Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Helen Thomas lost her job for this?

You have probably heard that long-time journalist Helen Thomas has retired in response to comments she recently made on camera (above) about Israel and Palestine.

Here's a partial transcript of Rabbi David Nesenoff's smart-assed, self-congratulatory video in which Thomas makes the aforementioned comments:
David Nesenoff: Any comments on Israel?
Helen Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land.
Nesenoff: So, where should they go? What should they do?
Thomas: Go home.
Nesenoff: Where's home?
Thomas: Poland, Germany, and America, and everywhere else. Why push people out of there who [have] lived there for centuries?
Thomas later apologized for the remarks. According to this Associated Press story, however,
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, said Sunday that Thomas' apology didn't go far enough.

"Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history," Foxman said in a statement. "We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."
The fallout didn't end there. According to Fox "News," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thomas's remarks were "offensive and reprehensible." George W. Bush's press secretaries also weighed in. Dana Perino said Thomas's remarks were "so offensive to so many, so personally hurtful." Ari Fleischer said that Thomas's remarks amount to "religious cleansing."

We ought to remember what Thomas actually said.  She said that Israelis are occupiers of Palestine and ought to leave. That is a piece of political speech. It's not racist. It's not bigoted. It's not anti-Semitic. ("Anti-Semitic" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group." Thomas is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine, but not on religious, ethnic, or racial grounds.) Is it racist to claim that Palestinians ought not to have their own state? Then why is it racist to say that Israelis ought not to have created their homeland in Palestine?

The following graphic goes a long way toward vindicating Thomas. Click on it to see a larger version.

(Sources: http://harpers.org/media/pages/2001/12/pdf/0089.pdfhttp://www.pbs.org/pov/i/promises/harpersmap.pdf)

The reactions to Thomas's remarks are absurd. I find it amazing that criticism of Israel is so uncritically categorized as Anti-Semitic in our national discourse.  That tells us just how powerful Israel and her friends really are.

I invite anyone to explain to me why Thomas ought to have resigned for her comments.


  1. People have a misconception that Israel has been a country for thousands and thousands of years. I don't think most Americans realize Israel wasn't created until 1949. The God of Abraham's Realtor license expired long ago.

  2. Well said! Thank you, Dion.

  3. I would say the problem in her comments is in the concept that the solution is for the Israeli's to "go back home" to Europe. Not racist, perhaps, but certainly simple-minded and xenophobic.

    Strangely similar to the attitudes that underlie Arizona's new immigration law.

  4. That's fair, icastico. I hoped to make the case that her comments aren't racist, and hopefully I succeeded. But I believe that much of the trauma in that part of the world is ultimately attributable to the policies of Israel and The United States, and perhaps that would explain Thomas's xenophobic solution. What they could all use over there is a commitment to human rights for all and nonviolence.

  5. Indeed. You can't base fair government on ethnic groupings. Everyone in the geographic region has to have the same rights under the law.


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