Helen Thomas, a revered journalist, the Grand Dame of the White House Press Corps…said all Israeli Jews should simply leave Israel and go back to where they came from, Germany, Poland, America, etc.
Urging people to go back where they came from is not only unrealistic but has been a sentiment employed by people far less thoughtful and far more intolerant than Thomas.
I do not believe that this betrays Thomas as antisemitic, it would seem more anti-Zionist. Though this is a very divisive position to take, Thomas is exercising her Freedom of Speech by expressing this. And the response? She is attacked by the White House, Ari Fleisher (yes, he is cornering the market on gall), many mainstream, conservative and religious entities and a chant rose for her to resign, be fired and/or have her career obliterated…which has occurred.
Meanwhile, back at the Fox ranch, their “journalists” can call the POTUS a racist, marxist, Nazi/Hitler, Granny Killer, terrorist, anti-christ…and they get paid millions for it.
I totally disagree with Helen Thomas but she absolutely has a right to have and express any opinion she has on political matters. As the old saying goes, Freedom of Speech means protecting the right of others to say things you disagree with or find offensive.
So what does this say about freedom of expression in America? You can say traitorous things about our President but don’t dare speak in public if you have an unpopular opinion about Israel?
We watch an SC Republican refer to a fellow Republican of Indian descent as “a raghead”. Does he resign? No. Glenn Beck declared that Obama hates white people and is a nazi. Is he forced to resign? Of course not.
Remember right after 9/11, a number of journalists were fired by their papers for criticizing Bush and or his actions (like the Patriot Act, TIPS, buying plastic sheeting a duct tape, etc.)?
Remember, Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” was canceled due to White House anger at Maher for saying that they were wrong calling the terrorists cowards because it took guts to fly the planes into the buildings and kill themselves for their cause (though here too, I don’t agree with Maher’s facile conclusion)? Ari Fleisher, our new conscience of America, said back then in response to Maher’s show at a press conference:
And that’s why—there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party—they’re reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.
So…maybe “Freedom of Expression” in today’s America only applies to right wingers? Palin, Rush, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, Tea Party racists, etc. can say the most offensive and horrible things about our nation, our president, an entire political party and all must sit on their hands to respect their freedom to do so.
Yet, when someone who is not Right Wing says something that might offend someone, they need to be condemned, lose their job and have their reputation damaged.
What is hugely disappointing is the WH not condemning Israel’s attack on the flotilla which unnecessarily killed real human beings but instead, Gibbs comes out harshly to attack Helen Thomas merely for expressing an unpopular opinion.
During the Bush Admin, we saw our rights chopped down under the guise of protection. Though I have been very vocal about Dem purists criticizing Obama, I have to ask on this issue, how is this behavior by Gibbs any different than Fleischer’s under Bush?
As I mentioned, I don’t see the White House Press Corps as having principles any greater than one may find on cable news stations. We all remember how they rolled over on Iraq, The Patriot Act and most of the Bush Admin’s destructive actions.
Last night, Jon Stewart ran a montage of some of the ridiculous questions some of the WHPC asked instead of asking the important questions citizens deserve to have asked. It’s part way into this clip:
That was great. I thought of this article when I watched it.
This is for Jake Knotts (“We already got one raghead in the White House. We don’t need a raghead in the governor
The second video was so frigging offensive, I couldn’t watch it to the end.
I’m gonna be a little cute here, but a question:
Is or is not Palestine occupied?
Is it or is it not being settled and cantonized up?
Does Israel need or not need to get the hell of Palestine?
The double standard with this anti-Zionist comment and all those from the right is one thing: she crossed Israel.
Just one more case where I’m more convinced that Israel isn’t a client state of the US, but the other way around.
And if they’re offended by “go home” tell me what part of the Holocaust Arabs like her parents committed.
There are some radical groups of Amerindians who think that their colonialists should go back to Europe.
You know what? I’m not really offended. I think it’s a bit ridiculous, but why should they apologize?
It was not THEY WHO STOLE LAND.
Now, what was wrong about Thomas’ statement was that she played on a meme, that has been known to be anti-Semitic (insomuch that Gandhi said the same exact thing).
As a side note, a few years back Germany was begging for Rabbis to come back for the small Jewish community still left. To say that they can’t go to Germany (I won’t say ‘go back’ as they are generations removed by now) is playing upon equally offensive stereotypes of Germans – who are nothing like Nazis.
I’m sorry, but when is someone gonna get fired for being offensive towards Sikhs? Muslims? Hindus?
Some racism is still acceptable…
Oh, I’m sorry, that’s “tolerated” racism. Gawd, it’s like people are so ignorant and lazy they don’t even bother googling. Well, the Sikhs would be quite surprised that they are like Muslims.
You thought Helen Thomas’ comments were offensive to Jews? LOL! Learn a little about Sikh history!!!
No, we are nothing like the Nazis, most of us never were, not even then.
I say give the Palestinians back their land and stop the process of stealing more to satisfy people who have no respect for another’s right to exist. while claiming their own “rights.” We hear these words “right to exist” often when referring to Israel, now show the same rights to the Palestinians and there could be peace in the ME.
I realized I may have come off too strong against Israel there and been simplistic. Gandhi was spotty on the Nazis and proved Jinnah’s assertion that he could be na
My first reaction to this was the same thing concerning ‘freedom of speech’ but then I read Nellie’s replies and do agree with her POV.
But wasn’t Ms. Thomas’s comments not as a reporter, but a reporter or whoever, asking her opinion?
She wasn’t in reporter-mode, but she spoke as a person, right or wrong.
And I do believe that her reply was a knee-jerk reaction to the heavy-handedness of Netanyahu’s government and the flotilla raid.
I understand that FOX pundits and Pat Buchanan and Glenn Beck are not real journalists but there does seem to be a double standard when Beck can promote a book – “The Red Network” – written by an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer and there is no outrage from any Democrats or Republicans for that matter.
We all like to dismiss Beck as a nutcase but there are people who actually believe his every word, just as so many believe that FOX is the only fair and balanced network that fights the good fight against Liberalism and Socialism.
(the two are synonymous now)
The woman is 89 and will be 90 years old in August, so God bless her for being lucky enough to live that long and be able to work as long as she has and she deserves to retire.
I fear that she may leave us soon though, now that she’s been forced to retire.
But my gosh, what a life she has had, and if I could live to be 90 and still getting around as well as she did and still have her mind – I’d consider myself very lucky indeed.
My favorite part about that Beck story is that it shows how much he genuinely believes that Nazis=Communists.
He would be taken aback at how much Nazis hate Communists and all Leftists. That is why this was so beautiful to me.
I also imagine my own Beck chalkboard. He just gave me a gimme.
I’m still waiting for the outrage from the right on Sikh comments, or anything of the kind.
I really get where you’re coming from AdLib – it IS a double-standard. At first glance it may seem that the left doesn’t like free speech – we jump all over the obnoxious and hateful speakers and, recently, even call for them to be hung, drawn and quartered especially when that speech comes from the left. The right only ever seems to do it when such speech comes from the left – they ignore or excuse such speech from their own side and never, ever condemn it.
I like to think it’s because we’re better people than those on the right – that we think there is absolutely no free pass for anyone and that, while we defend free speech, we also recognise that there are consequences for hateful speech.
As a related aside – I listened to an interview on CBC with Lanny Davis, Clinton’s legal counsel back in the day, who claims to be a great friend of Helen Thomas. I don’t know who this man is or whether he is, indeed, a great friend. He said that he has researched HT’s views and firmly believes that she has always been anti-semitic, not merely critical of Israel. Her views go back a long way and she, according to him, is of the opinion that jews do not belong in Israel, they are an alien people. He further stated that she subscribes to the old anti-semite view that jews are doomed to wander the world without a home. He was coy about where he looked for his research so I have no idea how he came to his conclusion.
That being said – I defend her right to say whatever she pleases; I also defend the consequences of free but hateful speech – now if we could only get the right to behave like civilized human beings and stop behaving as if It’s OK If You’re A Republican!
Just for some background, Lanny Davis is a nasty piece of work, he was a principal of Hillary’s campaign and was involved with many of the dirtier attacks and campaigns against Obama. He also fought to divide the party and undermine democratic vote by campaigning for the primary winner to be decided by Super Delegates instead of majority vote and awarded delegates, when it became clear Hillary couldn’t win fairly.
He was a fountain of dishonesty and disinformation during that campaign, I put little weight into his word.
That said, I have read various comments saying that anyone who knew HT knew that she held negative views about Israel and that this was not news to many.
It is terrible that Thomas would serve in the meaningful role she has for so many years, break so many sexist glass ceilings and be so dogged in her questioning of presidents…yet turn out to have harbored such prejudices all along.
Indeed, liberals/Progressives are often guided by their principles over loyalty which is why they can turn against politicians and others in their party who do the wrong thing.
Though it sours Thomas’ contributions to our society, it doesn’t erase them.
I might compare it to an actor, singer, writer, artist, etc. who may have been a terrible, detestable human being but was a wonderful performer or artist. One can separate their work from their identity, have disrespect for the person but recognition for their work.
Unfortunately, that’s how I see Thomas now, I value all the contributions she made on behalf of truth and journalism but now view her as someone tainted by prejudice.
Thanks for the background AdLib – throughout the interview I had a really uncomfortable feeling about the man – especially his coyness on divulging where he researched to come up with his POV!
It is a terrible shame that someone with a glorious working career should go down in flames in a manner like this but admirable that you should struggle to separate the work from the person. I try to do that but feel guilty on enjoying some Wagner or watching Mad Max!
I used to get so hurt when I would blurt out a very rare criticism of someone, and get smacked down for it. I asked a friend why another friend, who was chronically cranky, got a pass on everything he said, and I never did. He mulled it over and then said, “We don’t expect it from you.” I’m not sure that made me happy, but it did make some sense.
The reason Beck et al. never engender the firestorm is that it’s ALL they do. They also have safe havens. Helen Thomas said something so out of keeping with her standards that it was shocking. She also worked for a news organization that (at least these days) is reputable. Fox is not.
Double standard? Absolutely. I seriously doubt the WH got her released. I think public opinion may have had an influence, but I see no hand by the WH to remove her. Oppose what she said, sure. But not do her in. The WH could not have any influence with Murdoch or their ilk, but I doubt they pulled the plug on Helen just because they could.
I am not particularly shocked by what she said since the equation with Black Americans is not right. The voluntary movement of people to settle a new nation imposed on an old is world’s different from people forcibley dragged to this one, kept in chains, and then told to “go home” as if they had HAD a choice in the first place. That said, it’s simply stupid. Many if not most Israelis are sabras – it’s their native land. It also dismisses the essential discussion of the two state solution and restoration of confiscated territory. However thin, Jews have a claim on heritage in these parts – albeit not for centuries before the Zionist efforts of the 19th C. – which is why the efforts to repatriate Jews to Uganda or even Grand Island, NY were absurd.
I am unaware of Helen Thomas’ heritage. I do think she blurted that out in frustration with the Israeli recalcitrance and in reaction to yet another brutal, deadly, and utterly inhumane act against unarmed people, and no “national security” issue will make those actions be OK.
But for her to lose her position over one comment is, yes, hypocritical. It’s just that she had the “bad” fortune to work for a more reputable organization that would Beck or Limbaugh. And thus is the time honored distinction between responsible journalism and the hype and theater that passes for same. The Right gets a pass because it’s what they do and with whom they do it. We did not expect it of Helen.
You make an excellent point, that those who we have come to expect impartiality from, most shock us when they expose partisanship or prejudice.
As for the WH making her “resignation” happen, I wouldn’t underestimate what it would mean to a newspaper to have their WH journalist personally and harshly rebuked by the President’s Press Secretary. Damaging that relationship and credibility would seem to be key to one’s ability to properly function in that position.
What she said absolutely is stupid. If Thomas wanted to recognize reality prior to the 1940’s, the current Israelis are relatives of the Israelis who were driven off of that land. So, it becomes a stupid game, depending on what time frame one chooses, one can make the case for Palestinians being driven out of their land or Israelis being driven out of their land.
Peace is only possible by accepting the present and not trying to return to or avenge the past. If both sides in this conflict would simply accept that neither the Palestinians or the Israelis are going anywhere and each have a right to exist, maybe progress could be made.
Your fourth paragraph, CL. I’d thought exactly the same about the false equivalency and everything else.
The BBC covered the story like this.
Well, if Fox gets the seat, at least folks can take some comfort that this offensive outburst by Thomas will be commemorated on a daily basis in kind from the same seat.
I find this exchange interesting, it took place on June 1st, Helen Thomas was going aggressively after Gibbs on the mild response to Israel’s attack on the floatilla:
She has every right to say it — and people have every right to react to it the way it deserves. We should send all blacks back to Africa. I’d love to see the reaction if a member of the White House Press Corps said something like that.
Helen should know better. She knows politics. She knows better than to equate the Israeli people with the actions of the Israeli government. The Israeli population itself is deeply divided over this issue — the press in Israel expresses a more diverse opinion of the raid than the press here at home.
What the real shame is — she exits an illustrious and honorable career — marked by an unflinching search for truth — with this brutish gaffe. It doesn’t reflect her work at all. But it’s an ugly remark. And that’s how it’s being treated.
That’s exactly what came to mind when I heard it, the “sending blacks back to Africa” BS. It is offensive.
But the double standard is striking when a Right Winger says offensive, prejudiced things, they aren’t sanctioned by The Establishment nor lose their jobs.
When a moderate or liberal says something offensive or prejudiced, they must be obliterated.
The sticky thing here for me is, I am not defending what she said but her right to have said it. And that includes criticism for the POTUS condemning an individual citizen on their personal opinion while having little to say about the deaths of 11 people, including one American, in international waters.
We need Obama protecting and recognizing Freedom of Speech and while he could have had Gibbs express disapproval, this powerful and harsh condemnation of a citizen for their unpopular opinion is troubling.
I would hope we’re holding the White House Press Corps to a different standard from corporate shills like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who are paid to mislead the public rather than inform us.
This isn’t a free speech issue. This is a decorum issue. Helen Thomas actually holds a place of high honor and respectability. This was unworthy of her.
I wouldn’t hold the White House Press Corps in too much regard as a whole, they laid down during the Bush Admin, gay prostitute Jeff Gannon was among them as are twisted Fox News types and “journalists” who, when Bush was in office, began their questions by thanking Bush for doing God’s bidding.
What Helen Thomas said is offensive, absolutely, and though I agree it is unworthy of her, should she have been personally attacked by the White House for it and have lost everything?
The question for me is, compared to how other incidents have been treated and considering all that she has contributed to our society over the decades, is the punishment and treatment appropriate?
Jeff Gannon was there because Bush wanted him there. The reason it was an outrage was precisely because he was unqualified. Most of those journalists are seasoned professionals. And we should hold them to a high standard.
You’re comparing apples an oranges, imo. Limbaugh is a big-mouthed blow hard. Everyone knows he’s a shill. He’s under no obligation to deliver a truthful message. He is NOT a journalist. Thomas is.
It’s like saying we’re going to regard the performance standards of Bozo the Clown the same way we regard those of Yo Yo Ma.
In terms of apples and oranges, even though she is part of the WH Press Corps, Thomas was an opinion columnist, unlike many of her colleagues. So, IMO, it would not be wholly inappropriate to compare opinionated columnists to each other.
The mitigating factor though is that she is in the WH Press Corps so I would agree with you that we should have expectations that members shouldn’t express such offensive statements.
I agree, she did fuck up but is her fuck up more severe than what Beck and Rush spew regularly?
As you say, the public did turn on Beck for his racist comments to promote a boycott…but the WH didn’t respond anywhere near as harshly and the MSM didn’t beat the drum that loudly for him to be fired, as was the case with Helen Thomas.
All people in this country, including Fleischer, have the right to express themselves. However, as someone who himself was responsible as a collaborator on the unnecessary deaths of over 1 million Iraqis, Fleischer’s claim of righteousness because of the hardship and suffering his mother suffered when another “decider” wreaked havoc and terror, is unmoving. Let’s keep in mind, this is not a genuine personal opinion but a political attack, Fleischer and Bush venomously shut out Helen Thomas, refusing to call on her for questions for years during the Bush reign.
So, there is bad blood politically here on Fleischer’s part and disgusting hypocrisy.
I too have been a long time fan of Helen Thomas, she always asked the tough questions of presidents. She did fuck up, this is an offensive opinion but the principle of Free Speech has just been pushed closer into retirement too.
Couple of thoughts. I don’t believe Helen is and ever was anti-semitic by any stretch of the imagination. I find it sad that folks would bring up her own ethnicity and decide where she’s coming from. That’s exactly how many black folks lose validity when they claim racism, “OH OFCOURSE THEY WOULD SAY THAT, THEIR BLACK”, when in fact, that is exactly what their dealing with. And a couple of more thoughts. She suggested that these folks go home. I feel her. They’ve not only established statehood in land assigned, but taken MUCH more. When does it stop? If your not satisfied with what you’ve been allocated, THEN GO HOME. We tell no less to our children, or at least that’s how I grew up. This is what’s for dinner, If you don’t want it, don’t eat. Additionally, maybe Helen is feeling what a GREAT MANY other Americans are feeling, including me. ENOUGH ALREADY! I don’t want to hear about the holocaust, I got my own to consider thank you very much and ya don’t hear me whining 24/7 about slavery, 400 years of it no less and the millions upon millions of my ancestors who were SLAUGHTERED. I don’t want another nickel of my taxes going to Israel. Maybe Helen sees what I see, that the oppressed have now become the oppressors! Just maybe she’s as sick of it as the rest of us.
I do think it is pertinent to always remember and respect the past and the horrors that were perpetrated.
At the same time, just as someone’s terrible childhood doesn’t justify them committing a violent crime against someone else, terrible things that have happened to a a race or religion doesn’t justify unjust treatment of another race or religion.
As I mentioned below, I think it could indeed be a case of utter frustration and disappointment with Israel’s actions and feeling that way in itself is not antisemitic.
I was actually going to blog about this, but I can incorporate it in another type of blog, so here goes the reply.
I disagree that she’s anti-Zionist. I actually think this reveals her anti-Semitism. Why?
Because I think a lot of people are hearing her say “Palestine” and thinking about Gaza or the West Bank, and she doesn’t mean that at all.
She was speaking about “Palestine” as in the “British Mandate of Palestine,” which actually made the first steps toward establishing a Jewish state in the Middle Easte, and it’s what the area was known as before the UN authorised the creation of Israel in 1948. But she was canny enough to know bloody well just how shallow the majority of American people are, who would misinterpret this in a more modern sense and have her back. She also reckoned on the privilege of age as a contingency plan – apologise, if caught out, and hope for her age and esteem to be taken into account.
One wonders why she said what she said when she saw a camera and a mic. Maybe she thought it was an insignificant broadcasting company, thus meaning her remarks wouldn’t reach a wide scope of people, or maybe she just didn’t give a damn and got caught up in her own hubris.
Whatever it was, I don’t think she reckoned on as many people actually understanding the scope of this remark. It was blatantly anti-semitic. It was telling people, most of whom NOW are children and grandchildren of people from Germany and Poland who went there after being displaced by a Holocaust, after suffering and surviving the atrocities of the concentration camps, to leave an area to which they are not entitled and go “home”, back to the very areas which saw the seed of their forefathers’ suffering?
Freedom of speech is an inalienable right, but it’s deeply attached to responsible speech, simple tact and common sense.
This has nothing to do with Gaza, nothing to do with the West Bank and nothing to do with the tragedy that happened last week for which Israel was in the WRONG. It has EVERYTHING to do with a 90 year-old Lebanese-American woman taking advantage of her age and her position to reveal her anti-Semitism and her subtle belief that an entire country does not have the right to exist.
I am amazed so many on the ueber Left have her back. Just imagine if Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh had made the same comment – because they’ve made similar ones about African Americans. Just imagine Pat Buchanan doing the same.
There’d be hell to pay.
I agree, Marion. This is the sort of statement you hear from stormfront goons, not from a prominent journalist. I spent a few weeks in Israel and I can assure you that in my short stay there I learned one thing — telling Israeli’s to “go home” is about most insulting and hurtful thing you can say to them.
When I was in the 7th Grade, we studied Virginia history. This was in the late 1960s, and the schools hadn’t long been integrated in Virginia. Our 7th Grade Virginia history book was a polemic. Bob McDonnell would have cherished it. We learned all about how happy the slaves were and how, after THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES (we were told never to call it The Civil War), all the ex-slaves thought they were better off during slavery. There was a black kid in our class and I felt ashamed that he had to hear this shit.
Forty years later, I hear Pat Buchanan spew virtually the same thing on television and I’m equally offended.
Pat Buchanan is a man of his time, and I make no excuses for him. Some people’s viewpoints and prejudices change over a lifetime. Some don’t, and that’s as true of people on the Left as people on the Right.
Pat Buchanan and Helen Thomas are both Southerners. Both would have remembered and experienced segregation, and both would remember the formation of the state of Israel. Both would remember, as well, that there was a lot of antipathy and prejudice in the South then towards the Jewish people as well.
She stepped over the mark on this. As I said, this had absolutely nothing to do with the West Bank, Gaza or anything remotely to do with recent events in the Middle East. This goes back a long way, and she was reaching. She reached too far; and Pat was playing on a stereotype too.
Actually, Pat Buchanan made a remark a few weeks ago saying there were too many Jews on the Supreme Court.
Helen should have thought about what she said before she said it and I am sure this comes from years and years of frustration on her part. I don’t hear other people getting booted for saying anything negative about the Palestinians or the folks calling Obama a racist, marxist, hitler, nazi and raghead.
This is a sad day and I am sorry Helen had to end her illustrious career on such a terrible note.
Appreciate your POV on this.
I don’t suffer racists, antisemites, chauvinists, etc, any hateful, prejudiced people.
At the same time, I want to feel certain before branding someone any of the above.
Maybe you’re right, maybe Helen is antisemitic and had all the things in mind that you describe, I don’t know that for certain though.
Is it possible that someone could become so frustrated with Netanyahu’s resistance to seeking peace and the latest hostilities that they might blurt out something like this? IMO, yes, it or something like that is possible.
Helen Thomas has quite a long and progressively-minded career, at first blush, antisemitism seems discordant with her track record.
I do think though that if any right winger was to say something like this, Rush, Beck, Palin, etc., it would not be a firestorm. It would be business as usual.