Helen Thomas (and the long, anticolonial walk to freedom)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 50 Comments

Someone recently asked me whether I thought Helen Thomas was guilty of anything. My reactions were mixed.

Emotionally, I have to admit that there was something very gratifying about what she said, however flip it was. The fourteen year old boy inside of me loved it. Anyone who is an Arab or a Muslim who is honest will tell you that they had the same reaction. They probably emailed an article about it to a friend, approvingly, though they might deny having done so if asked. And it’s not just Arabs and Muslims who had a moment of private exhilaration at Helen Thomas’s words. Anybody who has ever stopped reading something by Marty Peretz or Charles Krauthammer or Barry Rubin or any number of other writers and analysts mid-paragraph, in quiet revulsion at their undiluted bigotry, or anyone who has been incredulous and felt powerless and angry when one elected official or pundit after another insouciantly talks about sending the Palestinians packing out of the West Bank, or expelling them from Israel, or anyone who has listened to some figure in a position of authority speak with exquisite ignorance, confidence, condescension and derision about Palestinian history and Arab culture will feel the same way.

I have heard the Palestinians demonized so much, called so many bad things (non-existent is actually relatively tame) in so many fora, in an unchallenged way that it felt really good to hear somebody say what she said. Even if it was only to quote her and damn her. The shoe was on the other foot—not even on the other foot, sort of in the vicinity of the other foot—for a split second in the national discourse, and there was some inexplicable sense of pleasure in that. Saree Makdisi’s piece in the LA Times was delicious because he chose just a few examples (many, many more could have been adduced) and he called out the hypocrisy. He held a mirror up to our cultural and political elite; I’m sure they looked away. 

A lot of this conflict, at least in the western media, boils down to the refusal in our discourse to acknowledge the equal humanity of Palestinians. I remember reading the NYT very closely every day during the Second Intifada. You could have done studies on the amount of ink and where that ink was spilled (p. A1 or p. A15?) in terms of its coverage of Jewish and Palestinian deaths. The valuation of human lives implicit in those decisions about space allocation communicated a lot about the relative worth of Arabs and Jews in American mainstream discourse. At Baruch Goldstein’s funeral, the rabbi there announced that a million Arabs weren’t worth a Jewish fingernail. The NYT and other news sources seemed to me to be different only in degree, not in kind, in the assumptions they brought to their coverage. I remember going to a protest once as an undergrad; the sign I held just said, "Arabs are People, too." I don’t think many Americans really believe it. And when I read about Israel funding therapy for pets traumatized by rocket attacks and at the same time that Israeli sonic booms over Gaza have caused a ‘malignant spread of deafness among children,’ I wonder whether the Israeli government really does, either.

At a non-emotional level, of course, I know that Thomas was wrong. To make Jewish Israelis leave would be to repeat the disaster of 1948. It would be to inflict upon Jews what the Zionists inflicted upon the Palestinians. It would be to do unto others what they did unto you, not as you would have them do unto you. It would be a mess and a huge human disaster. And, apart from the morality of it all, it would be totally foolish for the Palestinians to do just that. Israel has a highly educated population with a strong economy. It would be an act of national idiocy to try to make Jews leave. You can just look at the mess Mugabe has created in Zimbabwe if you need any more proof of this. (And with this said, I should add that I really don’t think anybody wants to ship Jews out or push them into the sea: this is nothing but a bogeyman that has been held up by Zionists for decades to shut down serious debate and discussion or change the subject away from Israeli crimes and misdemeanors. I hesitate to even mention this issue because in so doing, one plays to Zionist fear-mongering and the image of the Arab as the heartless, barbaric savage, capable of any cruelty). If Arabs and Jews could somehow learn to all get along, it would be one of the most amazing countries in the world. Just a phenomenal place.

Thomas’ words were gratifying in the same way that seeing a bully get punched in the nose is gratifying—like that scene at the end of Back to the Future when Biff gets decked—but it’s a dead end in terms of resolving the conflict in real life or in any real way. It’s also wrong because what you have now are generations of people who have been born there and grew up in that place.

I like what Ahmad Tibi says. He says I have no problem with Jews being here, but if you want to start talking about shipping people out—a common topic in Israeli mainstream political discourse—we should do it according to the principle that the last to come should be the first to leave. That seems most fair to me.

If there were a one-state solution, it would actually be a source of strength to make it a homeland for the Jewish people, even if they are a minority. But nobody is asking me. I’m like Will Rogers: all I know is what I read in the newspapers. But that’s usually pretty depressing, and predictably depressingly slanted. So now I check the blogosphere.

Which is often worse. I just read Jeffrey Goldberg’s take on the Helen Thomas controversy. In two paragraphs, he really piles on some hefty charges. Thomas is a foot soldier in a Roman-inspired war against the Jewish people and commits a sin that is "the first cousin of Holocaust denial": denying that Jews are a nation. Also, she seeks to deny Jews "the truth of their history" (whatever that means). He reels off the charges like a cop reading off of a notepad after arresting a perp.

A reading of Thomas’ statement that is much more charitable, plausible and also just simpler would be that Thomas probably doesn’t give a fig about his nationalist anxieties. What Helen Thomas cares about is Palestinians. I don’t know her and have never met her, but my suspicion is that she sees them as…human beings.

It’s not metaphysical at all. Nor is it national. Nor is it about denying anything. It’s about affirming the humanity and dignity of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine and refusing to deny them rights and respect because of wrongs inflicted on Jews by Europeans (not by Palestinians), and because they didn’t have the good fortune of being born Jews and not Arabs. Tortured attempts by Zionists to use Hajj Amin al-Husayni’s interactions with Nazis to tar all Palestinians (including the large number of Palestinian Christians) as having been at the forefront of the Final Solution represent an implicit acknowledgment that the moral calculus of Zionism doesn’t quite add up. The journalist Bat Yeor’s polemical, pseudo-historical construction of the notion of dhimmitude represents a similarly deeply problematic effort coming from much the same place.

The real fault of the Palestinians is not that they were Nazis and flaming anti-Semites, it was that they were living in the wrong place at the wrong time and had the audacity to not compliantly go along with decisions about their fate that were made without their input and against their wishes in faraway European and American cities. They didn’t do what they were told to do. They didn’t behave as they were expected to behave. This is still the problem with the Palestinians. They will not do as they are told—by the Americans or by the Israelis—and this simply will not do. Good Arabs, those who will do what they are told, get a pass and a pat on the head. So Ahmedinejad (who is Iranian and not Arab) is rightly excoriated for his despicable Holocaust denial but nobody talks about Abu Mazen’s equally despicable doctoral work on Holocaust denial. Abu Mazen says things the Israelis and Americans (and Jeffrey Goldbergs) like. At least most of the time. If Abu Mazen falls out of line, be sure we’ll hear about the Holocaust denial. I guess Sadat being assassinated meant that he could never fall out of line; we remember him as a good Arab and forget that he was a Nazi, too.

Because Thomas herself has Middle Eastern heritage, she might be less inclined than other pundits, many of whose knowledge of Arab culture probably does not go much beyond buying Sabra Hummus at Costco, to see the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine as lesser humans than Europeans and somehow, some way, not entitled to the same dignity, self-respect and human rights, essentially because they had the misfortune of being born speaking Arabic and not English, French or German. If achieving and maintaining the Zionist dream means destroying a society, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, killing tens of thousands more, invading, bombing and attacking at least half a dozen countries, developing a large nuclear arsenal, denying minorities equal rights, maintaining a decades-long military occupation, reducing 1.5 million people to grinding poverty, giving aid and comfort to Apartheid South Africa, etc., then maybe that dream should be put into early retirement or atleast radically reconfigured. Something has gone terribly wrong.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Was it? 

There is a world beyond Europe, eastern and western. You might even say that the world is flat. Non-European peoples have had their own historical experiences and have their own histories of tragedy, suffering and struggle. These are no less vivid, painful, human and important simply because we in the US do not learn about them in school, best-selling popular histories are not written about them and Hollywood does not make movies about them.

It is not a coincidence that most of the wider, non-European world is generally more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than it is to the Zionist one. Helen Thomas’s comments raised ire in the US, but they would be seen as utterly unremarkable to much of the population of this planet. Now, this might be because the entire world is anti-Semitic and really just hates Jews. (And there is undoubtedly anti-Semitism at work in some criticism of Israel; and it should be deplored, denounced and shunned.) But chalking all such support up to an irrational, primal hatred of Jews is too facile and too self-serving. Global sympathy for Palestinians might perhaps be because much of the world was colonized by Europe and then went through decolonization. Much of the world recognizes in the Palestinian struggle things that resonate with its own long walk to freedom. Because much of that world, like the Palestinians, had little to do with inflicting suffering on Jews in Europe, it finds the self-pity and persecution complex which seems to animate wealthy, well-educated American Zionists to be bizarre, self-indulgent and totally alien to their own historical experience, not to mention contemporary realities. Netanyahu thinks this is 1938. It feels a lot more like 2010 to me. And I’ve been scratching my head and trying to recall the last pogrom that happened on the Upper West Side, and just can’t remember. It must have been before the Giuliani years. Yes, that’s it. Before Rudy. I’m sure he put a stop to them when he cleaned up the city.

With Apartheid over, Israel stands alone as an historical relic and curiosity—the last remaining example of European settler colonialism. And this is how much of the globe sees the question of Palestine, through the lens of anti-colonial struggle and liberation.

The French were in Algeria for 130 years and fought savagely to stay there. Israel is only 62 years old and it, too, has fought with a ruthless amorality to maintain its ethnocracy. Time will tell if the Zionists last as long as the French did. 

Attempting to re-frame the question of Palestine in terms of European persecution of Jews and calling Helen Thomas bad names will not make the anti-colonial narrative that she was giving voice to go away. How many Americans know that when the French left Algeria, almost all of the pied noirs went as well? How many Americans even know what a pied noir is? 

If the traffic police realize that people might be operating in narratives other than their own, they might realize that it’s possible to be pro-Palestinian and critical of the Zionist project yet not driven by the nefarious (Roman) motive of denying the Jewish people the truth of their history (whatever that means). And, one hopes, they might at least think twice before throwing the book at someone.

Palestinians aren’t denying anything. They just want their houses and farms and villages back.

Boulos lives in the US.  His grandparents were from Jaffa.

50 Responses

  1. eljay
    June 23, 2010, 11:18 am

    This article – a stark contrast to RW’s pseudo-intellectual blather – is an eloquent and well-balanced bit of reasoning that is worth reading and considering.

    • eljay
      June 23, 2010, 11:31 am

      >> Ahmad Tibi: “I want [Israel] to be a state of its own nationalities, and the Arab minority to be recognized as a national minority. Israel is, according to the law, defined as a Jewish and democratic state. But there is a contradiction between the two values. If you are democratic, you should believe in equality. But if you define the nation by a Jewish ethnicity, you are saying any Jewish person is superior to a non-Jewish person. … I’m a Palestinian-Arab citizen of Israel. We are part of the Palestinian people but citizens of Israel.

      Egalitarian, democratic self-governance of all Israelis by all Israelis. Beautiful.

  2. Don
    June 23, 2010, 12:00 pm

    Eloquent, yes.

    But a bit more historical accuracy (Roman-inspired war against the Jewish people) would be helpful. That “Roman inspired war against the Jews”, at least as it seems to be popularly conceptualized…is for the most part false.

    As for its’ relevance to this issue, The Magnes Zionist’s article on the topic…
    “No, Rivkele, The Jews Weren’t Driven into Exile by the Romans”
    link to themagneszionist.blogspot.com

    • potsherd
      June 23, 2010, 12:18 pm

      So much blather.

      Indeed, the Jews remained in Palestine, until their descendants were exiled by the Ashkenazim.

      And the Romans, of course, made war on everyone. The Jews made the mistake of resisting the occupation.

      • Keith
        June 23, 2010, 5:15 pm

        POTSHERD- “Indeed, the Jews remained in Palestine, until their descendants were exiled by the Ashkenazim.”

        You really hit the nail on the head with that comment!

      • Taxi
        June 24, 2010, 5:39 am

        The Ashkenazim are not descendants, they’re converts.

  3. potsherd
    June 23, 2010, 12:11 pm

    The usual line of condemnation of Thomas says that she wants to force the Jews to leave Israel. In fact, she said that they should leave the place. Should realize the nature of the settlement, renounce it and correct it.

    Not a word about force. Thomas issued a moral challenge to Israeli Jews, and, as usual, their supporters failed it.

    • Keith
      June 23, 2010, 5:19 pm

      POTSHERD- “Not a word about force. Thomas issued a challenge to Israeli Jews, and, as usual, their supporters failed it.”

      You’re two for two. Once again, you have captured the essence of the situation.

  4. wondering jew
    June 23, 2010, 1:10 pm

    Boulos- I can’t follow your logic.

    You write: “I should add that I really don’t think anybody wants to ship Jews out or push them into the sea: this is nothing but a bogeyman that has been held up by Zionists for decades to shut down serious debate and discussion or change the subject away from Israeli crimes and misdemeanors.”

    (Certainly the term “anybody” is utterly false. There are at least 327 or 332 Palestinians who want to push the Jews out.)

    I assume you feel that the Hamas charter is antiquated and no longer relevant today. Maybe, maybe not. But only as reflecting realities rather than wants. Do really feel that Hamas no longer wants the Jews out? This is not credible.

    And if the colonialist narrative of Algeria includes the exit of the pied noirs, how is it that the colonialist narrative of Palestine does not include the exit of the Jews. I don’t get the logic there.

    Robert Fisk in an article back in January titled “State of Denial” reacted to a statement by Tzipi Livni. She said that she believed that there would be no room for Jews in a one state solution. Robert Fisk said, she may be right.

    I don’t see that the gist of your article backs up your claim that nobody wants to push the Jews out.

    Maybe they want them to leave on their own without any push.

    • Shmuel
      June 23, 2010, 2:08 pm

      WJ,

      We get the Fisk quote. The fact is that Israeli Jews and Palestinians are both there to stay. The fact is also that many on both sides would like to see the other side disappear (mostly on a druthers level), and some are even prepared to act upon it. But how do you deal with that? By pursuing justice and equality and proving that coexistence is possible (greater onus on the much stronger side)? Or by focusing on the intransigent minority on the other side (also failing to distinguish between wishful thinking, letting of steam, resentment, etc. and true, programmatic intransigence), thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

      Boulos wrote an eminently reasonable article, and you are picking nits. He tried to explain the complex feelings of the kind of people Israelis should be most interested in understanding (hope lies neither in the Fayyads nor the Haniyehs). It’s worth thinking about who exactly is a moderate, in the Palestinian-Arab camp. It hit me like a tonne of bricks when I realised that Palestinians who demand equal rights for Jews and non-Jews in Palestine are the true moderates. If you don’t talk to them, all your left with is the intransigents and the toadies.

      Of course Boulos didn’t mean that there are no Palestinians who would like to ship the Jews out, but that the vast majority of them (rubam kekhulam, as we say in Hebrew) know that it’s not going to happen and have no real intention of trying to make it happen. How really relevant is the Hamas Charter (sabre-rattling claptrap, couched in religious jargon)? The pieds noirs remark was obviously meant to highlight feelings about colonialism, and maybe some unrealistic fantasies, among the formerly (and currently) colonised.

      You miss the whole point of the article, and back into your corner with your dukes up. Please re-read and reconsider.

      • MRW
        June 23, 2010, 5:22 pm

        This is why I like you, Shmuel.

      • Mooser
        June 23, 2010, 6:22 pm

        “There are at least 327 or 332 Palestinians who want to push the Jews out.”

        That’s a joke, right?

      • James North
        June 23, 2010, 6:40 pm

        Shmuel is right, of course. Boulos has given a powerful, honest post about how his 14-year-old self reacted, and then how he felt after he calmed down and the mature adult took over. Who among us does not react at times as he did? But not many of us have the courage to admit it.

  5. Richard Witty
    June 23, 2010, 1:32 pm

    Boulos,
    I think you have to make a decision. That is whether you accept a two-state solution or insist on a single.

    If you accept a two-state solution then you will be confronted with the question of whether democratic Palestine affords equal rights to minorities, whether Christian Palestinians or non-Palestinians.

    As, Israel has to confront the question of whether minorities within Israel have a very high standard of equal rights.

    The same dilemma applies to ANY national entity, that seeks to be nationalist and democratic simultaneously.

    There is NOTHING, literally nothing, intrinsically unnatural about that.

    Everyone has associations that define their preferential treatment. If you would hire a cousin over an equally qualified non-family orthodox Jew wearing a kipa to work in your family’s hypothetical business, you are “guilty” of imposing the oppossite of democracy.

    I don’t think that is the case in fact.

    Israel functions at less than fully democratic (in its identity as Jewish AND democratic), and that deserves the attention to reform.

    Helen Thomas’ sentiments were far less laudable. I respect that you disclosed that you experienced some “tribal” refreshment at her comments. And, I respect that you described that tribal feeling of refreshment as less than your highest ideals.

    • Mooser
      June 23, 2010, 6:25 pm

      You are fukll of crap, Witty and you know it, the discrimination in Israel hasn’t got a damn thing to do with minor personal hiring nepotism, and you know it.
      Once again, as always, the only thing I can think when I read your comments is: “Does he really think everyone is as stupid as him”
      I take that line because it’s the only non-insulting explanation.

      • Richard Witty
        June 24, 2010, 5:31 am

        “The same dilemma applies to ANY national entity, that seeks to be nationalist and democratic simultaneously.

        There is NOTHING, literally nothing, intrinsically unnatural about that.”

        Maybe you are saying that Israel doesn’t seek to be democratic.

        Thats different than saying my comment is “full of crap”. You must have some other activity going on in your brain than stimuli to anger.

      • Citizen
        June 24, 2010, 8:35 am

        RW, how about a nation state that defines itself as “Christian & Democratic?” Or, “Aryan & Democratic?” Nothing, literally nothing, intrinsically unnatural about that?

        Boulos’s article is extremely honest, wise, and rational, as is Shmuel’s comment on it.

        Is a proposition nation natural, or not?

  6. David Samel
    June 23, 2010, 2:07 pm

    A great article, Boulos. My take on the question whether Helen Thomas was guilty of anything is an unfortunate yes, but I have an entirely different outlook from almost all of her critics. Like many others, I have great respect for Thomas and her career, but I fear her loose lips have thrown a significant though not insurmountable obstacle in the way of an eventual resolution of the conflict. Simply put, her words were a godsend to those who wish to preserve Jewish supremacy.

    One of the main achievements of the pro-Zionist propaganda machine has been to disguise the nature of the conflict. Zionists insist on the right of Jews all over the world to reign supreme over the indigenous population of small region in the Middle East based upon divine privilege, a supposed ancient historical connection, genuine deep feeling, and fear of worldwide anti-Semitism. This claim is so horribly unfair to Palestinians, who are forced to live either in exile, dispossession or subservience in the land of their birth. If presented accurately, the Zionist claim would garner very little support. Instead, the conflict is presented as a brave group of beleaguered people who have been eternally victimized taking a stand against yet another bunch of ignorant, envious and murderous louts. It is the Zionists who say that “they” do not want to live with us, when in reality, “they” don’t want to be ruled over like children or misfits. The vast majority of Palestinians would welcome a solution based on equality, whether it be one or two state, and mass expulsion of Jews is rarely if ever proposed. Google “push Jews into the sea” or some variation of that, and 99+% of the hits will be from Israelis and their supporters claiming that that is what they face.

    Helen Thomas gave the Zionist camp a big boost in articulating that fabricated fear. Any public discourse that pushes the real conflict — domination versus equality — is most welcome, but Thomas pushed in the other direction, saying this really is about expulsion. Hasbarists have had a field day, feigning outrage and consternation when in truth they couldn’t be happier.

    Sure, there are various defenses of Thomas, and most of them have some degree of merit. She didn’t really propose forced expulsion, as opposed to an offhand suggestion based upon decades of frustration; others get away with far more explicit endorsement of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, etc. These points should be repeatedly made, especially the comparison with anti-Palestinian sentiments which are so much more sinister yet tolerated as being within the spectrum of acceptable mainstream opinion. But I have to admit, when I heard of Thomas’s statement, I thought, “I really wish she had not said that.” She has become the journalistic equivalent of baseball’s Bill Buckner, an excellent hitter for many years who is remembered for one lousy error. And like Buckner’s, this error really was a big one.

    • syvanen
      June 23, 2010, 4:30 pm

      David

      It is 100% predictable that after stealing a peoples land, taking their water, demolishing their housing, shooting them down like dogs if they protest and carrying out overwhelming aggressive war against them, that some of their supporters might on occasion let it slip that they really do not like the Israelis. It is unfortunate that people are not more disciplined and will misstep and speak with emotion.

      But people are people, and emotions will show through now and then. However, you seem to agree that this therefore justifies, in the future stealing peoples land, taking their water, demolishing their housing, shooting them down like dogs if they protest and carrying out overwhelming aggressive war against them.

      I think you are quite wrong here. Most people can see that the crime of oppression outweighs the personal failing of holding ones emotions in check. Of course, the Israelis and the Lobby will run with this story — egad man it is all they have. They are doing nothing but preaching to their own disciples, they will convince no one outside of their circles.

      • David Samel
        June 23, 2010, 4:54 pm

        syvanen, you accuse me of “seem[ing] to agree that this therefore justifies, in the future stealing peoples land, taking their water, demolishing their housing, shooting them down like dogs if they protest and carrying out overwhelming aggressive war against them.” I don’t have the slightest clue where you got that from. That’s not simply unfair, it’s delusional.

        Moreover, you say about Thomas, “some of their [Palestinian?] supporters might on occasion let it slip that they really do not like the Israelis.” I took issue with what she really said, which was to suggest that Israeli Jews leave Israel. I do think it is destructive to introduce this concept into the discourse on the conflict, and that it is greedily welcomed by the hasbarists (of which you seem to think I am one).

        Perhaps I am a little too hard on Helen Thomas, even though I said “I have great respect for Thomas and her career.” I actually understand and sympathize with her anger. When I said it was a big error, I meant that it could have far-reaching consequences in corroborating the false claim that all the Arabs want is to expel Jews. I think the criticism leveled at her is 99% wrong, and mostg of it outrageous.

        I don’t know if your gross misinterpretation of what I said is your error or mine. Well, yes I do.

      • MRW
        June 23, 2010, 5:32 pm

        What Helen Thomas said was no worse than a holler on 46 St to a bunch of truck drivers to “tell those bastards to getthefuckoutathere.”

        We have allowed pundits to create histories and planks to accuse or excuse her. We’ve fallen for this tripe ourselves. David, you said it best when you wrote, “If presented accurately, the Zionist claim would garner very little support….It is the Zionists who say that “they” do not want to live with us, when in reality, “they” don’t want to be ruled over like children or misfits.

        And “they” made the claim about Thomas. We should be ashamed of ourselves for letting Ari Fleischer get away with it. Ashamed.

      • syvanen
        June 23, 2010, 6:23 pm

        David I know your reputation here and I apologize for implying your sympathies were opposed to the Palestinians. My words were poorly chosen.

      • Mooser
        June 23, 2010, 6:35 pm

        I meant that it could have far-reaching consequences…”

        You mean like all the consequences for the murderous, bigoted, hateful and untrue things that Zionists, in fact their top leaders,not some reporter, say? Those kind of consequences?

        Yeah sure, I can see it now, the Israeli leadership is at the signing ceremony for the big compromise, the end of Israeli intransigence, the Prime Minister picks up the pen, and then, he walks away saying “Damn it, if only Helen Thomas hadn’t said that, deal’s off!” Yeah sure.

        Believe me, the amount and type of pressure it will take to get the Israeli regime to change is probably more than it will take to get them to just give up on the enterprise. And when that pressure is applied, nobody is going to worry about something some old lady said.

        Consequences for intemperate statements! In this situation, that’s a laugh! You look sideways at an Israeli, and he starts screaming he can smell the Zyklon-B.

      • Mooser
        June 23, 2010, 6:42 pm

        “but I fear her loose lips have thrown a significant though not insurmountable obstacle in the way of an eventual resolution of the conflict”

        Gosh, maybe if we jolly the Israelis along, and don’t get them defensive, they’ll come around? You haven’t realised that anything, anything except abject fawning is looked on as a new Buchenwald?

      • Keith
        June 23, 2010, 6:56 pm

        MOOSER- “You look sideways at an Israeli, and he starts screaming he can smell the Zyklon-B.”

        Regrettably, your comment is all too accurate. And that is a big part of the problem, isn’t it?

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 23, 2010, 10:27 pm

        “You look sideways at an Israeli, and he starts screaming he can smell the Zyklon-B.”

        Hilariously, though in a sinister fashion, true. A case in point. WJ reads Boulos’ remarkable, articulate and long article and what does he see? The Hamas charter and immediately clings back to his Fisk’s quote !!!

      • David Samel
        June 24, 2010, 1:06 pm

        Mooser, what I said was “I meant that it could have far-reaching consequences in corroborating the false claim that all the Arabs want is to expel Jews.” You completely miss the point by mocking me with Netanyahu refusing to sign. You want evidence of what I meant? In link to haaretz.com, Netanyahu exploits Thomas’s remark, saying: “We know that the attacks on Israel are threatening its existence, since we constantly hear people saying ‘go back to Poland or Morocco’. They are essentially telling us to dismantle the Zionist enterprise.” Mooser, you’re not convinced by his argument? Duh. It wasn’t meant for you. It is meant to galvanize Israelis and their supporters all over the world to resist any pressure to change. My guess is there will be a flood of claims such as this – that the real objective of the flotilla, or anyone who merely suggests that the Israelis are a tad overbearing, is to “destroy” the State of Israel by forcing Jews to leave for the homelands of their ancestors. You can argue til your blue in the face that Netanyahu is being devious, but you can’t argue that he is completely fabricating the “go back to Poland” suggestion. The fact that Thomas gave fodder to Netanyahu cannot be doubted. Yes, if she hadn’t done so, Netanyahu would still be making other dishonest remarks, but I’m sure he, and others, rejoiced at this one. You can make an argument that the help Thomas inadvertently gave Bibi is likely to be negligible in the long run, and perhaps it is, but it was help nevertheless.

      • David Samel
        June 24, 2010, 1:08 pm

        And Mooser, with respect to my loos lips comment, of course Israel will not do anything reasonable without a great deal of pressure. Suggesting that the other side wishes to force Jews to leave Israel has the potential for reducing that pressure.

  7. PilgrimSoul
    June 23, 2010, 3:48 pm

    I haven’t been able to sleep for several days now, thinking about the Helen Thomas thing–the incredible cowardice of it all, the piling on, but most of all how everybody turned on her. The Hearst newspapers she wrote for took the opportunity to stick in their tiny knife, she won’t be allowed to come to the White House anymore, the press secretary of the President denounced her, and she was forced to retire and “apologize” publicly to the whomever she offended.

    So what did she say? She said something crazy, something off the cuff, something in anger, like we all do at times. But why is the Israel Lobby, and increasingly institutional Jewish organizations in the US, the one group that everybody has to apologize to, why do they get to have veto power over everything having to do with the Middle East? It’s getting absolutely crazy out there. It can happen to any of us, too: somebody does a little ambush journalism, somebody plays the gotcha card just right, and we say something that isn’t 100% politically correct according to the Lobby, and suddenly nobody will print our stuff, we get pilloried and denounced by everybody from the President on down, and people keep writing for weeks about how terrible we are. That’s the game plan. What a victory for the cultural vigilantes of the apartheid Lobby.

    Never mind that the guy who framed Thomas is a racist who has said things every day that are ten times worse that anything she said. All that matters is that the Lobby gives the command, and all those gutless Christians out there will rush to do whatever the representatives of the Holy State demand. Yes, I’m a Christian and I can criticize them if I want to, the Lobby only works because of the great sheep-like masses of Christians in government, media and academia who go along with the Lobby because they are gutless careerists. It’s true, damn it, and right now I’m pissed off at them.

    I’ve never seen hypocrisy like this before. And the brutality…the Lobby’s response to the flotilla is so lacking in remorse and coherence that it resembles the ramblings of a sociopath. It’s pathetic and frightening. These people are like robots. It’s the Zionist version of invasion of the body snatchers…

    But we have to change our game too. No more resignations when the Lobby backs you into a corner…make them fire you, make them drag you out of your office! No more apologies to these bastards…on the contrary, go on the offensive. Demand that Dershowitz and Foxman apologize for their lies and the way they have degraded public discourse in the US. We’ve been playing that “decent citizen” thing for too long, afraid to embarrass the organizations we work with. No more damn apologies to the Lobby!

    What is embarrassing is that right-wing Zionist Jews have veto power over American foreign policy, and right-wing evangelical Christians have veto power over domestic affairs. What a pathetic situation! I want justice in Israel/Palestine not just for the Middle East, but also because I long for a post-Zionist America. I’m sick and tired of free speech being sold off to phony politicians who value the influence and money that AIPAC brings more than the American birthright of free speech and association!

    In the meantime, let’s can all the pious nonsense and address the real issue: who’s going to carry Helen Thomas’ stuff on the internet? Yes, she’s got her own website, but somebody or something else needs to step up. We now know that she’s got a head of steam where passion about Israel/Palestine is concerned…who’s going to support the woman and carry her occasional columns from now on??? Adam? Phil?

    • Mooser
      June 23, 2010, 6:36 pm

      “Never mind that the guy who framed Thomas is a racist who has said things every day that are ten times worse that anything she said.”

      But what about the long-term consequences? You mean he’s not worried about the long-term consequences? Amazing!

  8. Avi
    June 23, 2010, 5:10 pm

    Boulos,

    I have always enjoyed reading your posts for their sober and fresh insights and now I’m glad that you are writing full length articles.

    Which is often worse. I just read Jeffrey Goldberg’s take on the Helen Thomas controversy. In two paragraphs, he really piles on some hefty charges. Thomas is a foot soldier in a Roman-inspired war against the Jewish people and commits a sin that is “the first cousin of Holocaust denial”: denying that Jews are a nation. Also, she seeks to deny Jews “the truth of their history” (whatever that means).

    Sometimes I get the impression that people like Goldberg sit at their desk, overwhelmed with a mental list of what constitutes “Jewish collective memory” and dream of ways to pile them all into one short paragraph that seeks to indict the targeted victim of the day – Helen Thomas in this case.

    Roman? Holocaust? Why didn’t he bring up the alleged slavery during the time of the Pharaohs?

    And I’ve been scratching my head and trying to recall the last pogrom that happened on the Upper West Side, and just can’t remember.

    • MRW
      June 23, 2010, 5:33 pm

      And I’ve been scratching my head and trying to recall the last pogrom that happened on the Upper West Side, and just can’t remember.

      Try Zabar’s on Thanksgiving eve.

    • lysias
      June 23, 2010, 5:43 pm

      Shlomo Sand committed that sin in his book

      Thomas is a foot soldier in a Roman-inspired war against the Jewish people and commits a sin that is “the first cousin of Holocaust denial”: denying that Jews are a nation. Also, she seeks to deny Jews “the truth of their history” (whatever that means).

      And his book was praised in reviews by the likes of Tony Judt and Max Hastings, and won a big prize in France.

      • Citizen
        June 24, 2010, 8:59 am

        Are the Roma a nation? How about the Irish?

  9. Les
    June 23, 2010, 6:44 pm

    During Jeff Blankfort’s KZYX program today in his interview with Dr. Gareth Porter, it came out that the Washington Post’s follow up poll about Helen Thomas resulted in 91% calling for her reinstatement.

  10. decentjew
    June 23, 2010, 6:48 pm

    “At a non-emotional level, of course, I know that Thomas was wrong.”

    Huh?!?

    That’s insane.

  11. decentjew
    June 23, 2010, 9:45 pm

    Naturally, Thomas never implied that the Jews of Israel should be forcibly removed, and suggestions that she did ( or more outrageously, that she advocated Jews return to Europe during the Shoah, to be gassed) are really too dishonest and laughable for words.

    That said, we ought to talk about the expulsion of Israel’s Jews. It’s perfectly legitimate to talk about and bears no relation whatever to the Nakba of ’48, inflicted on the Palestinians BY the Israelis.

    #1, The Jews had no right whatsoever to invade someone else’s land and steal it by force of arms in the first place. They have no legitimate claim to living there–they are squatters, at best.

    #2 They won’t have to exist as miserable, stateless refugees, like the Palestinians driven from their homes. They can return, as Thomas recommends, to the lands they came from. This would go a long way toward righting historical wrongs, not only the wrongs done to the Palestinians but the wrongs committed against Jews by Europe during the holocaust. Why shouldn’t Europe be obliged to absorb these (admittedly vile) Jews from Israel?

    Let’s not compare forcing Israel’s Jews to go home after decades of unacceptable criminality in the region, with the Jewish ethnic cleansing of Palestine that began in 1948 and continues today. That’s an unreasonable comparison.

  12. hayate
    June 24, 2010, 12:53 am

    I’ve no problem with what the lady said. The problems should leave (but where? Who in their right mind would want a bunch of fascist israelis?). My issue is with those cowards/hasbarat problems damning her.

    • azythos
      June 24, 2010, 1:13 am

      “but where? Who in their right mind would want a bunch of fascist israelis?”

      Not that anyone would want them, but seeing how most Izzies have or can have a double or triple citizenship they’d be forced to. Any place, even the most barbarian, recognizes the right of return. No?

      • hayate
        June 24, 2010, 1:38 am

        A while back I suggested that Jewish zionists should trade places with Palestinians in Gaza. A Jewish woman in israel thoughtfully corrected me on that, by pointing out that Gaza was a beautiful place and that zionists did not deserve to live there. I apologised and retracted. Then, I submitted another idea to cure the zionist problem in the Mideast. Move those Jewish zionists to utah. Utah is the state most supportive of bush, from the last prez [s]election returns, and the Mormon leadership is very, very supportive of zionist war criminality. The Mormon great unwashed (literally), though, are amongst the most antisemitic people I’ve ever run across. Now Mormonland, being in a desert, and being hostile to Jews, would be ideal for a new homeland for zionism, inc. Think about it. They could make the desert bloom while fighting the antisemitic hordes. What more could a fanatical zionist want? When I posted this idea, my critic living in israel gave her grinning support. :D

  13. Taxi
    June 24, 2010, 5:48 am

    Why should any self-respecting 89 year old person be concerned with political correctness?

    Seems such a cruel and absurd notion to force especially old, old, old people to stick to ANYTHING politically correct.

    Let people in their sunset years say what the heck they like!! They’ve fucking earned it!!

  14. wondering jew
    June 24, 2010, 7:48 am

    Boulos- I think the gist of your essay is positive. The idea that if Palestinians and Jewish Israelis could cooperate that they would create a great country is inspiring. We both realize that this “dream” or vision is not coming about any time soon, partially out of fears that either distort reality or reflect reality depending upon one’s outlook.

  15. Richard Witty
    June 24, 2010, 3:15 pm

    Boulos,
    In your post you stated that you live in the US, that your parents lived in Jaffa.

    Did they own property? If they did, do you consider that you have a claim to that property, or does another family member?

    If another family member asserted that they had a claim to the property, proved the validity of the claim and the circumstances of that claim were so compelling as to afford your family member the house back, would you consider that you personally had a right to return to Israel?

    Even though you never lived there, and you personally never had a title claim to assert?

    I’m trying to distinguish a lawful basis of actual right of return, rather than a rhetorical that only results in conflict and never reconciliation.

    • Donald
      June 24, 2010, 6:39 pm

      Do Brooklyn Jews have more of a right to “return” to Israel than Boulos? I’m trying to distinguish between a sincere concern for fairness and apologetics for ethnic cleansing and discrimination.

      • azythos
        June 24, 2010, 7:48 pm

        I think that this particular member of the Propaganda-Abteilung, Witty, is the most disgusting of those that they have out here. Even more Glenn Beck-ish than maximalistEtc.

        How can anyone pretend with a straight face to be unaware of the usual, general basis for the right of return? Can anyone have a brain kinked out to the point where he can even imagine that any of the Zionist colonizing goons have any kind of rights except as squatters, and that the offspring of the owners of the land would have to justify anything to these bandits?

        It’s when one reads posts like those of Witty’s that the urge becomes overpowering to repeat what normal (non-Zionist) people in my childhood years used to throw, in Spanish, at the Zionists : “Go kiss your Gurion, make a hole in Birobidjan and disappear before you ruin us all, just stop nagging and begging!” With all my apologies to the inhabitants of Birobidjan, who don’t deserve such an invasion.

    • thankgodimatheist
      June 24, 2010, 8:35 pm

      Are you trying to cast doubt on Boulos’ right of return, Witty?. Do you think your right of “return” is more valid than his, and if yes, based on which lawful of legal basis?

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 24, 2010, 8:43 pm

        BTW, Witty. If you were half decent as you pose to be, you’d drop your right of “return” as many decent noble Jews have done so far.

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 24, 2010, 9:07 pm

        BTW, Witty. If you were half decent as you pose to be, you’d renounce your right of “return” as many decent noble Jews have done so far. You know very well deep in your heart that the alleged right is a sham…

  16. unverified__98144h24
    June 26, 2010, 8:06 am

    Great article! I really appreciated your comparison between the Palestinian situation and the non-European countries in which oppression is felt in similar, though less dramatic and catastrophic, ways. It’s hard to understand why western so-called liberals so keen to support First Nations’ claims in their own countries (of course, without agreeing in giving them their lands back) are so reluctant to see the fight of the Palestinian people as a similar phenomenon.

    I recently took a class on history of crimes against humanity in a US college, in which we analyzed cases of settler colonialism and mass crimes: the Americas, Australia, Tazmania, Namibia, etc. Israel was out of the syllabus…

    Thanks Boulos!

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