It was clear from the brief clips shown of Helen Thomas – which could be seen all over the world after they were uploaded on YouTube – that the American journalist who is approaching 90 years of age was laughing and joking with the rabbi who was interviewing her when she issued the statements that caused uproar that is yet to subside.
Answering a question about Israel, Thomas told the rabbi interviewing her: “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, it’s not Poland.” When the rabbi asked her “where should they go” she answered “they should go home, Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.” This interview – which was published on the rabbi’s website – ended with him and Helen Thomas laughing together.
Of course, Helen Thomas’s comments came at the height of international anger towards Israel’s actions with regards to the Freedom Flotilla, which increased the force of the campaign launched by the pro-Israel lobby against the White House correspondent who witnessed half a century of White House diplomacy first hand and served under eleven successive US presidents. This campaign forced Thomas to apologize and retire against her will.
The campaign against Thomas included journalists, commentators, and professional associations. Articles Thomas was scheduled to write and receptions arranged in her honour were called off, and even the White House criticized her and condemned her comments. Many people rushed to recant their relations with a woman who is a journalistic and professional giant in the history of White House reporting.
The irony is that the comments published in newspapers or posted on websites that reported the news of Helen Thomas’s slip up were full of feelings of hatred and racism towards Arabs, Palestinians, Muslims, and the aged (with some making fun of Thomas’s age). Such comments even contained racist positions against President Barack Obama and against large groups of Americans and Europeans…
All of this might be a part of the nature of individuals…
The difference here is that Thomas is part of a group of US opinion-makers whose views and opinions create controversy and debate, with some of their views being met with widespread appreciation and support, and others provoking extensive outrage and this is where the viewpoints include the good and the bad.
Prominent political commentators in the US media like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Howard Stern, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly, to mention just a few, have expressed a series of racist views and opinions against blacks, immigrants, and homosexuals, not to mention Arabs and Muslims. They express these views on the internet, television, radio, and in newspapers.
Despite this, nobody has asked the above figures to retire, their television and radio shows have not been cancelled, and official statements are not issued denouncing their views.
When the proposal to transfer Palestinian refugees to Jordan was officially put forward as one of the solutions to end the regional conflict, nobody was forced to resign and nobody’s career was brought to an end.
Not all statements that criticize or denounce Israel’s policies are anti-Jewish. Many people have fallen into the trap of mixing up Israel and the Jews and into the trap of generalizing hostility towards the Jews. But Thomas’s comments were far removed from this.