Posts Tagged ‘Helen Thomas’

“… get the hell out of Palestine”

June 11, 2010

When Helen Thomas said Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine,” the implication was that the Jewish people are not a nation, in the way that the Irish, the Poles, the Algerians and others who have struggled for national independence, are nations, and have no right to a homeland, as these other nations have.

This is the prevailing point of view in the Arab world and widely held elsewhere, and it is a view that Americans rarely hear. According to this way of thinking, Jews are merely a minority group in whatever nation they happen to reside, and never can be more than that. Jews born in Poland are Poles, Jews born in Germany are Germans, Jews born in the United States are Americans and Jews born in the territory of the old British Palestinian Mandate are not Israelis, but Palestinians.  Jews have no right to leave their native lands, settle in Israel and the Palestinian territories and push out the resident population.

But there is a flip side to this, and that is the refusal to recognize that Palestinians also are a nation with a right to self-determination. The counter-argument is that Palestinians are not a nationality, and it doesn’t matter if they are pushed out of their ancestral lands, because they are merely generic Arabs who could live just as well in any Arabic-speaking country from Morocco to Iraq. If the Israelis demand that Palestinian Arabs acknowledge their right to exist as a nation, they should recognize the existence of the Palestinian Arab nation. The alternative is more suffering and more bloodshed.

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Exit Helen Thomas

June 9, 2010

It’s too bad that Helen Thomas didn’t retire years ago from her job as White House correspondent when she could have done so with dignity. Unlike baseball players, journalists tend to stay in the job long after they lose their ability to hit the long ball.  That was true of once-revered figures such as James Reston, and it is true of  David Broder and Larry King today. In contrast, Bill Moyers and, in an earlier era, Walter Cronkite retired when they were at the top of their game.

Helen Thomas is best known for asking questions at Presidential press conferences that other reporters do not dare to ask. But the reason she could get away with asking them is that she functioned as a licensed court jester – someone who could speak insults, nonsense or unwelcome truths because nobody took her seriously. It was an indulgence that was a flip side of prejudice against elderly women. She was a kind of mascot, a sort of elderly child who sometimes said the darndest things.

She deserves credit for being a woman who made her way to the top in journalism at a time when women were relegated to what was then called the “society page.” She must have had a tough time. I respect her for that. But what great news stories did she write? Her biography on her web site mentions her many journalism awards, but it has been a long time since she broke an important news story (*).

I agree that her remark about Jews in Israel going back where they came from was thoughtless and offensive, but I think they are less the words of someone who hates Jews than of someone who has lost the habit of thinking before she speaks.

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