Demonizing Helen Thomas
I’m sad to see Helen Thomas leave journalism on a sour note following a storm of fury over her anti-Israel remarks in May. When I was a kid, it meant a lot to see Helen on TV. She was one of the few women in a crowd of men in her red dress and lipstick giving Presidents hellish questions. While the rest of the press corps was chummy and, in her words, “rolled over and played dead” during most of the Bush years, she bristled on.
Instead of shoving this opinionated granddam out the door, America should have revived a dialog on what it would take for Palestinians and Israelis to coexist in peace and what part the U.S. is playing in persecuting Palestinians. We owed her at the very least a beer summit refereed by President Obama.
Helen Thomas worked as a journalist for 67 years, covering every presidency since JFK. Her parents left Tripoli in Northern Lebanon and came to the United States unable to read or write. Their daughter Helen would start as a copy girl and rise to the status of first female officer of the National Press Club. Thomas became the first female in several all-male journalist clubs.
She’s uttered words that question Israeli policy before. They are not Anti-Semitic:
At the July 18, 2006, White House press briefing, Thomas remarked, “The United States … could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis… we have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.”
During President George W. Bush’s first term, Thomas reacted to then-Press Secretary Ari Fleisher’s statements about arms shipments to the terrorists by asking: “Where do the Israelis get their arms?” He responded “There’s a difference Helen, and that is –”. “What is the difference?”, she asked. He responded: “The targeting of innocents through the use of terror, which is a common enemy for Yasir Arafat and for the people of Israel, as well as –”. She interrupted him, saying: “Palestinian people are fighting for their land.” He responded: “I think that the killing of innocents is a category entirely different. Justifying killing of innocents for land is an argument in support of terrorism.”
Below is Helen Thomas’ controversial comment:
Because Thomas does not support the policies of the Israeli government, she could be called an Anti-Zionist. To hate the workings of a government is not to hate a whole people. An Anti-Zionist is not an Anti-Semite.
Her apology: “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.”