Personal Entries

Helen, let’s discuss this.

I’m not sure I understand the fuss.  It’s not that I agree with you, Helen Thomas, but you have a right to your own opinion.  Although, referring to the land of Israel as being “occupied” Palestinian territory isn’t quite correct.

The Ottomans held the  land now known as the State of Israel for the better part of the four hundred years preceding World War I.   They threw their lot in with Germany during World War I,  brokered deals to gain land if victorious, and then lost their shirt when they lost the war.  The Ottoman loss was the British gain because that’s what happens when you go to war and lose. Because it was politically theirs to give, the Brits handed the land over to be used  as a new Jewish homeland after WWII.  Ta-da! Israel!

Was it a good idea?  I can’t imagine how anyone ever thought this would go  well.  Did the Zionists play nice with the region’s natives when establishing their new country?  Most Palestinians who were there at the time say no.  Is the land Israel’s, fair and square?  By all laws of ownership by the militarily victorious,  yes.   Is everyone happy about that?  No.  Does everyone agree?  No.  When your land is won by a bunch of people from halfway around the world, and then given away to those victimized by someone else entirely, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Those who feel they’ve been equally victimized by the Zionist movement understandably hold a grudge.  Has Israel been a bit heavy on the trigger finger?  A big, huge yes.  Has this made them popular on the Arabian peninsula?  No, and why would it?  Do both sides feel they are right?  Yes, and sadly, they both are in many ways.  This isn’t black and white, and cut and dry;  that’s the problem.

So, back to Helen and her “get the hell out of Palestine” sentiments.

Helen Thomas has seen a lot.  She’s informed.  She’s smart.  As a first generation American and the daughter of Lebanese parents,  she’s been exposed to varying perspectives on the State of Israel, and she’s come to a different conclusion than that which is politically correct.   She’s entitled to that opinion.   Moreover,  holding the opinion that peace will not come while the region of Palestine is held by Israel, and that Israel is not the rightful owner of much of the land it holds is not anti-Semitic.  Expressing that the residents of Israel should go back to their countries of origin is not an anti-Jewish statement, but an anti-Zionist one, and there is a huge difference between the two:  one is about race, and the other is about land ownership. Her opinion is different from that held by many Jews and by the White House, but that does not make it racist, and should not require that she prostrate herself and grovel for forgiveness.

Shame on those who are jumping on that bandwagon: why is your opinion so right, so sacred?  Who do you think you are to demand apologies because someone disagrees with your opinion about land ownership?

Helen Thomas posted this statement on her website on June 4:

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.  May that day come soon.”

So, here’s my problem with you, Helen:  You caved.

I think you meant what you said in front of that camera.  I admired your candid expression of what was obviously a passionate belief,  albeit an unpopular one.  I was eager to hear you back it up.

Now they’re calling you a bigot.  They’re calling for better apologies. They’re saying you’re a racist.  They’re renaming awards and uninviting you to speak at commencements. They are spouting about your age, as if senility must be behind the opinions they don’t like.  And you…..recant?


It feels insincere, and I don’t buy it.  I would have admired you more had you taken this opportunity to explain yourself, and in explaining yourself perhaps broaden our understanding of a situation we are so clearly viewing from only one side.  Not for nothing are you the journalistic icon you are,  and I was looking forward to the pot of debate you could have stirred with an articulate defense of your position.

For decades,  you’ve handled presidents and senators.  You’ve made yourself a hero to women journalists everywhere.  And yet, in a few short days you’ve thrown it all away ; you’ve let the spin doctors spin your hard-won reputation right into the dirt, and over one unpopular opinion.

Why, Helen?  You’re better than that.



5 thoughts on “Helen, let’s discuss this.

  1. First off, I am not sure she “caved”. She didnt apologize. There is as much message in what she didnt say as what she said in her “apology”. She said she “regretted saying it”. That is different. She regrets saying it because of the problems it caused her. The First Amendment only guarantees that the Government cannot restrict speech. Private/Corporate entities are free to fire you for what ever is deemed offensive speech and it happens often, even to people like professional athletes and sports commentators who are not held in such esteem as the crazy old bat. She is old and angry. She stopped being a journalist long ago and became a “commentator”…a Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olbermann. She stopped having any dignity and she did not show respect for the institutions she was priveleged to have access to. You can always disagree and disent, but she was mean spirited and without class. Now, I realize that is endearing to some people.

    As far as her comments. It was interesting that she is was at a Jewish event when she said this. I do see your distinction between being anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, but a majority of the Jews don’t separate the two. And as we have seen over and over again in today’s world, the offendees get to set the rules on what is offensive to them. We have the whole homo-phobia, xenophobia, etc…meaning you can’t just not like something, you have to be afraid of it…it is all a play on words to put the “offenders” on the defensive.

    According to reports of colleagues, she has been anti-Israel for a long time. She hails from Lebanon and everyone in the Middle East outside of Israel hates Israel. It is interesting that most Arabs don’t like the Palestinians also. They pretend to be for the Palestian cause but in reality they are just against Israel. The world changes, land is taken, there is mass migration. But as generations pass, never has the “send them all back to where they came from” been acceptable. Her first allegiance is to the Arab world. I would not be surprised if she is a Holocaust denier also. Maybe she can get a front row seat in Tehran with Ahmadinejad.

    Many people who do great things are flawed. She broke the barrier for women in hournalism. However, she is full of hatred and it is deep in her fiber. She said:

    “I censored myself for 50 years,” Thomas said in 2002. “Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?'”

    I don’t really care what her opinions on Israel, Jews, Palestinians or America are. I just want her held to the same standards as every one else who is villified for just speaking their mind.

    In conclusion, As am starting to believe, there are no great people, just great accomplishments or great achievements from flawed human beings.

    1. “I just want her held to the same standards as every one else who is villified for just speaking their mind.” Absolutely, but was what she said so blatantly wrong that there should be repurcussions?

      “…there are no great people, just great accomplishments or great achievements from flawed human beings.” Scott, don’t let Washington jade you! What is a “great” person? “Great” isn’t necessarily pure, or untarnished, or even good, is it? Perhaps achieving great things while being flawed and human is greatness? To be great and also be a good person, though, is quite a trick to pull off. Greatness often requires huge compromises be made, and those compromises often hurt someone or something else.

      I tend to think those who seek positions of great power and influence are inherently flawed by their own ambitions and egos; to raise your hand to lead is quite an arrogant thing to do, isn’t it? And yet, without those inherently flawed, great people willing to lead and make decisions–to be the “deciders”– how would we accomplish anything?

      It isn’t pretty, though, and perhaps greatness is best viewed from afar?

  2. Bravo, well written Katie. I have been out of the loop, while househunting, but can’t agree with you more. Is there a right answer for everyone, no. The Christians can’t even get along, I saw a big fight on the news by two groups of Christian priests on who had the right to be there, the Holy Land at that particular time, it was awful. Definitely wouldn’t jive with the WWJD group. Well, ‘hope springs eternal’.

    Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
    Man never Is, but always To be blest:
    The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
    Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

    -Alexander Pope,
    An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

  3. I agree with the author that what we heard from Helen Thomas seemed like the beginning of a detailed counter argument to the current situation in the Middle East. When two students are always fighting, you separate them in the hopes that they can’t get at each other. And perhaps, that’s what Helen Thomas was trying to get at…

    But, unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear the rest of what she meant. And, after such comments mixed with the current political environment, she easily was labeled as a racist.

  4. This is AWESOME. Really. I wish I could come up with something wittier and more succinct than that, but there you have it.

    Well done, my dear. Extremely well written and even if I didn’t agree with you, I would say that you could not have stated both sides of that “debate” any better than you did.

    {I add quotation marks to “debate” because, like you, I don’t feel that it IS a debate – it just feels like we’re hearing “Don’t question me – I’m right,’CAUSE I SAID SO!” and you’re absolutely right – we would definitely have benefited from hearing her clarify her position.}

    I’m sending a link to this to everyone I can think of.


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