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.