The demonization of Helen Thomas


I am not dumb.

I understand why people are upset with Helen Thomas; why people—Jewish and non-Jewish—took offense to her remarks that Jews in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany and Poland; why the president called her remarks “offense” and agreeing that her resignation yesterday was the right thing.

But I don’t agree. Not entirely Not with the uproar and not with the demonization. People in this country are allowed to have opinions, even if they’re not popular or especially elegant. Helen Thomas did not wish for the death of all Jews, or damn them to an eternity in hell. She stated the opinion that Israel shouldn’t exist as a nation. (That said, her follow-up thoughts on “go home” to Germany and Poland were really, really dumb. And ugly). I don’t agree with her take. Not even remotely. But I do understand the thinking behind it (I’m Jewish, remember), and I don’t believe every single person who thinks Israel was unfairly founded is a beast.

It’s interesting what we decide offends us, and who we deem offense. As my friend Mike Lewis just noted, guys like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh sling opinions that make Thomas’ thoughts seem mild. And yet, because they’re loud and obnoxious, we choose to either applaud or ignore the words, sans real controversy.

Was Thomas wrong? Yes, yes, yes. But did she deserve her fate? No.

Personally, I like what Norman Lear had to say:

I am a jew. I love what we hope as a culture we are really about. I love Jewishness. But then, the way I think of Jewishness, I love Italian-ness, Irish-ness and all the other nesses, too. What we all intend, at least what our cultures and religions say we all intend, is good.

Among them is forgiveness. As journalist Helen Thomas leaves the national stage after her 50-year run, it’s time to forgive that now ancient hatched-faced whippersnapper, whose just being there delighted us for so many years. I will never forgive her offensive last words per se, but rest well, Ms. Thomas, on the billions of other words and on the 90 years it took to say them.

5 thoughts on “The demonization of Helen Thomas”

  1. She’s said similar stuff for years now. It wasn’t a one time slip up by an old lady. Would if she said blacks should go back to Africa? Or Asians can’t drive?

  2. I’m pretty ambivalent about this, myself. In the first case, I am one of the people who thinks that Israel was created unfairly and that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have some very legitimate grievances. So, the comment about the Jewish people leaving Palestine kind of makes sense to me–superficially at least. But, then to tell the Jewish people to go back to Germany. That’s about as thoughtless a comment as I can think of.

    How thoughtless? Asking the Jewish people to go back to Germany after the Holocaust is worse than asking a rape victim to go live in her rapist’s basement. It’s worse than asking the family of Daniel Pearl to go vacation as guests of al Qaeda. It’s worse than asking the friends and families of 9-11 firefighters and police officers to spend a year under the care of Osama bin Laden, wherever he happens to be. She might as well have suggested cheap real estate available at a quaint fixer-upper called Aushchwitz.

    But… somewhere in there is a legitimate historical grievance about the role of the UN and creating nations where they did not previously exist. And rather than have a discussion about that, as adults, people resorted to name-calling and general hysterics.

    So now, a 50-year veteran of presidential press coverage has been forced into silence and resignation for one insanely insensitive–perhaps a neologism like “non-sensitve” would be better–remark. Something doesn’t seem right about that.

  3. It was an offensive opinion…she has the right to say what she wants, but she also has to take the consequences of that.

  4. Muhammad Goldstein

    Members of Congress say far, far worse things every day abotu Arabs (and Muslims in general) with little or no fuss. This is just another case that shows the power of the ADL in the US.

  5. When opinions are dramatically opposed to the responsibilities of your profession, it’s time to find another profession.

    Telling Jews to “go back to Germany and Poland” is just a polite way to say “go back to Auschwitz”. Telling Jews they have no right to live in the land of Israel is an opinion based on the belief, contradicted by fact, that the Jews are just European conquerors with no historic connection to the land. This belief paired together with holocaust denial, are widely held in the muslim and arab world. No Journalist who wishes to enjoy any credibility (or respect) should subscribe to either belief.

    It would be like a sports writer claiming that the Dodgers never played in Brooklyn.

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