group (which, of course, they are not). Instead, she advocated for Israelis (a national group) to leave a particular nation-state. Again, this is a controversial statement about expelling a group claiming a particular geopolitical area, but it is not anti-Semitic.
I'll continue to monitor this thread for you to respond.
Andy, we all understand the horribly unjust devastation Jews have endured across millennia. That is an absolutely essential backdrop to this entire discussion -- and is one major why tensions run so high. It's true that Israel is largely composed of Jews, but we all know that many Jews (and others, of course) are not pro-Israel as we know it.
It is important to make the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism because they have different objects, even if they are often confounded. Whether or not Helen Thomas is one or the other, there is an important distinction to be made there. I, for example, am pro-Jew but not pro-Isreal as it is -- and I am certainly not anti-Semitic. I have many Jewish friends, none of whom are Zionists. They are certainly not anti-Semitic. We all hope Jewish ethnicity and religious traditions flourish, but that doesn't mean we think that Israel's actions are always just -- nor even particularly Jewish. So, please, understand the very real distinction between the two kinds of orientation. Thoughts?
Also, any response to my criticism of your contrast?
Sorry. Being "anti-Zionist" has been a very convenient, more "PC" way for anti-Semites to express their views. You can nuance this crap all you want, but the simple truth is, as goes Israel so go the Jews. You may wish to separate "anti-Israeli" sentiments from "anti-Jewish", but I ain't buyin it.
Andrew, Maybe,for the first time in your life you are witnessing, what has & always will be a fact of life -not so much the anti-semites, but the real belly of the beast - the vile jew haters crawling out of the woodwork, thanks to the likes of Helen Thomas. So Ms. Thomas is lebanese. Well that explains it - hope she is not related to Danny Thomas - a good man not to be tainted by her. The outrageous arrogance of her comments to the Rabbi about his people, was so vitriolic and filled with rancor, if there was an oven nearbye, she would have thrown him in with glee. Imagine saying that to a priest or minister! I have heard the expression too many times "go back where you came from" but they usually are blurted out during some stupid argument by shallow,uneducated,simple minded ignorant nitwits - Ms. Thomas is a highly educated,very well informed, intelligent nitwit who is a mean & vicious old woman,and should have been booted out of the press corp a long time ago. And to add insult to injury, comes up with that mealy-mouthed, hollow as a straw,"apology" obviously written by some PR intern.- So Helen wants the jews of Israel to go back to germany/poland and very begrudgingly, the USA -So Helen, have you not heard of Auschwitz? or the Warsaw Ghetto, where after weeks of fierce resistance, the germans rounded up the polish jews & sent them to the ovens. And do you really want them in the U.S? I doubt it. As a young reporter during WW2, how you must have admired Hitler,& his regime.
News Flash, Helen, THEY ARE HOME!!!AND HOME THEY WILL STAY!! Maybe its time for Helen to go home to Lebanon or at least out to pasture in the blue green grass of Kentucky, to graze peacefully with the other old & useless mares. She is a disgrace to her profession, to journalism & our country. And to all you "anons" - (ashamed to tell your names?) shame on you - for not accepting our only ally in the middle east - who keep our mutual enemies at bay!
Thanks Andrew, for your well informed & focused blogs.
P.S.- does anyone remember a short while back, during a morning press conference on the activities of al-gaida, taliban and the jihadists, Helen Thomas referred to them as "so called" terrorists and their actions "so called" terrorism?
hmmnn, interesting -kind of tells you a lot about her mindset,now & always.- I know she is a liberal and in this country, that is her right - but does that sound like a liberal American? Sounds to me more like a liberal arab! She should have been shown the door then, but was only mildly criticized -which enabled her to spout even more disrespect, this time to a Rabbi. who's next?
Andy, I beg you to step back from your own beliefs and experiences and think about the logic here.
In the most basic terms: A exists. B exists. Members of A compose B, but B is not A. Being against B is not being against A.
How do you explain the (hundreds of) thousands of Jews who are not Zionists? According to your logic, they are anti-Semitic. Do you really think that?
to anon451 - HUH?? stop the pills - & explain that theory in non algerbraic language if possible-& throw in the arabs (C?) --- btw - do you know that the arabs are also semites, descendants of Shem, including Babylonians, Assyrians, Arameans,Phenicians,etc?? look it up - explain that in the most basic terms einstein - I mean anon.
A thought to ponder -
Isnt it interesting that in commenting on Andys political blogs, everyone gives a name/handle - but notice, when it comes to Israel and the Jews, everyone is anonymous - hmmnn - why is that??
Andy, your blogs on the subject are logigical, reasonable, well researched & informative - thanx
Mildred, I didn't include additional variables like Arabs and Muslims because my point is to illustrate the clear distinction between the nation-state of Israel and the Jewish people, not to devise a logical model of all action in the Middle East.
And, yes, I am fully aware of the shared lineage of Jews, Muslims and Christians -- not to mention other races, ethnicities and religious groups. We all understand that for purposes of this conversation anti-Semitic does not mean anti-people of Muslim faiths.
As for your final question about anonymity, I no longer reveal my name online in any kind of political discussion. I've learned to be anonymous because of death threats I've received on my answering machine after -- and you'll love this -- defending Judaism on a variety of politically oriented websites.
Ok. So you really do believe that anti-Zionism is effectively anti-Semitism. By that logic, you really do believe that Jews who are not pro-Israel are anti-Semitic. Astounding.
anon652 - My goodness, you are so hung up on pro/anti Zionism/Israel,/semites, your head must be spinning. Stop already, relax, take an exedrin & lie down, try to think rationally - The Nation of Israel is the Jewish Homeland and while there is no Statue of Liberty in the harbor, all Jews -zionist,hasidim,orthodox,liberal,reform,conservative,wearing yarmulkes,or not,even the self-haters,bar mitzvahed or not, etc etc, are welcomed with open arms. You are mixing apples & oranges when its all (beautiful delicious Haifa) oranges. Every ethnicity accepts God into their lives by many different traditions & cultures,including the Jewish people- & all the physco-babble about pro/anti needs to be put to rest, along with the Helen Thomases, who started this whole dialogue. Shalom!
PS to Anon652 - BTW, I must add that I have enjoyed our little back & forths - I do not know what place in life you are, but you are always courteous, never nasty or vicious. We should all be able to disagree without being disagreeable. Thank God, this is still the United States of America and we are all free to embrace our beliefs. I believe you have given this subject a lot of thought & are not anti jewish or stupid, just misguided and would hope our comments may sway you a bit.
Well, Andy and Mildred, thank you for the conversation. While Andy got a little over-aggressive (as he always does when Israel is involved), I am basically happy with the discussion. I'm frustrated that the two of you haven't acknowledged the difference between the two. I certainly understand the relationship between Judiasm and Zionism (and this discussion has definitely reinforced my understanding of the strength of the feeling about the matter), but I still maintain that there is a meaningful, important distinction between the two. I think that distinction is even clearer when I look at my Jewish friends who love Jews and love Judaism but don't like what the people who are leading (what you are calling) the Jewish state are doing with it.
Seriously pal, it's time to move beyond this discussion. I get your point, but strongly disagree. As an American, there's lots of things I disagree with my government over. But it doesn't turn into vitriolic anti-Americanism. Jews and non-Jews alike are free to disagree with and criticize Israel and its policies. No government is perfect. But the nanosecond you toss the word "anti" into the mix, then you become a hater. It's impossible...let me repeat, impossible...for anyone--Jew or non-Jew--to be "anti-Zionist" without also being "anti-Jew." I'm done with this subject.
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