Farewell Helen Thomas

on 51 Comments

It’s good that Helen Thomas will no longer be in White House press briefings. Not because she sullied the reputation of the Washington press corps with a few undiplomatic remarks, but because those who lack her boldness and bluntness will no longer be able to use her presence to foster the illusion that American journalism still values courage.

When Thomas was asked during a White House Jewish Heritage Celebration on May 27 (before the Mavi Marmara massacre) whether she had any comments on Israel, she said without a pause: “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”

“It’s their land,” Thomas asserted, referring to the Palestinians and baldly challenging the notion that Israel was founded on land that belongs to the Jews. When asked where the Jews should go, she said they should “go home” — to Germany, Poland, America or from wherever else they had emigrated to Israel.

As soon as the video of Thomas’ remarks was made public, Washington’s mechanisms of tribal discipline swiftly kicked into gear.

Her words were “unconscionably callous and vile,” said Andrew Sullivan. “Thomas deserved what she got,” said Dana Millbank. Both saw her departure as a loss, yet just as President Obama deemed her words “out of line,” no one in Washington was willing to go to the heart of what she said.

In 1948 three-quarters of a million Palestinians were driven out of their homes by Zionists in order to make room for the creation of a Jewish state. For that reason, Helen Thomas, an American of Lebanese descent, apparently believes — as do most people in the Middle East — that the Jewish claim to “own” the land on which Israel was created is a claim based on religious dogma rather than historical fact.

Those families who still possess the keys to homes they lost and the legal titles to land on which they were built, see the issue not as one of “disputed territories” but as one in which colonizers — like America’s settlers — grabbed land and then tried to disguise their acts of dispossession by invoking divine authority.

As Thomas has been dumped by her agent, forced to retire and is now ostracized by colleagues who disingenuously profess their admiration for her journalistic courage, Washington once again displays itself as a unique and rather pathetic satellite of Israel.

As the world condemns Israel’s latest act of unconscionable brutality, America’s media willingly turns its attention to the “unconscionable” words of an 89 year-old woman who had the audacity to say a few blunt words about the Jewish state. Oy veh!

(This article is cross-posted at Woodward’s site, War in Context.)

51 Responses

  1. seafoid
    June 9, 2010, 8:36 am

    Zionism is too brittle to allow comments such as those of Helen Thomas to proliferate. Nobody, least of all in the US, is supposed to look under the rock of 1948.

    • Shmuel
      June 9, 2010, 8:48 am

      I can’t help but think how much more effective she could have been (I know, she was ambushed) in raising the issue of ’48. She still can.

      • lysias
        June 9, 2010, 9:42 am

        She can write a book (if necessary, with a coauthor).

        I think it would sell.

      • Sumud
        June 9, 2010, 5:56 pm

        Agreed, it would sell a storm. Good health to her and I hope she does.

  2. Taxi
    June 9, 2010, 9:20 am

    What she said, using the very words she did, was like mana falling from the sky every time the media repeated it. Why? Because she pulled a great big thick cloud right off the high sun and let its rays shine on a deeply buried mother-of-all seeds: the seed of truth.

    Now America has ‘awareness’ of the seed. And this seed, now exposed, will one day crack open and sprout undeniable blossom. How can fragrant justice be served if truth is hidden after all?

    I for one, congratulate Helen for saying what she said: for using her exact words. I don’t believe she’s too bothered about the fuss – she’s 89 for cumb’s sakes – she doens’t give a fuck, she spoke her truth, AND the truth of millions of people around the planet. She knows she can rest happy now. She’s not a hypocrite.

    Helen Thomas, I love you!

    And Palestine loves you!

  3. Seham
    June 9, 2010, 9:56 am

    I only wish that she had not apologized. I wish she would have said, “Yup, I said what I said and now I retire.”

    • seafoid
      June 9, 2010, 9:59 am

      Me too. The passage of time does not dull the glaring injustice that was the dispossession of the Palestinians to appease a monstrous crime committed elsewhere.

    • Taxi
      June 9, 2010, 10:06 am

      She’s classy and decent – that’s why she apologized: for upsetting people, not for saying what she believes in.

      She apologized but she did not retracted her statement, or say some crappy-headed BS about ‘mispeaking’.

  4. Citizen
    June 9, 2010, 10:04 am

    The media continues to ignore what she said also about the occupation. On Imus this morning, Imus interviewed a slew of talking heads–every one of them babbled about the new onslaught of anti-semitism being voiced across the USA in defense of Helen Thomas. Imus never questioned any of them, nor did his crew–not even Bernie! AND CSpan is being slammed because it allows anti-semitic “nutcases” to call in… Beck and Fox News are rabidly
    pro-Israel and do not question the hasbara constantly being released.

  5. Julian
    June 9, 2010, 11:00 am

    Thomas neglected to mention that Jews went back to Poland after WW2 and the Poles killed them.

    • seafoid
      June 9, 2010, 1:29 pm

      It was the cheapest easiest and laziest thing to do to shunt the problem on to the Palestinians. The Soviets wanted the land and they didn’t care about the rest. Gaza is just WW2 continued.

    • Citizen
      June 9, 2010, 2:14 pm

      Yes, Julian, some Poles did just that (just as some Poles risked their lives and their family’s lives hiding Jews), either due to drinking in anti-semitism with their mother’s milk and/or because some Poles had noticed many Jews were leaders of Communism’s competitive attempt to take over Poland before Hitler invaded. Here’s a Jewish site that covers this sore:
      link to radziejow.blogspot.com

  6. Julian
    June 9, 2010, 11:03 am

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Very courageous Phil. Silence all the dissenters.

    • Sumud
      June 9, 2010, 5:59 pm

      “Don’t silence me bro?”

    • thankgodimatheist
      June 9, 2010, 6:21 pm

      No Julian the faker! No one is silencing you. “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”comes up every time you put 3 links or more. It just happened to me right now when I tried to put 3 links to the new photos released..

      • Julian
        June 10, 2010, 6:40 am

        It comes up every time for me. I rarely ever make 3 comments in a row.

      • Shmuel
        June 10, 2010, 9:25 am

        It happened to me for a few days too – no apparent reason.

      • kapok
        June 10, 2010, 9:31 am

        you think it’s anti-semitism?

      • Shmuel
        June 10, 2010, 9:44 am

        you think it’s anti-semitism?


      • alec
        June 10, 2010, 7:29 pm

        Perhaps if you had more of substance to say and were not consistently making the same inane comments post after post and even in the same post, you wouldn’t find yourself moderated, Julian.

        * Boring and repetitive gets moderated.
        * Racist and pejorative gets moderated.

        Since tighter moderation started, have you noticed the comments section is a little bit shorter but a lot more more interesting.

        Think before you write. That’s why god or allah or jehovah or whoever made you gave you the grey matter you so blithely waste.

    • Chaos4700
      June 10, 2010, 9:48 am

      Put a cork in it, you neoconservative twit. I’m on moderation, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of my posts gets screened.

      Deal with it.

  7. joer
    June 9, 2010, 12:09 pm

    That rabbilive.com site posted the second half of the video today. At the end she advises the young interviewer to go into journalism. How can she be anti-Semitic if she is advising a young Jewish man to make a career out of speaking his mind? She obviously wants a frank and open debate about our policy in the Mideast, without shutting anybody out. And that rabbi guy was on Fox News saying how shocked and hurt he was by what she said. What a baby! Why can’t he debate her like an adult instead of crying and running away? That would be a video worth watching.

    • thankgodimatheist
      June 9, 2010, 6:26 pm

      Do you have a link joer? I’d like to make a post..

      • joer
        June 10, 2010, 1:00 am

        If you go to rabbilive.com there will be a big link to the Helen Thomas interview. It is a very amateurish and poorly written site, full of phony far right Zionist propaganda, which is very tempting to refute. But please do not e mail a response. There is no place to leave comments, you can e mail a comment, but he seems to only publish the most inarticulate emotional responses in order to make Helen’s defenders seem like brain damaged Nazis.

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 10, 2010, 4:49 am

        Thanks Joer. I found it on Balloon juice.

    • demize
      June 9, 2010, 9:59 pm

      A couple of videos have surfaced of said Rebbe acting like a douche. Twitter is good for that stuff.

  8. clairseoir
    June 9, 2010, 12:11 pm

    Poor Julian! Clearly six million wasn’t enough for them!

  9. Aelia
    June 9, 2010, 1:37 pm


    i love you and i love Helen Thomas. Helen and you’ve said what most of Palestinians wish to say out loud but Tongue are Gagged. Thanks to Kings and Heads of alleged freedom.

  10. wondering jew
    June 9, 2010, 2:04 pm

    Paul Woodward- The phrase is spelled “oy vey”. When using another group’s language to make a point against them correct spelling might be considered important.

    • Cliff
      June 9, 2010, 2:22 pm

      Thank you WJ. Your contribution to the discourse is invaluable.

    • lysias
      June 9, 2010, 2:50 pm

      Isn’t Yiddish written in the Hebrew alphabet? Is there a standard way to transliterate it?

  11. wondering jew
    June 9, 2010, 2:33 pm

    The real service performed by Helen Thomas’s comments was that she revealed what truly lies in the heart of millions of those who live in the Middle East or have roots there: the desire to kick the Jews out of I/P. She puts the lie to those who think that a one state solution will create a utopia of brotherhood, and instead asserts the truth that the Arab Utopia will be achieved when the Jews are kicked out. Thanks Helen Thomas for showing us the foolish naivete of Tony Judt and Ali Abunimah. Thanks for letting the truth out.

    • Donald
      June 9, 2010, 4:14 pm

      What a pompous thing to say. We already know that a great many people in the Mideast would like to see Israeli Jews move back. I suspect a fair number of black South Africans felt the same about the whites. It’s understandable if unfortunate. And you know exactly how they feel, if you are glad that Israel is a majority Jewish state.

      Zionists obviously wished that Palestinians would go away, so don’t try and pretend that because one elderly woman gets angry this gives your side the moral high ground.

      As for whether the two sides can live together in peace, I don’t know. But your attitude would be one obstacle to it.

    • Avi
      June 9, 2010, 6:01 pm

      The real service performed by Helen Thomas’s comments was that she revealed what truly lies in the heart of millions of those who live in the Middle East or have roots there: the desire to kick the Jews out of I/P.

      Typical dishonest obfuscation.

      By the way, Lumbering Chew, Bill O’Reilly is hiring.

    • kapok
      June 10, 2010, 9:38 am

      not “the” Jews, “usurper” Jews. ‘Specially those who have their tentacles there, but prefer to keep their bodies someplace else.

    • Chaos4700
      June 10, 2010, 9:49 am

      People still think that WJ is the last example of a “reasonable” Zionist?

  12. hophmi
    June 9, 2010, 3:36 pm

    If only all of you had any idea how you look defending people who tell the Jews to go back to Germany and Poland.

    I don’t understand why you can’t both like Helen Thomas and condemn her antisemitic comments.

    • thankgodimatheist
      June 10, 2010, 4:46 am

      Did you watch the video uncut hopme? Not just the sound bite but the whole? Here it is:
      link to balloon-juice.com

      Q: Any advice for these young people over here for starting out in the press corps?

      Thomas: Go for it. You’ll never be unhappy. You’ll always keep people informed, you’ll always keep learning. The greatest thing of the profession is you’ll never stop learning.

      Q: Today they are covering the Jewish Heritage Month.

      Thomas: … and meet the President.

      A: Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everyone today, any comments on..

      Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

      Q: Oooh. Any better comments?

      Thomas: Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. It’s not German and it’s not Poland.

      Q: So where should they go, what should they do?

      Thomas: They can go home.

      Q: Where is home?

      Thomas: Poland. Germany.

      Q: So you are saying Jews should go back to Poland?

      Thomas: And America and everywhere else. Why push people out who have lived their for centuries? See?

      Q: Now, are you familiar with the history of that region and what took place?

      Thomas: Very much. I’m of Arab background.

      {It goes on for a little while with friendly banter about languages they both speak with words I can not even begin to spell.}

      Q: Thank you.

      Thomas: All the best to you (directed at the Jewish students). Go for it- go for journalism, you’ll never regret it.
      I don’t see anti-Semitism here. But then again, I’m not a victim-pro!

    • Donald
      June 10, 2010, 7:29 am

      Some of us condemned her comment as wrong and an advocacy of ethnic cleansing if meant seriously. What angers nearly all of us is the double standard. An acceptance and endorsement of ethnic cleansing is implicit any time someone says Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state. And people say that with the air of a person making some sort of moral pronouncement.

      But Helen was probably just speaking out of irritation at that double standard–in her statement she sounds like all the people who say that there are a great many Arab states and Palestinians should just move there or take what scraps of land Israel is willing to let them have. Unlike people who assume Palestinians don’t have the right of return, Helen did apologize.

    • kapok
      June 10, 2010, 9:42 am

      I don’t understand You don’t even try. Your boy Netanyahu is the biggest anti-joo going. He thrives on it. Open your eyes, bozo.

    • Psychopathic god
      June 10, 2010, 9:50 am

      I have no problem telling the world why I “can’t both like Helen Thomas and condemn her antisemitic comments.”

      It’s because the whole ‘antisemitic’ schtick is phoney, it’s fundamentally antiAmerican, it’s overdone, it’s played out, and anyway, what Ms. Thomas said was truth, and truth is a defense against any charge, whether bogus or not.

      I’m American and I don’t like Israel.
      deal with it

      • hophmi
        June 10, 2010, 12:32 pm

        Since Helen Thomas was stating an opinion, I’m not sure how you conclude that it was “truth.”

        I can deal with an American who doesn’t like Israel. I don’t like people who are antisemites, and I don’t care if you think the antisemitism “shtick” is phony.

        And let’s stop with the free speech nonsense. Free speech does not entitle anyone to a front row seat in the White House press room and it does not entitle anyone to a speech agent, a book deal, and a column no one reads. Nobody is telling her not to speak. They’re just not going to pay her lots of money for it.

      • alec
        June 10, 2010, 7:36 pm

        One remark out of line about Israel and a 70 year long career is over? Do you have any idea of how stupid your defence of this muzzling sounds? Probably, I imagine you are writing it with your tongue lolling right out your cheek.

  13. Donald
    June 9, 2010, 4:19 pm

    The link below to the hybrid states blog is interesting–apparently one of the spiritual leaders of the settler movement just died and Israel’s political elite (including Netanyahu and Barak) are gushing over him.

    link to hybridstates.com

    • Bumblebye
      June 9, 2010, 5:08 pm

      link to coteret.com
      Undoubtedly a spiritual brother to the author of the book in this piece, which is updated:
      Nov 16 “The racist lore, as taught by the rabbis of Hebron and Bet El is everywhere.”
      Nov 19 the Rabbis Yeshiva is funded by the Israeli government
      Dec 15 Haaretz uncovers US federal tax exemptions for American charities funding the rabbis

      What’s the betting none of the above has changed?
      Just the attitudes and beliefs of young men and women in possession of weapons, whether or not in the army, determined to rain more death and terror on their despised neighbors.

  14. Rupa Shah
    June 9, 2010, 5:09 pm

    “Jews for Helen Thomas”
    link to youtube.com

  15. Avi
    June 9, 2010, 5:56 pm

    Her words were “unconscionably callous and vile,” said Andrew Sullivan.

    Sullivan is a classic fence-sitter. He’s neither here nor there. Perhaps one day he’ll grow a brain and realize that when one is convinced in the righteousness of his words and actions, one need not constantly revert to claptrap phrases and utter nonsense. Wake me up when he doesn’t sound like the typical self-styled liberal-Zionist anymore.

  16. thankgodimatheist
    June 10, 2010, 7:11 am

    By Jonathan Cook: Moral Failure of American Liberals: A Defence of Helen Thomas”

    The ostracism of Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, over her comment that Jews should ‘get the hell out of Palestine’ and ‘go home’ to Poland, Germany, America and elsewhere is revealing in several ways. In spite of an apology, the 89-year-old has been summarily retired by the Hearst newspaper group, dropped by her agent, spurned by the White House, and denounced by long-time friends and colleagues.
    link to palestinechronicle.com

  17. rachel
    June 10, 2010, 7:46 pm

    How many of you would be defending Geert Wilders from the Netherlands had he said ” All Moslem immigrants should go back to their countries?”

  18. esteban folsom
    June 11, 2010, 3:00 am


    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.
    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.
    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.
    William Ernest Henley

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