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LBJ and Obama both took insults from Israel in election years — Helen Thomas

on 21 Comments
Helen Thomas photo by J Scott Applewhite/AP

Helen Thomas photo by J Scott Applewhite/AP

The venerable White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who died in July, was Mark Mondalek’s grandmother’s cousin. He says his interviews in 2011-2012 with Thomas, an Arab-American who resigned under pressure in 2010 because of comments she made about Israeli Jews, were the last she ever gave. At Middle East Monitor.

Some excerpts, focusing on the Israeli influence in American politics, LBJ’s ignoring the USS Liberty attack in an election year, Obama’s taking insults from Netanyahu, Israel trying to get us into an Iran war, etc. Re my headline, I’d note that no foreign country can sustain this degree of influence in our politics for so long, 44 years, without Americans waking up. It’s happening.

Q. The fight against terrorism has taken an interesting turn with regards to its shift toward places like Yemen and Pakistan now, too.

HT: Pakistan is a mess. Pakistanis protected bin Laden. Nobody knew where he was, baloney. They killed him. They should never have killed him.

Q. If they took him alive they could have maybe humanised him within the rule of law.

HT: Right. But they didn’t want him to be humanised, that’s for sure. They killed him. They had no right to do that. Under international law? Just to have these guys come and shoot him? The U.S. has lost its honour. They have no honour. They have no right to go kill people in their own country. They went into a foreign country and killed a man.

Q. What are your thoughts on Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress on May 24, 2011, in which he declared that “Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967?”

HT: Congress demeaned us. They disgraced us. And Obama was disgraced, totally. He deserves it. [He was] scared to death.

Q.Why does Obama deserve it?

HT: He let these people insult us. We were insulted. He was scared. You don’t alienate [the Israelis] when you have an election coming up. He should have stood up for what’s just and said, “Look, I don’t like an aggressor.”

Q. It’s impossible to avoid coming back to the Six-Day War over and over again, isn’t it?

HT: Abba Eban went to the Pentagon a weekend before the Six-Day War started and got the maps for 25 airfields in the whole Arab world and they killed them all, they bombed them all. That’s how dirty the U.S. was. They gave them maps from the Pentagon. The U.S. has been rotten. I’m sorry. It’s been rotten.

Q. Then in the aftermath of the war-

HT: Well, the U.S. was helping the Israelis and has helped them with planes, with the money, with everything–with all the intelligence. And then when they bombed the USS Liberty in bright sunlight with the sun shining and there was no mistaking the American flags flying everywhere, they bombed the American intelligence ship. They killed 34 people and one sailor finally got to a phone to SOS the American fleets just barely nearby, they were coming to the rescue, and LBJ [Lyndon B. Johnson] called them off, called off a rescue for the people on the Liberty. He was running for election.

Q. What did they have to gain from that?

HT: LBJ thought he had a lot to cosy up to with the Israelis.

Q. But what did the Israelis get out of it then?

HT: Oh, they could wipe out an intelligence ship. Information. We had it all. We damn well knew what was happening in the Middle East. We betrayed ourselves. We betrayed every Arab. We allowed the Israelis to win that war and it was so rotten. And they killed our own people. People who are survivors of the Liberty are still damned mad. LBJ called off any rescue and the ships had to go back because he wanted to win an election and he wanted the Israelis to be on his side. He betrayed the world. He betrayed the U.S., in my opinion. He betrayed his own people. He saw his own people being killed–Americans being killed–and the Israelis were killing us. There was no mistake. It was bright sunlight, American flags flying.

Q. What do you think about the fear that the Arabs will lose interest in the Palestinian cause?

HT: They don’t have many people standing up for the Palestinians. People don’t understand their plight. The Arabs haven’t done enough for them. They don’t fight, long as they’re comfortable. But the cause is great and they’re very righteous. The Jews have no right to come from nowhere and say, “This is my home, God gave it to me.” Rabin said, “Where’s the deed?”…

Q. When is the next…

HT: Invasion? Iran. They’ll bomb Iran as soon as it gets the bomb.

Q. Does it matter if a Republican or a Democrat is in office?

HT: No. The Israelis have the influence over both parties. They put their money in both parties.

Q. Talk from Israel on a “pre-emptive” strike on Iran continues on unabated, also. Oh, yeah, they’re still building up, aren’t they? But the thing is, the U.S. has never told them to shut up. Get the hell out of it. Well, I hope that they don’t win. I hope that the Israelis don’t get us into this war.

Mondalek is a Detroit-area writer and contributing author at Boiling Frogs Post and is working on a book about the life of Helen Thomas. Here he is on Twitter.

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21 Responses

  1. OlegR
    October 27, 2013, 12:32 pm

    So she hated the Israelis and thought US should have supported the Arabs.
    Big news.

    • Krauss
      October 27, 2013, 3:21 pm

      No, she wanted balance in the region.
      The fact that you can’t even comprehend that isn’t surprising.

    • eGuard
      October 27, 2013, 4:34 pm

      No. She says, US should have supported Americans.

    • justicewillprevail
      October 27, 2013, 4:56 pm

      Ha ha, you’re about as subtle as a sledgehammer, oleg. And as knowledgeable. No, she thought the US should support justice for the people of the region and treat a criminal state which attacked one of its ships and killed its sailors with the contempt and outrage it deserves. I know justice is a difficult concept for you. Not big news.

    • Justpassingby
      October 27, 2013, 5:16 pm

      You love Israel and doesnt think US should support the arabs.

      • OlegR
        October 28, 2013, 4:53 am

        It’s a bit crude generalization when you say arabs , but yes
        in a nutshell.

  2. just
    October 27, 2013, 1:43 pm

    How I miss her!

    Thanks Phil, and many thanks to Mark Mondalek.

  3. Krauss
    October 27, 2013, 3:28 pm

    Phil, here’s a very relevant recent talk that Uzi Arad made to an Israeli right-wing think tank.

    Why is it important? Because Uzi was Bibi’s right-hand man for many years and he was knee-deep in Israeli/US relations for decades.

    It’s just 20 minutes, but what strikes me is the total tone of arrogance, that of a bully. This is a man who is used to pushing the Americans around. Everything that America differs on has to be “corrected” or it’s that they “show lack of will”.

    There’s much more in what he says, and you get pretty good behind-the-scenes look at how the atmosphere was in the dying years of the Bush administration, he talks about the 2007 report (which he said “we later corrected”), he talked about meeting with Cheney.

    Interesting facts in of itself, but the tonality and the attitude of the bully is most revealing thing to me, he knows he has the upper hand with the Americans thanks to AIPAC. Israel is a tiny country and shouldn’t exert the total dominance it does on American policy, but it does. When he talks about Iraq, he reveals the Israelis pushed for war with Iran first(as MJ Rosenberg and others have reported), when the Americans said they went for Iraq first because it was easier, he started to threaten and doubt them, in to their faces, asking mockingly if they just had one bullet.

    In any normal relationship between two nations, there would have been a downgrade a long time ago. Maybe even a ‘dumping’ as Sheuer talked about. It’s truly astounding how a guy like Uzi Arad can barge in and lecture the Americans on their own foreign policy and demand more army invasions with a straight face. A country of 8 millions with an economy smaller than the Swiss.


  4. Denis
    October 27, 2013, 4:43 pm

    “LBJ’s ignoring the USS Liberty attack in an election year ”

    To clarify: the only election in 1967 was the one for Caleb County, TN animal control officer. Correct. LBJ campaigned Elsie Butler and did not mention the Liberty attack. Nor did he mention holding his beagles up by their ears to make them “sing.”

    • lysias
      October 27, 2013, 5:51 pm

      True, the timing indicates that electoral politics was not the reason why LBJ ignored the attack on the Liberty. It’s often said he wanted to assure support by American Jews for the Vietnam War. Myself, I suspect the Israelis knew the extent of LBJ’s involvement in the JFK assassination (possibly because they were themselves involved,) and were blackmailing him. If they weren’t blackmailing him over the JFK assassination, there were plenty of other things LBJ could be blackmailed over. And somebody like Abe Fortas knew where the bodies were buried.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    October 27, 2013, 6:30 pm

    RE: “LBJ and Obama both took insults from Israel in election years — Helen Thomas”

    “How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents”, By Morgan Strong (A Special Report),, 5/31/10

    [EXCERPT] ● Secret Nukes and JFK
    . . . Even as it backed down in the Sinai [following its invasion in 1956], Israel was involved in another monumental deception, a plan for building its own nuclear arsenal.
    In 1956, Israel had concluded an agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert. Israel also signed a secret agreement with France to build an adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.
    Israel began constructing its nuclear plant in 1958. However, French President Charles de Gaulle was worried about nuclear weapons destabilizing the Middle East and insisted that Israel not develop a nuclear bomb from the plutonium processing plant. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion assured de Gaulle that the processing plant was for peaceful purposes only.
    After John F. Kennedy became President, he also wrote to Ben-Gurion explicitly calling on Israel not to join the nuclear-weapons club, drawing another pledge from Ben-Gurion that Israel had no such intention.
    Kennedy continued to press, forcing the Israelis to let U.S. scientists inspect the nuclear reactor at Dimona. But the Israelis first built a fake control room while bricking up and otherwise disguising parts of the building that housed the plutonium processing plant.
    In return for allowing inspectors into Dimona, Ben-Gurion also demanded that the United States sell Hawk surface-to-air missiles to the Israeli military. Kennedy agreed to the sale as a show of good faith.
    Subsequently, however, the CIA got wind of the Dimona deception and leaked to the press that Israel was secretly building a nuclear bomb.
    After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson also grew concerned over Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. He asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
    Eshkol assured Johnson that Israel was studying the matter and would sign the treaty in due course. However, Israel has never signed the treaty
    and never has admitted that it developed nuclear weapons. [For details, See “Israel and The Bomb” by Avner Cohen.] . . .


  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    October 28, 2013, 2:43 am

    Helen Thomas was a good reporter, so she may have known stuff that isn’t common knowledge. But does anyone have a link to a reputable source (or irreputable for that matter) that backs up the claim that Abba Eban went to the Pentagon the weekend before the war in order to get maps of the Arab airfields. To me it sounds like a bunch of hooey, having never heard it before (and always assuming that Israel had those maps on file for many years, updated every few months.)

  7. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    October 28, 2013, 2:52 am

    Regarding the USS Liberty: (I have not read enough to comment about the behavior of LBJ in reaction to the Liberty, but) I believe that LBJ was pro Israel in the war (after giving them a yellow light, changed from red, after Hussein signed his pact with Nasser) and I don’t think it had anything to do with elections. LBJ was pro Israel throughout his career and pro Jewish before there was an Israel and I do not believe it was anything but heartfelt. (He was a politician and knew who his friends were and benefited from his friendships. So one would have to go back to his beginnings to plumb his relationships with Jews and with Israel and to flippantly say, “it was an election year” encourages ignorance.)

    Recently, the election cycle gets into high gear already a year before the conventions, but this was not true in 67 and 68.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      October 28, 2013, 4:24 am

      I am agnostic on the Liberty attack: Don’t know if it was intentional or not. The best argument against it being intentional is: was the risk of attacking the US ship worth the negligible gains vis a vis disrupting US intelligence? The second best argument against it being intentional is: war is messy and when fighting a war, people tend to act first and think later.

      To those who feel they have enough information to assert that the attack was intentional, let me ask: “How far up the chain of command do you think the decision was made?” Who was the Israeli general or admiral or secretary of defense who took the decision? Did Eshkol decide? Of course not. Did Dayan decide? Probably not. So since you have read enough about the episode to come to a conclusion, who is the Israeli army official who you think is the most likely one to have made the decision?

      • lysias
        October 28, 2013, 11:19 am

        During the attack, the Israelis were jamming U.S. Navy radio frequencies. Of course they knew it was a U.S. ship.

        They were also jamming the International Distress Frequency, which it is a war crime to jam.

        The first missiles launched by the Israeli planes that were the first to attack the Liberty were heat-seeking missiles that went after the Liberty’s transmission apparatus. They intended to make it impossible for the Liberty to get off an SOS. (It was the Liberty’s good luck that one of its transmitting antennas was down for repairs, so that it was not hit, and the Liberty could get off an SOS after the antenna was hastily repaired. Which is what saved the ship from the sinking with all hands that the Israelis intended.)

      • justicewillprevail
        October 28, 2013, 12:38 pm

        It doesn’t matter who made the decision, probably not a single individual anyway, it is clear that it was made and that Israel is culpable, its government collectively so. Casting around for a name to blame, and demanding that others supply one, doesn’t let you off the hook, or negate the evidence.

  8. quercus
    October 28, 2013, 9:16 am

    “If they took him alive they could have maybe humanised him within the rule of law.”

    What an incredibly stupid statement! Of course, bin Laden was human, what the hell else was he? And please, please, can we stop using the expression “rule of law”. Either you call it a “rule” or you call it “law”. Using the expression “rule of law” sounds like someone adding extraneous words to appear “intellectual”.

    And is OlegR a complete moron? He replies to “justpassingby” that using the word “arabs” is a crude generalization, when he himself used the word “arabs” in his earlier comment.

  9. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    October 28, 2013, 9:32 am

    The Wikipeda page on the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty is comprehensive, listing sources who claim the attack was an accident and sources who claim the attack was deliberate.
    The former group (“accident”) includes dedicated Israeli propaganda outfits like CAMERA, “Honest Reporting”, the ADL, Michael Oren, etc.
    The second group includes US military officers and survivors of the Israeli attack, and high-ranking US officials, people like Dean Rusk, US Secretary of State at the time.
    Looks deliberate to me.
    Especially persuasive to me is the fact that all US military officers say the Liberty was flying the US flag, and it was a clear day.

  10. goldmarx
    October 28, 2013, 5:13 pm

    I believe the evidence is clear that Israel intentionally attacked the Liberty. But the reason given is weak – fear of US intelligence? Why should Israel have been afraid if Abba Eban got maps from the Pentagon a week before the Six day War and LBJ was such a heartfelt pro-Israeli pol? It just doesn’t add up.

    Here’s a better reason – LBJ ordered Israel to attack the Liberty due to his well-known paranoia about Soviet spies infiltrating the U.S. military. He outsourced a fragging operation because he couldn’t trust his own troops to do it. Israel’s leaders complied with LBJ’s wishes so that he’s have Israel’s back in the future.

    If Helen Thomas thinks LBJ is a traitor anyway, why not in this way?

  11. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    October 29, 2013, 8:42 pm

    The attack on the USS Liberty is disturbing and will require some more research (by me) before I reach any conclusions. Here are some more questions: 1. A factual question. It was proposed here that Israel was jamming the Liberty’s radio. How is such jamming performed (or more to the point, given 1967 technology, how is such jamming performed and at what distances can it be performed.) 2. An argumentative question: Is it not true that the Liberty was ordered out of that part of the Mediterranean by the Pentagon, but the order was “lost” and therefore not carried out in a timely manner. Why was it ordered out? Might the commanders of the ship intentionally disregarded a command to move out? Might there have been different factions in the state department and the pentagon regarding the war and might this explain this anomaly? Why is this direction of inquiry always omitted by those who claim Israel attacked intentionally? 3. A speculative question. What do you think was the standing command to the Israel air force and to the Israel navy from their commanding officers regarding ships in the Mediterranean from the war’s start? Assume that it was to attack all enemy ships in that body of water. Do you think the commanders made specific exceptions regarding Soviet or US ships? (As in: do not attack unknown ships until you have determined whether they are Soviet or US ships and only then attack?)

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      October 29, 2013, 8:45 pm

      I asked a few days ago whether anyone ever heard this: Abba Eban at the Pentagon getting maps of the Arab air fields on the weekend before the attack. So far my question has been answered with deafening silence. So I take it that this is just false propaganda that Helen Thomas had swallowed (or concocted) and was repeating without any shred of evidence. Was she not unhinged at her end and is not quoting her regarding LBJ severely irresponsible if her words included such a concoction?

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