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“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
March 22, 2011 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
posted by zarq (224 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
www.playboy.com, eh? Aw crap. Somehow I don't think I'm gonna be able to read this one at work today.
posted by Hoopo at 10:50 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never thought you would be saying "I can't wait to get home and check out Helen Thomas in Playboy!" did you?
posted by ghharr at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2011 [106 favorites]


Israeli policy is more far difficult to discuss rationally in the US than it is in Israel. There are parties in this country who are happy to drape themselves in Zionism to justify abhorrent human rights violations and terrible foreign policy.

That said, Helen Thomas's comments in the above interview don't do her any favors.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:01 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does she show everything?
posted by Trochanter at 11:01 AM on March 22, 2011


leotrotsky: "Helen Thomas's comments in the above interview don't do her any favors."

I had the same reaction. Some things veer a little close to 'crazy relative' talk to my ears.
posted by jquinby at 11:04 AM on March 22, 2011


Does she reiterate her statement that "we are all owned by the Zionists"?
posted by DWRoelands at 11:04 AM on March 22, 2011


Good god, please let there be no more 'har-har-Helen-Thomas-naked' jokes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:04 AM on March 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm generally sympathetic to her position, but how does she expect the several generations of Israel-born Israelis to "go home" exactly?
posted by Bromius at 11:04 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Israeli policy is more far difficult to discuss rationally in the US than it is in Israel."

If you say something about going back to Poland, in Israel, you will not get rational discussion. And that sums it up. Neither Helen Thomas nor her detractors have anything to add to a rational discussion about Israeli policy.
posted by ocschwar at 11:06 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Helen Thomas was a crazy crank. I have no idea why she was so vaunted in the press corps, but I guess it makes sense; Washington has always been insane. As far as I can tell, there are a number of lefties who love her madly because she was mean to George W, but that doesn't mean all that much to me, frankly. Otherwise, yeah. She's the crazy relative you kind of tune out. This interview isn't really anything new; she's just a troll, and a hamfisted one at that.
posted by koeselitz at 11:08 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, she really doesn't come off well in this interview. I saw her give a talk a few years ago, and she was just incredibly self-satisfied and not at all self-reflective. So I wasn't all that sorry to see her take a big and public fall; this interview confirmed that it wasn't a momentary lapse.
posted by Forktine at 11:09 AM on March 22, 2011


Does she reiterate her statement that "we are all owned by the Zionists"?

It's addressed....
PLAYBOY: Let’s get to something else you said more recently. In a speech in Detroit last December, you told an Arab group, “We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.” Do you stand by that statement?

THOMAS: Yes, I do. I know it was horrendous, but I know it’s true. Tell me it’s not true and I’ll be happy to be contradicted. I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction.

PLAYBOY: That stereotype of Jewish control has been around for more than a century. Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country?

THOMAS: Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?

PLAYBOY: Well, for instance, explain the connection between Hollywood and what’s happening with the Palestinians.

THOMAS: Power over the White House, power over Congress.

PLAYBOY: By way of contributions?

THOMAS: Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control.

[...]

PLAYBOY: In America you’re talking about a relatively small community. Jews make up roughly two percent of the U.S. population. On a worldwide level, the percentage is well under one percent. Those numbers don’t exactly spell domination.

THOMAS: I get where you’re leading with this. You know damn well the power they have. It isn’t the two percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?
Delightful.
posted by lullaby at 11:10 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think the fact that she has nothing to lose now is going to her head. To continually ask, as she does in this interview "Is (x person) Jewish?" before responding is the sign of someone who honestly does not give a shit about actual debate any longer.
posted by spicynuts at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2011


Helen Thomas was a crazy crank.

Even in her younger days? Honest question here.
posted by ocschwar at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2011


There are parties in this country who are happy to drape themselves in Zionism to justify abhorrent human rights violations and terrible foreign policy.

I don't think Helen Thomas counts as an example of this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2011


When this topic was discussed last year on Metafilter there were plenty of Thomas defenders trotting out variations on the standard "Being anti-Israel doesn't make you anti-Semetic" mantra.

And while the statement itself is probably true, this interview makes it abundantly clear that Thomas belongs in both the former and latter categories (her "But some of my best friends are Jewish" defense notwithstanding).

I know comparisons to hypothetical scenarios aren't always looked at with the highest regard on here, since it's difficult to argue against what the imagined reaction to an imagined scenario would or would not be. Having said that, it will be interesting to see, as this discussion goes on here, if there is as much outrage to Thomas' "Jews need to get over the Holocaust" statements within this interview as their would be if a prominent reporter stated, "Today's blacks really just need to get over slavery"
posted by The Gooch at 11:12 AM on March 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


THOMAS: [Interrupts] Did a Jew write this? [Editor’s note: The writer is Jeffrey Goldberg.]
posted by KokuRyu at 11:13 AM on March 22, 2011


ocschwar: “Even in her younger days? Honest question here.”

Yeah, that is actually a good question. My awareness of her only goes back through the W administration. And then, she was obnoxious, in my mind; yes, she asked some important questions that needed asking, but she asked them in absolutely the worst way, in a way that was clearly designed to provoke and annoy rather than get hard answers on important issues.

It's be interesting to hear how she was under Clinton, Bush Sr, Reagan, etc.
posted by koeselitz at 11:14 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: " I have no idea why she was so vaunted in the press corps, "

She covered began covering the White House in the Eisenhower administration, and ended in the second year of the Obama administration. Her career spanned a great deal of modern history.
posted by zarq at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


zarq: “She covered began covering the White House in the Eisenhower administration, and ended in the second year of the Obama administration. Her career spanned a great deal of modern history.”

So she's been an annoying anti-semite in public for decades? I share ocschwar's question; I'd like to know what role she played in all that time.
posted by koeselitz at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2011


There are parties in this country who are happy to drape themselves in Zionism

Does the carpet match the drapes?

Sorry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:19 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Har har!
posted by no_moniker at 11:21 AM on March 22, 2011


I'd like to know what role she played in all that time.

If only there were a worldwide network of computers sharing information and a way to search them for keywords...
posted by entropicamericana at 11:22 AM on March 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Obviously I'm not going to click on a Playboy link at work, but the excerpt lullaby posted is jaw-dropping. I was expecting her to explain that she was drunk or had a stroke or something when she made her initial remarks.
posted by desjardins at 11:23 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jeffrey Goldberg? Shurely not this Jeffrey Goldberg.
posted by docgonzo at 11:26 AM on March 22, 2011


PLAYBOY: Don’t take this the wrong way, but the question many people have is, Has Helen Thomas lost her mind? You’re 90, after all. Do you still have all your faculties?

THOMAS: I resent that question! I thoroughly resent it. Why are you interviewing me if I’m crazy? It wouldn’t be worth it to you, would it?

PLAYBOY: It’s not an unreasonable question.

THOMAS: I resent it. You should apologize.

PLAYBOY: But it’s the question everyone wants answered—and you’re the one who always tells journalists to ask the hard questions.

THOMAS: They want to know if I’m crazy? You have to be crazy to criticize Israel? You have to be crazy to criticize tyranny? I learned before Hitler that you have to stand up for something. You have to stand up. We always have to take a stand against human tyranny wherever it occurs. [pauses] Would you like a Coke or a ginger ale?

PLAYBOY: No, thank you.
posted by jquinby at 11:26 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Go back to Poland" is kind of an indefensible statement, but "Israel needs to get out of Palestine, and we need to be able to say that without being automatically dubbed anti-Semitic" is very, very true.
posted by kafziel at 11:27 AM on March 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


Google Ngram's doesn't bring up anything matching on "Helen Thomas Israel" (1950-2000, American English). Maybe there are better search ideas.
posted by stbalbach at 11:27 AM on March 22, 2011


koeselitz: " So she's been an annoying anti-semite in public for decades? I share ocschwar's question; I'd like to know what role she played in all that time."

Thank you, Mr. President is an hour-long documentary on her role in the White House Press Corps. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first interview I've ever seen where she's expressed any antisemitism. I've seen her express anti-Zionism -- and that only recently -- but never anti-semitism. I even defended her last year (in the 'previously' link) by saying that I didn't believe that what she meant to say was antisemitic.
posted by zarq at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Go back to Poland" is kind of an indefensible statement, but "Israel needs to get out of Palestine, and we need to be able to say that without being automatically dubbed anti-Semitic" is very, very true.

Helen Thomas said the former.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lots of 1st/2nd Generation Americans carry prejudices from the Old Country with them, but still put those prejudices at bay and carry out a conscientious career in the States, giving everyone a fair shake without regard to ethnicity. But when you get older, it gets harder to keep your worst qualities from coming out, and I suspect that's what happened to her.

A shame, really.
posted by ocschwar at 11:30 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


kafziel: “‘Go back to Poland’ is kind of an indefensible statement, but "Israel needs to get out of Palestine, and we need to be able to say that without being automatically dubbed anti-Semitic" is very, very true.”

Astro Zombie: “Helen Thomas said the former.”

And much, much worse. Seriously, read this ridiculous interview, kafziel. It's horrendously bad. She says that Jews run the world, all Jews hate Arabs, that Jews should get over the Holocaust, that the term "anti-semitic" is incoherent because Jews aren't actually semitic... seriously, there's just so much bad in here that it's hard to know where to start.
posted by koeselitz at 11:35 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I remember her long before W's administration as the token impertinent questioner at White House press conferences who existed so the Press Corps could point at her and say "see, we don't all march in lockstep"... It's sadly appropriate that her old seat in the Press Room went to FoxNews.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:36 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do think this points out the flip side of "we can't legitimately criticize Israel because a powerful Jewish lobby will call us antisemitic!" is that sometimes people actually are antisemitic, and it gets sort of hard to discuss that when legitimate charges of antisemitism, when leveled against somebody who is critical of Israel, are immediately dismissed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 AM on March 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


zarq: “To the best of my knowledge, this is the first interview I've ever seen where she's expressed any antisemitism.”

Yeah, same here. I was honestly on the fence; I just concluded, as I said, that she was a crank, not that she was antisemitic. But then in this interview she goes on and on about how she's felt this way since the 40s... it's possible that's bluster, but the question is open.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


She was just about the only member of the White House press corps who really challenged Bush about his phony war in Iraq. Got sent to the back row for that, but she was still there. Once made her comments about Israeli policy she was out the door. Challenge the President if you dare, but if you want to keep your job don't mention Israel.
posted by three blind mice at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also be aware that she's probably using the term "Palestine" to mean all of Israel and the Occupied Territories. In places where they do not acknowledge the existence of Israel, that stretch of real estate is labeled "Palestine" on the map.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd like to know what role she played in all that time.

If only there were a worldwide network of computers sharing information and a way to search them for keywords...


If only the article in question talked about her achievements....oh wait..it does. Like where she was on the day of Kennedy's assassination, her being the only woman to accompany Nixon to China, her work with LBJ, etc. RTFA.
posted by spicynuts at 11:40 AM on March 22, 2011


Challenge the President if you dare, but if you want to keep your job don't mention Israel.

Plenty of people mention Israel in the press corp. Most of them don't tell the Jews to go back to Poland.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Helen Thomas was a crazy crank.

Even in her younger days? Honest question here.


No, only now that she's goring our ox / sacred cow. As long as she was irrasible Token Old Woman, we had no problem with her. But if she's really gonna speak truth to power, then we have to paint her as a crazy old coot and imply that either she always was, or that she's losing her mind to dementia.

See, it''s a losing battle if we have to address her criticisms (or Chomsky's, or Ellsberg's, or Kucinich's, or Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer). It's much more convenient just to label dissenters as "antisemitic' (even if they survived the camps) or "crazy" or a "left-wing nut" or a "Communist" or a "race-mixer".

Something visceral and really really bad, so bad that people feel guilty for even pausing to consider if such a label is really warranted. These things are so bad, you're just supposed to grab your torches and pitchforks. Stopping to ask if they're true, or who benefits from so labeling someone, should feel like aiding their evil, so it's just not done.

These labels don't just tell us someone is evil; they exist to tell us someone is so far beyond the Pale that to not join in in instantly reviling them is tantamount to agreeing with their evil, they exist to force listeners to take sides against the person so labeled for fear that they too will be so labeled and ostracized. "Communist!" "Crazy person!" "Antisemite!"

Helen Thomas did what was not allowed; she criticized Israel. So according to the conventional wisdom, she must be either crazy or evil, a friend of Hitler and a hater of every Jewish man, woman, and baby.
posted by orthogonality at 11:41 AM on March 22, 2011 [21 favorites]


spicynuts: " RTFA."

Eponysterical!
posted by jquinby at 11:41 AM on March 22, 2011


"Today's blacks really just need to get over slavery"

In any racism/anti-racism thread around here (and even moreso elsewhere on the Internet), that line or something like it gets trotted out regularly.
posted by kmz at 11:42 AM on March 22, 2011


Thomas is of Arab descent and clearly shares the opinion of many Arabs that Palestinians are being persecuted by Israelis. If you express outrage at persecution, that doesn't make you an anti-semite.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:42 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Challenge the President if you dare, but if you want to keep your job don't mention Israel.

Because Jews control the White House?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:43 AM on March 22, 2011


"But if she's really gonna speak truth to power"

Such "truth to power" as "go back to Poland"?
posted by ocschwar at 11:44 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Are people even reading the article (or the excerpts here)? Talking about a global Jewish conspiracy is not merely anti-Israel.
posted by kmz at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you express outrage at persecution, that doesn't make you an anti-semite.

Saying there's a big Jewish conspiracy to control the world, on the other hand...
posted by lullaby at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Speaking truth to power:

About the Jews: "I think they’re wonderful people. They had to have the most depth. They were leaders in civil rights. They’ve always had the heart for others but not for Arabs, for some reason."

"The Israelis are not even Semites! They’re Europeans, and they’ve come from somewhere else."

"And yet they carry on the victimization. American people do not know that the Israeli lobbyists have intimidated them into believing every Jew is a persecuted victim forever."

PLAYBOY: Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country?

THOMAS: Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?

"Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control. "
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:47 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope she does realize that - in sheer numbers - the vast majority of the people in power in the US who fervently support Israel are not actually Jewish. Evangelical Christians have a huge stake in the existence of Israel, and there are a lot more of them in power than there are Jews.
posted by desjardins at 11:51 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


three blind mice: "Challenge the President if you dare, but if you want to keep your job don't mention Israel."

She retired. She wasn't fired. She was a journalist for 57 years and had to be aware that this incident was something she could have relatively easily weathered once the furor died down. Instead, she made a choice not to clarify her meaning at the time but rather to issue a brief apology.

Plenty of people in the WH Press Corps have questioned US policies with regard to Israel over the years. That's not unusual. But to clarify, Ms. Thomas didn't just "mention Israel," but rather to say that Israel's non-Palestinian citizens should go back to the very same countries where their families were slaughtered by Nazis. In doing so, she inadvertently invoked the concentration camps and acknowledges that was a mistake in this interview. If she'd more bluntly said, "go back to the gas chambers," would we be having this conversation? Probably not. But it would seem that's what many people thought she was saying.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Helen Thomas did what was not allowed; she criticized Israel. So according to the conventional wisdom, she must be either crazy or evil, a friend of Hitler and a hater of every Jewish man, woman, and baby.

If she said Zionists and the Israeli lobby were controlling congress, that's open to debate. Continually referring to "Jews" as a monolithic group of Zionists is the part that veers into stereotyping of a genetic/ethnic group.
posted by benzenedream at 11:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is what we argued about last time zarq, but first bloody question:

PLAYBOY: So is this how you pictured retirement?

THOMAS: I’m not retired! I was fired.

posted by Trochanter at 11:55 AM on March 22, 2011


Trochanter: " THOMAS: I’m not retired! I was fired."

Okay, by whom? Who fired her? Cite please.
posted by zarq at 11:56 AM on March 22, 2011


Cite please.

THOMAS: I’m not retired! I was fired.
posted by Trochanter at 11:58 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


zarq, you've clearly never been in this situation. I have. The way it goes is usually, "You can resign with dignity, on your own terms... or we can fire you publicly on our terms." I and most people choose the former. I'm sure that's what happened. I can't imagine it happening any other way, actually.
posted by gilrain at 11:59 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I repeat, who fired her? When?
HELEN THOMAS ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2010 – Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately.

Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.

Thomas later issued a statement: ``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.’’

Thomas will mark her 90th birthday on Aug. 4.


Just because she says it, doesn't make it so.
posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on March 22, 2011


gilrain: "zarq, you've clearly never been in this situation. I have. The way it goes is usually, "You can resign with dignity, on your own terms... or we can fire you publicly on our terms." I and most people choose the former. I'm sure that's what happened. I can't imagine it happening any other way, actually."

Unless you have proof of that, it's her word against their official statement, and I'm sorry but I'm really not inclined to take someone at their word who's also announcing in the same interview that Jews control the media, the White House and every other center of power in this country.
posted by zarq at 12:03 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Helen Thomas did what was not allowed; she criticized Israel. So according to the conventional wisdom, she must be either crazy or evil, a friend of Hitler and a hater of every Jewish man, woman, and baby.

No, she repeated some of the same murderous slander that drove the Jews to Zionism in the first place, and tied it into Israel itself. You can be critical of Israel because of their reactionary government and their policies toward the Palestinians and not be an antisemite. You can't call into question the term antisemitism or imply there's a secret hollywood Jew conspiracy to run the government and not be an antisemite. I'm sorry if that's inconvenient for your political position.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:08 PM on March 22, 2011 [19 favorites]


Haha, well you're right. I mean, I'm lying too! It's official in writing with my signature that I resigned and was certainly not fired.

You're being a little naive, honestly. But no, I have no proof other than experience. Do you really, really think Hearst was like, "No, it's cool Helen. We'll defend you for these universally decried statements. We'll take the fall for you."
posted by gilrain at 12:12 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


No no, Slap*Happy, it's an OPEN conspiracy. That makes it much better, doesn't it?
posted by desjardins at 12:12 PM on March 22, 2011


She was fired into retirement.
posted by clavdivs at 12:12 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


If someone who had no announced or immediate plans to retire gets in a brouhaha, becomes an embarrassment and then suddenly announces their retirement "effective immediately" with only a short, terse statement from their employer Hearst Communications, that certainly at least sounds like she was given a choice to either leave the building either on her own volition or with a police escort...

Doesn't prove it, given, but it certainly gives it more context than just Helen Thomas' word.
posted by quakerjono at 12:13 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


She also says she isn't retired. She was non-retired into non-retirement.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:13 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


When you read the other parts of the article, does Ms. Thomas not make pretty good sense? Could you not give her the benefit of the doubt and allow that when she talks about conspiracies, she's talking about it as it relates to the Israel debate?

Given how divided the government is on other issues, don't you have to note with interest the anomalous unanimity on the Israeli issue?
posted by Trochanter at 12:17 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]



If someone who had no announced or immediate plans to retire gets in a brouhaha, becomes an embarrassment and then suddenly announces their retirement "effective immediately" with only a short, terse statement from their employer Hearst Communications, that certainly at least sounds like she was given a choice to either leave the building either on her own volition or with a police escort...


Or that she realized that she's getting senile and becoming an embarrassment to herself and to Arab Americans. Surely she's had at least one lucid moment since that first incident.
posted by ocschwar at 12:18 PM on March 22, 2011


There's also the possibility that she didn't strongly feel that "the Jews/Zionists control everything" until she was fired/forcably retired because of her intemperate remarks. But after stewing in her own juices for a few months, the need to blame somebody -or a race of somebodys- got a lot stronger.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:18 PM on March 22, 2011


Maybe Helen Thomas is a Nexus 6.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:18 PM on March 22, 2011


Trochanter: there are points to be made and argued, certainly. Unfortunately, Helen Thomas framed them in an abhorrent, bigoted light and did disservice to whatever meaningful and respectful debate exists. In a sense, she has defeated her own relevance to a cause she cares very much about. It's a little sad.
posted by gilrain at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless you have proof of that, it's her word against their official statement, and I'm sorry but I'm really not inclined to take someone at their word

This is not a case of taking someone at their word, it's a case of understanding how the world actually works, and being able to see the big picture and read between the lines and interpret what is really going on.

In this case, regardless of whether you trust her word or not, it's still a no-brainer what happened.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2011


When you read the other parts of the article, does Ms. Thomas not make pretty good sense?

Well sure, she said some hateful stuff, but she did make the trains run on time.
posted by electroboy at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


orthogonality: " See, it''s a losing battle if we have to address her criticisms (or Chomsky's, or Ellsberg's, or Kucinich's, or Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer). It's much more convenient just to label dissenters as "antisemitic' (even if they survived the camps) or "crazy" or a "left-wing nut" or a "Communist" or a "race-mixer". "

There is clearly a difference between anti-semitism and anti-zionism. The two are not equivalent, and Ms. Thomas has a history of making anti-zionist statements that are not anti-semitic. Criticism of Israeli policies is typically not an expression of antisemitism. One can say Israel is wrong and/or committing human rights violations without being antisemitic! I've done that myself multiple times on MeFi and I'm certainly not antisemitic. However, in your urge to defend her I think you are conflating the two inappropriately. In an attempt to ameliorate certain statements which seem to me to be clearly antisemitic, you've taken a stand that the people attacking her are doing so because they don't know the difference between anti-zionism and anti-semitism.

Please read this. It's lifted, unedited from the interview:
PLAYBOY: Let’s get to something else you said more recently. In a speech in Detroit last December, you told an Arab group, “We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.” Do you stand by that statement?

THOMAS: Yes, I do. I know it was horrendous, but I know it’s true. Tell me it’s not true and I’ll be happy to be contradicted. I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction.

PLAYBOY: That stereotype of Jewish control has been around for more than a century. Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country?

THOMAS: Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?

PLAYBOY: Well, for instance, explain the connection between Hollywood and what’s happening with the Palestinians.

THOMAS: Power over the White House, power over Congress.

PLAYBOY: By way of contributions?

THOMAS: Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control.

PLAYBOY: Who are you thinking about specifically? Who are the Jews with the most influence?

THOMAS: I’m not going to name names. What, am I going to name the Ponzi guy on Wall Street [Bernard Madoff] or the others? No.

PLAYBOY: Then how do you make the claim that Jews are running the country?

THOMAS: I want you to look at the Congress that just came in. Do you think [New York Democratic senator Charles] Schumer and Lehtinen—whatever her name is—in Florida [Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a strong supporter of Israel] are going to be pro-Arab? No. But they’re going to be very influential. Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the Republicans, do you think he’s going to be for the Arabs? Hell no! I’m telling you, you cannot get 330 votes in Congress for anything that’s pro-Arab. Nothing. If you’re not in, you’re eased out, just as Senator William Fulbright was in the 1960s [after claiming that millions of tax-deductible dollars from American philanthropies were being sent to Israel and then funneled back to the U.S. for distribution to organizations with pro-Israel positions]. Congressman Paul Findley from a little old rural district in Illinois made the mistake of shaking hands with Yasir Arafat years ago. It ended up costing him his reelection. He later wrote a book called They Dare to Speak Out about how impossible it is to have a position in this country that takes on Israel. Maybe there is a handful that can, but in general you cannot speak against any Zionist movement in this country.

PLAYBOY: Do you begrudge people like Steven Spielberg? He created the Shoah Foundation to chronicle the life stories of Holocaust survivors. What’s your feeling about him?

THOMAS: There’s nothing wrong with remembering it, but why do we have to constantly remember? We’re not at fault. I mean, if they’re going to put a Holocaust museum in every city in Germany, that’s fine with me. But we didn’t do this to the Jews. Why do we have to keep paying the price and why do they keep oppressing the Palestinians? Do the Jews ever look at themselves? Why are they always right? Because they have been oppressed throughout history, I know. And they have this persecution. That’s true, but they shouldn’t use that to dominate.

PLAYBOY: In America you’re talking about a relatively small community. Jews make up roughly two percent of the U.S. population. On a worldwide level, the percentage is well under one percent. Those numbers don’t exactly spell domination.

THOMAS: I get where you’re leading with this. You know damn well the power they have. It isn’t the two percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?

PLAYBOY: Yes.

THOMAS: That’s what I thought. Well, you know damn well they have power.
Are you telling us that you agree with her?
posted by zarq at 12:21 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's also the possibility that she didn't strongly feel that "the Jews/Zionists control everything" until she was fired/forcably retired

Thomas never was talking about these kinds of conspiracies. She wasn't doing some kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion thing. She said "there’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists", and maybe the word "owned" suggests some kind of control, but in the interview she clarifies by saying "I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction". Influence isn't the same thing as control.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:22 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like we can't even recognize antisemitism anymore, even when it is expressed in its classic form.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:23 PM on March 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


While I understand the focus on the Israel/Zionism stuff both by the interviewer and in this conversation, the rest of what she talked about was more interesting. I wish they'd focused more on that, because Thomas has a lot of stories to tell and observations to make about the 50 years she spent working as a journalist that have nothing to do with Israel.

But the part where she sounds like somebody's ancient relative spouting crap about the Zionists and/or Jews controlling the media and politics is more cringeworthy and controversial, so of course that's what gets highlighted.
posted by immlass at 12:26 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


twoleftfeet: " She wasn't doing some kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion thing"

I see you haven't read them.
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


orthogonality: “Helen Thomas did what was not allowed; she criticized Israel.”

Man, you're being crazy here. You're telling me that saying that Jews run the world, and that Jews should get over the Holocaust, is 'criticizing Israel'?

Seriously, read the interview before commenting. It'll save us all a lot of time.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on March 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


RTFA

FWIW, I appreciate all the excerpts here, since I'm at work and TFA is on Playboy.com.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:32 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


immlass: "While I understand the focus on the Israel/Zionism stuff both by the interviewer and in this conversation, the rest of what she talked about was more interesting. I wish they'd focused more on that, because Thomas has a lot of stories to tell and observations to make about the 50 years she spent working as a journalist that have nothing to do with Israel."

I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for her. The HBO documentary was wonderful. Would still pay good money to be able to sit and just listen to talk about her life in the press corps. I really would.

But I found this interview disturbing.
posted by zarq at 12:32 PM on March 22, 2011


My take on Helen: Old but Firm
I read Playboy for her articles

that said, Helen T. says Jews came from elsehwhere to settle in Arab lands. Aside from the fact that therwe were Jews in those lands before there were Muslims, Whites came to America, not their land, occupied it, stole the land...why don't they go back. And with Helen.
posted by Postroad at 12:35 PM on March 22, 2011


spicynuts: " RTFA."

Eponysterical!


Huh?
posted by spicynuts at 12:35 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fairness, she's a 90-year-old Lebanese-American. You sit down with a few 90-year-old Jewish women, you're likely to hear absolutely classic Islamophobic and anti-Arab guff. The difference is, nobody tries to pass it off as legitimate criticism that's being unfairly tarred as hateful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:35 PM on March 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


When you read the other parts of the article, does Ms. Thomas not make pretty good sense?

I'm sure if I heard David Duke talk for long enough I could probably find a handful of issues we agree on too.
posted by The Gooch at 12:43 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like we can't even recognize antisemitism anymore, even when it is expressed in its classic form.

I suspect it might have to do with critics of Israeli policy being quickly dismissed as anti-Semitic, to a point well past excessive. It's hard to discern cranks from those with something legitimate to say, when the same terminology gets used.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:43 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suspect it might have to do with critics of Israeli policy being quickly dismissed as anti-Semitic, to a point well past excessive.

Yeah, well, if that happens in this thread, let's address it, but that's, like, the 90th time that statement has been made, and so far it hasn't been justified by any behavior here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's ask Uncle Leo about the interview!
posted by juiceCake at 12:46 PM on March 22, 2011


Man, orthogonality really enjoys toeing that fine line.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:47 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


if that happens in this thread, let's address it

It happens in just about every thread, and on just about every form of talk radio and FOX News: My point is more of a broader, systemic observation about how choice of language shuts down discussions and some of the (perhaps unintended) consequences because of it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:49 PM on March 22, 2011


if that happens in this thread, let's address it

It happens in just about every thread, and on just about every form of talk radio and FOX News: My point is more of a broader, systemic observation about how choice of language shuts down discussions and some of the (perhaps unintended) consequences because of it.


And you can't see that maybe, just maybe, your words could have the same effect?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:50 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I found this interview disturbing.

I'm sympathetic to the view that US policy is too pro-Israel and that the Palestinians get a raw deal, and I found this interview pretty disturbing. Asking who all is Jewish before answering the question, wtf?
posted by immlass at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is about Helen, not us. Henry Kissenger called:
He wants to talk to President Eisnehower
posted by clavdivs at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2011


spicynuts: "spicynuts: " RTFA."

Eponysterical!


Huh?
"

I thought it was a spicy comment.

but not nuts
posted by jquinby at 12:53 PM on March 22, 2011


And you can't see that maybe, just maybe, your words could have the same effect?

I apologize for the Blade Runner retirement joke. That was a bit silly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:54 PM on March 22, 2011


Helen Thomas did what was not allowed; she criticized Israel. So according to the conventional wisdom, she must be either crazy or evil, a friend of Hitler and a hater of every Jewish man, woman, and baby.
posted by orthogonality at 11:41 AM on March 22 [4 favorites +] [!]


Thomas made various virulently racist statements. And I bet you wouldn't have any sympathy for a proponent of some other racism that isn't verging into political correctness these days.

Thomas has completely earned "anti-Semite" in the headline of her obit.

A few weeks ago, in response to a subsequently deleted Metafilter post about this blog post (http://metadeniz.blogspot.com/2011/03/code-words-of-intelligentsia.html) on "Technical Terms of the Intelligensia", I wrote:

Anti-semitism noun opposition to Israel's national interests

This article is actually a good example of how "anti-semitism", or rather "being called an anti-Semite", is now a technical term of the intelligensia, or elements in it, meaning "attacked by defensive Zionists for daring to oppose them." In other words, the trope is that one who is called an anti-Semite must be anti-Zionist.

But the reality is that many anti-Semites are still just anti-Semites.


The sympathetic reactions to Helen Thomas are a great example of this phenomenon at work.
posted by knoyers at 12:55 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I read Thomas's remarks, twoleftfeet has it about right and she wasn't merely rehashing the global conspiracy nonsense but trying to talk about the lobbying in Washington. That said, as pointed out, given how easy it is to slip into anti-Semitic tropes I see no harm in expecting sharper political discourse as it would certainly be possible to make that critique without the Winter-Olympic-standard thin-ice-skating, let alone the more straightforwardly dodgy stuff she says in other parts of the interview (and naturally enough, you can't say the one thing so close to those others without calling your whole stance into question).
posted by Abiezer at 12:56 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe Helen Thomas is a Nexus 6.

Maybe in that last interview she loved life more than she ever had before. Not just her life - anybody's life; even Jews. All she'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why did we invade Iraq? All I could do was sit there and watch her dig a deeper hole.
posted by benzenedream at 12:58 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had heard that Hefner bought her interview because years ago he had taken her to their high school graduation dance and he was feeling a bit nostalgic now that he is engaged to another woman.
posted by Postroad at 12:58 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man as a Jew who has a lot of problems with Israel and the way they treat Israeli Arabs and Palestinians it's really frustrating to feel like your taking shit from all sides.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 1:00 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


These days Zionism ain't what it used to be....
posted by mikelieman at 1:00 PM on March 22, 2011


THOMAS: …You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?

PLAYBOY: Yes.


Huh. "Playboy" is not really a Jewish name. Must have been those idiots at Ellis Island; it probably started out as Palepovich or something.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:05 PM on March 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Huh?
Cause the article's in PB, I guess.
And usually one reads this mag to get their nuts all spicy.
posted by bitteroldman at 1:06 PM on March 22, 2011


maybe the word "owned" suggests some kind of control

Yep, it sure does. What else would it mean?
posted by josher71 at 1:07 PM on March 22, 2011


Huh. "Playboy" is not really a Jewish name.

It's a translation of the Yiddish: Shpeil Yinglele.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thomas never was talking about these kinds of conspiracies. She wasn't doing some kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion thing. She said "there’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists", and maybe the word "owned" suggests some kind of control, but in the interview she clarifies by saying "I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction". Influence isn't the same thing as control.

But in a direct quote, she says "There’s total control." I don't understand why people want to defend her.
posted by desjardins at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2011


Oh man. Just, oh, man. I ran to the interview hoping for some great Q&A regarding Helen's "fall from grace" and hopefully some insight into her legendary career as a member of the White House press corps and how maybe this had all been some big set up.

Instead that was just… geez. That was pretty much a reaffirmation of her fall. There were some little nuggets, passing by, a former presidencies and her thoughts – but that first quarter is a doozy.

I believe that one can be "anti-Zionist" yet not be against the Jewish faith or its followers. I mean, it's probably rare, but I can rationalize its existence.

There is no way in hell that the mighty Helen Thomas is anything short of being against the state of Israel as well as its children.

.
posted by cavalier at 1:09 PM on March 22, 2011


In all fairness, there is definitely this destructive cycle where some members of Congress are very obstructionist when it comes to putting pressure on Israel to change its behavior. And that pressure is aided by groups and lobbies in the United States with decidedly pro-Israel stances. And the percentage of Jews in the media, Congress, and the financial industry is definitely disproportionate to their numbers in the general population.

However, I don't think it's accurate to say that this translates to real control over anything. Not to mention the fact that if you ask any native Israeli how they feel, they will tell you that they feel, to some extent, that they have little to no control over their situation. Both the Israeli and Palestinian populations are pretty much screwed (although the Palestinians are generally screwed worse). What's really at fault is the system, and the IP issue is just a symptom of larger systemic issues.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:19 PM on March 22, 2011


"There is no way in hell that the mighty Helen Thomas is anything short of being against the state of Israel as well as its children."

Jews are not the "children" of the State or Government of Israel. And I am offended by the association, as the Israeli Government fails to meet the fundamental standards of freedom and liberty espoused in the Declaration of Independence.
posted by mikelieman at 1:22 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


"However, I don't think it's accurate to say that this translates to real control over anything"

It's also tantamount to a denial that there are solid reasons why somebody might be more sympathetic to the Israeli side than to the Arab side in the conflict.
posted by ocschwar at 1:22 PM on March 22, 2011


And the percentage of Jews in the media, Congress, and the financial industry is definitely disproportionate to their numbers in the general population.

Cite?
posted by josher71 at 1:24 PM on March 22, 2011


It's also tantamount to a denial that there are solid reasons why somebody might be more sympathetic to the Israeli side than to the Arab side in the conflict.


Well it's obvious that the Jewish bankers pay them to!

No seriously, I get what point you're trying to make even if you lack any evidence to back up your claim. But could it have something to do with the fact that throughout history the US, despite its flaws of which it has many, has historically been the only country in the world that hasn't systematically (key word there) persecuted its Jews?

Remember it's only been in the last hundred years that it was really safe to be a Jew in most parts of Europe, and on the whole there are parts of Europe where it is frankly pretty un-fucking-pleasant to be a person of the Jewish faith/ethnicity.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 1:28 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hugh Hefner? Jewish.
posted by nevercalm at 1:28 PM on March 22, 2011


Hugh Hefner? Jewish.

I presume this is a joke. There is no evidence of Hugh Hefner being Jewish, and no reason to think he is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:31 PM on March 22, 2011


josher71: "And the percentage of Jews in the media, Congress, and the financial industry is definitely disproportionate to their numbers in the general population.

Cite?
"

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but Jewish Members of US Congress.

12 Senators out of 100. That's 12%.
26 Reps. out of 435. About 5%.

Approximately 2.2% of Americans self identify as Jews.
posted by zarq at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2011


Cite?

Eh, what? I think Thomas has gone off her rocker at best and is a total anti-semite at worst, and I don't take issue with the idea that Jewish people are represented in disproportionate numbers at the top levels in certain fields. You can find lots of demographics disproportionately represented in various places if you look. Hell, the current Supreme Court of the United States has 6 catholics and 3 jews on it! There isn't a single protestant on our highest court in a nation where protestants make up the majority of the population!

It's not a problem to recognize these kinds of things, it's a problem when you then draw crazy-ass anti-semitic (or racists, or sexist, or...) conclusions based on them. Here is an example.

Not a problem: There are 6 Catholics and no Protestants on the Supreme Court. It would be interesting to figure out why that is. Let's do some research.

Problem: There are 6 Catholics and no Protestants on the Supreme Court. We are in danger of being corrupted from within by these Papists dancing to the tune of their master in Rome.

See? It's easy.
posted by Justinian at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


zarq: You forgot the 33% of the Supreme Court!
posted by Justinian at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2011


Man, I wish Helen Thomas was right. I thought having a Jewish wife and a Freemason father I'd be pretty much guaranteed a spot in the New World Order, but here I am, working like a schlub.
posted by electroboy at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Justinian: "zarq: You forgot the 33% of the Supreme Court!"

Heh. I did!

You know, all these Jews in high places should really get me some special Jewish cabal perks. I should start calling in some favors! ;)
posted by zarq at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2011


There was an interesting article in the guardian a few weeks back that seems appropriate here: Antisemitism: the hatred that refuses to go away

In Trials of the Diaspora, his forensic study of English antisemitism, the critic and lawyer Anthony Julius provides example after example...

The latest subscriber to that centuries-old canard may turn out to be Julian Assange who, according to Private Eye, believes he is the victim of a Jewish conspiracy to damage WikiLeaks. The Eye's editor, Ian Hislop, says Assange told him that central to the plot was "the Guardian, which included journalist David Leigh, editor Alan Rusbridger and John Kampfner from Index on Censorship – all of whom 'are Jewish'".

Julius reckons antisemitism endures because it has a "magnetic appeal" that can be hard to resist. By offering a conspiracy theory of power, rather than just the crude anti-immigrant stereotypes of other racisms, it provides, he says, "a compelling short cut to certainty. It allows the antisemite to claim they are in the know; it offers access to an occult world where everything makes sense, when the real world is, in fact, complex and difficult. 'The Jews are responsible' is a very appealing, very seductive explanation. It requires great self-discipline to resist its blandishments."

posted by dng at 1:46 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justinian, I realize all that but I'm still glad I got a cite for something that seemed just tossed off with an "of course".

Did not mean to imply Deathalicious was an anti-semite, so sorry about that D.
posted by josher71 at 1:48 PM on March 22, 2011


It requires great self-discipline to resist its blandishments.

Really? I never suspected I was a paragon of self-discipline.
posted by desjardins at 1:57 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hugh Hefner? Jewish.

I presume this is a joke. There is no evidence of Hugh Hefner being Jewish, and no reason to think he is.


Not that there's anything wrong with that, amirite?
posted by nevercalm at 2:11 PM on March 22, 2011


>>And the percentage of Jews in the media...

>Cite?


Joel Stein in his L.A. Times piece: "How Jewish is Hollywood?"
posted by Trochanter at 2:12 PM on March 22, 2011


So the problem is, where does legitimate criticism of Israel or Zionism leave off & true anti-Semitism begin? At its simplest it's a complex question, complicated by the fact that there are those who believe there are those in or allied with Israel who seek to blur the boundary between legitimate & illegitimate in order to delegitimize their critics. It's further complicated by the fact that there are those who see this claim itself to be prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism. Where do you draw the line when the line itself may be considered evidence against you?
posted by scalefree at 2:12 PM on March 22, 2011


Where do you draw the line when the line itself may be considered evidence against you?

Isn't this its own well worn trope by now?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 2:17 PM on March 22, 2011


Where do you draw the line when the line itself may be considered evidence against you?

I would draw it somewhere on the other side of "I get where you’re leading with this. You know damn well the power they have. It isn’t the two percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?" We can save the close calls for another day.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:20 PM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Joel Stein in his L.A. Times piece: "How Jewish is Hollywood?"

To piggyback on that, I work in TV in NYC for a major network. The high muckitty mucks are pretty much 100% Jewish, and they joke about it constantly.
posted by nevercalm at 2:21 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you conflate Jews with Zionists, it becomes anti-Semitism. Doesn't seem that complicated to me.
posted by desjardins at 2:21 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I draw the line when you have to say "But some of my best friends are Jewish!" as she does in the interview- even recognizing that it's a horrible thing to say.

If you have to say that (or say it about black people, gay people, chinese people, disabled people), the odds of you being a bigot approach unity.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:21 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I met Helen Thomas a few years ago. She is a formidable woman, and there are many things to respect about her. But it was impossible to miss that she is very old, and where she may have been generally progressive at some point in her life, general progress most certainly outpaced her long ago. I respect my elders, but in some areas of life-- especially politics-- age and wisdom don't necessarily go hand in hand.
posted by zennie at 2:25 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I draw the line when you have to say "But some of my best friends are Jewish!" as she does in the interview- even recognizing that it's a horrible thing to say.

If you have to say that (or say it about black people, gay people, chinese people, disabled people), the odds of you being a bigot approach unity.


"I'm not a homophone! I've got lots of limp-wristed fag friends!"
posted by Wataki at 2:27 PM on March 22, 2011


koeselitz wrote: "And much, much worse. Seriously, read this ridiculous interview, kafziel. It's horrendously bad. She says that Jews run the world, all Jews hate Arabs, that Jews should get over the Holocaust, that the term "anti-semitic" is incoherent because Jews aren't actually semitic... seriously, there's just so much bad in here that it's hard to know where to start."

It is interesting how she attributes the conspiracy of the elite (not a literal conspiracy, but they as a class do, in fact, control the government) to Jews specifically. She's in the ballpark, but she's confusing wealth and ethnicity.
posted by wierdo at 2:30 PM on March 22, 2011


Wataki: "I'm not a homophone! I've got lots of limp-wristed fag friends!"

I think you mean: "I'm not a homophone! I've got lots of friends whose names sound different than mine!"
posted by gilrain at 2:37 PM on March 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


"A compelling short cut to certainty" is the best phrase to describe a conspiracy theory that I've ever heard.
posted by zvs at 2:56 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I believe that one can be "anti-Zionist" yet not be against the Jewish faith or its followers. I mean, it's probably rare, but I can rationalize its existence.

You really think that people that are against Israel but don't hate all Jews are rare? Come on buddy. If this is actually true it only shows how effective Israeli propaganda can be.

I guess I should ask you to clarify how you define "anti-Zionist". Is it someone who thinks Israel should not exist period, or just someone who thinks Israel return to its pre-1967 borders and stop murdering Palestinians to expand their territory? I'm all ears.
posted by MattMangels at 3:05 PM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


To piggyback on that, I work in TV in NYC for a major network. The high muckitty mucks are pretty much 100% Jewish, and they joke about it constantly.

There's a good segment in Tim Wu's "The Kill Switch" on the rise and fall of American media empires that explores the origins of this. It doesn't really explain why it is still is the case, of course, but it's an interesting historical perspective.
posted by modernnomad at 3:05 PM on March 22, 2011


There's a good segment in Tim Wu's "The Kill Switch" on the rise and fall of American media empires that explores the origins of this. It doesn't really explain why it is still is the case, of course, but it's an interesting historical perspective.

Cool, thanks, I'll check that out.

As for why it's still the case, once your family is in the business, they don't tend to leave. That starts at the bottom and goes all the way up. I know several producers, for example, who are kids of upper execs who started as "personal assistants" to talent, which basically means they carried handbags and the various teacup-sized pets for a couple years, then were bumped up to audience wrangling, then started producing content. It's a pretty good explanation, also, for the vapidity of so much of what's on television these days and why the phrase is still "Theater is life, film is art, television is furniture."
posted by nevercalm at 3:15 PM on March 22, 2011


Sorry, the book isn't called "The Kill Switch", it's "The Master Switch".
posted by modernnomad at 3:19 PM on March 22, 2011


You can't [...] imply there's a secret hollywood Jew conspiracy to run the government and not be an antisemite

I was at an Alan Dershowitz talk a few hours ago, and he made a similar argument; "You can't be a holocaust denier and not be an anti-semite".

Sure you can. You can simply be wrong.
posted by klue at 3:31 PM on March 22, 2011


However you feel about Obama, you gotta admit he makes the crazy go away. That is really refreshing. Well...its actually me just hoping some pressure was applied there by him. Sigh.

WTF, HT! It kinda made sense to me till you said "go back home to poland and germany...and america".

First off...thats kinda offensive. I mean neighborly relationships take years to flourish...and some of those jews have missed out on plenty of three-legged block party races to come back where their status used to be. Now they're gonna have to bring in the potato salad and have port-a-potty duty for the block parties! So of course they can't go back. Some of the jews have never even been to polish or german block parties; they would be at such a disadvantage.

Then..."America". Huh?

Also...you gotta hire a tougher dude to keep you away from the press. This one was a huge fail.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:33 PM on March 22, 2011


"You can't be a holocaust denier and not be an anti-semite". Sure you can.

Doubtful.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 3:33 PM on March 22, 2011


You could have your personal subject-supposed-to-know misinform you, and lack the adequate skills to read history in an unbiased way. I'll agree that this is not the case for most deniers, and end the derail there. But a lot of conspiracy theorists will believe anything, and not necessarily be motivated by anti-semitism, even though they subscribe to views such as the jews controlling congress, the media etc.
posted by klue at 3:45 PM on March 22, 2011


However you feel about Obama, you gotta admit he makes the crazy go away.

As far as I can tell, Obama's election was the single biggest boon to crazy the American political landscape has seen in my lifetime.

posted by brennen at 3:49 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem with any conspiracy theory is that it places too much faith in the idea that small, clandestine groups of old men are competent enough to control the world in secret.


And when you mix that with a healthy dollop of "I'm not anti-semitic, that's not even a real wooooord" well, time to put on your level 9 Crank Helm (+1 against fact-checking!).
posted by jnrussell at 3:56 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


After decades of questions that kicked presidential ass, I'm going to allow that Helen's stray off the PC ranch for a minute doesn't really change my high regard.
posted by Twang at 3:58 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can the Jews control Hollywood? The homosexuals control Hollywood.

Don't they?
posted by tspae at 4:03 PM on March 22, 2011


It's like we can't even recognize antisemitism anymore, even when it is expressed in its classic form.

Well, to be fair, she said nothing about Jews having horns on their heads or making passover bread with the blood of Christian children.
posted by acb at 4:20 PM on March 22, 2011


I think Thomas has gone off her rocker at best and is a total anti-semite at worst

This, to me, is sort of central. Look at how you have to turn her into one of these two things in order to make her statements read the way you want. You have to destroy her to make your reading of her words mean what you want them to mean.

Everything else she says in this interview, everything else in the rest of her life says she is neither of these things. Everything else indicates she is mentally capable. She doesn't think the debate about Israel and Palestine is played out honestly in America and she's angry about it. She's angry because Israel seems to get a pass on inhumane actions it performs in the Arab world because of a huge injustice that was done to European Jews in Europe a half century ago. She used strong rhetoric to make that connection and now Fox has her seat in the briefing room.

WTF is right.
posted by Trochanter at 4:37 PM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


They control West Hollywood.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:43 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


MattMangels wrote: You really think that people that are against Israel but don't hate all Jews are rare?

I think there are lots of people who are against affirmative action, but who don't hate blacks. I think there are lots of people who express concern over Chinese or Japanese economic power but who don't hate Asians. I think there are lots of people who want English to be the sole language officially used and taught in the USA, but who don't hate Hispanics. Similarly, I think there are lots of people who are "against Israel" but who don't hate Jews. The fact that these opinions are frequently adopted by racists doesn't mean that they are wholly unjustified.

On the other hand, someone who is against affirmative action for black students and not against affirmative action for wealthy students (i.e., legacies, crammers, college application ghostwriters) is distinguishing between things that help white students and things which help (mostly) black students. Even if they make a plausible argument (e.g., the difference between public and private funding) for distinguishing between the two cases they are being willfully blind to the raison d'être for affirmative action.

Similarly, a person who is "against Israel" but not against Egypt, or Bahrain, or Jordan, or pretty much any country in the Middle East is distinguishing between an imperfect largely-Jewish country and imperfect largely-Islamic countries. Someone who argues that Israel is exceptional for one or another reason (it has more European influence, it is a democracy, it receives funds from the USA) is really ignoring the fundamental distinction between Israel and the other Middle Eastern countries, the one which was the raison d'être for establishing it in the first place.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:52 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


But a lot of conspiracy theorists will believe anything, and not necessarily be motivated by anti-semitism, even though they subscribe to views such as the jews controlling congress, the media etc.

So they believe that the Jews control the media... but they aren't necessarily anti-Semitic? On what planet does that make any sense?

Also, this:

This, to me, is sort of central. Look at how you have to turn her into one of these two things in order to make her statements read the way you want. You have to destroy her to make your reading of her words mean what you want them to mean.


Thomas's words tap into what is a very long history of a very specific way of categorizing Jews: secretive, powerful, moneyed, controlling. Obviously you agree with some of what Helen Thomas has said, I'm willing to wager (and hope) that it's the political stuff, the legitimate criticisms of Israel.

But shouldn't you be fucking pissed that these rational arguments are being fucking destroyed by what is essentially ignorant hatefult rhetoric? Why defend a woman who says that all the Jews in Israel should go back to Poland? Or makes a fucking outdated argument about the semantic context of the word anti-Semitism?

Why fight for that? Why defend it? Don't you realize when you do this you alienate people, Jews especially?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 5:01 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This, to me, is sort of central. Look at how you have to turn her into one of these two things in order to make her statements read the way you want. You have to destroy her to make your reading of her words mean what you want them to mean.


No you don't. The meaning is central. Jews control the world, they should get over the holocaust, and they should leave the middle east. She says she isn't anti-semitic, because Jews aren't Semites. They shouldn't have been allowed to flee the Soviet Union. And she's interrogating everyone who talks to her or about her, and asking whether they're Jews.

The words are fucking crystal clear. She hates Israel. She also, pretty clearly, has bigoted, antisemitic feelings about Jews. You sure as hell don't need to twist her words- it's right fucking there.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:04 PM on March 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


I have a problem with those who imply that the difference between being anti-zionist or anti-israel, and being an anti-semite is just a matter of degree. By saying that Thomas "crossed a line" it suggests that those who disagree with Israeli policies are suspect, and close to the pale even if they are not quite beyond it. I frequently detect a sense of relief when people can write someone like HT off as an ol' skool anti-semite, because that means not having to address any of her arguments on the merits. It's like once she treads into conspiracy territory, one is absolved from having to acknowledge that, yes; American foreign policy is largely skewed pro-israel. You don't need to posit any sort of conspiracy theory to make that case. The fact that Helen Thomas says some fairly straightforwardly anti semitic things and may well be off her rocker doesn't discredit a lot of legitimate concerns about disproportionate AIPAC influence in DC.
posted by jetsetsc at 5:09 PM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


This, to me, is sort of central. Look at how you have to turn her into one of these two things in order to make her statements read the way you want. You have to destroy her to make your reading of her words mean what you want them to mean.

Um yeah, the comments she made pretty much did that for her.

I don't think she's nuts. You (presumably jokingly) asked if she shows everything in this interview. I think it gave a far clearer picture of her true opinions than she had previously revealed to the public. And yes, some of the things she's said here are antisemitic.

I say this as someone who defended her the last time this subject was raised and truly wishes I could find a way to see what she's saying as simple anti-zionism. But it's not. She's expressing some pretty vile stereotypes and applying them to all Jews. That doesn't require twisting of words, or manipulating what she's saying. She's refusing to address people's arguments until she finds out if they're Jewish or not. She's raising a myth that Jews control everything in this country. Are you aware that such rhetoric has quite literally led to the persecution of Jews throughout history?

If you're unaware of the history of antisemitism, anti-Jewish stereotypes and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, please google and study them, would you?

Everything else she says in this interview, everything else in the rest of her life says she is neither of these things.

She's tainted her own argument. We certainly didn't do that. If you are truly arguing that we should ignore the hateful things she said because she happens to ALSO have said things that aren't antisemitic, then honestly, I really don't know how to address that. But I can tell you that the two really shouldn't be considered separately.
posted by zarq at 5:11 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you're unaware of the history of antisemitism, anti-Jewish stereotypes and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, please google and study them, would you?

Let's put that horse shit to bed right now, okay?
posted by Trochanter at 5:21 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


jetsetsc: " American foreign policy is largely skewed pro-israel.

I tend to agree.

The fact that Helen Thomas says some fairly straightforwardly anti semitic things and may well be off her rocker doesn't discredit a lot of legitimate concerns about disproportionate AIPAC influence in DC."

Then someone else should make them. Someone with a shred of legitimacy left, whose motives for speaking out now don't seem inextricable from old-school expressions of antisemitism. Someone who doesn't think that stereotypes and hatred are appropriate overtures to arguments against Israeli policies and statehood.

I am quite clear on the difference between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. I'm perfectly fine with pretty much anyone expressing anti-Israel sentiments, as long as they do not conflate Israeli policies or statehood with all Jews, everywhere, or indulge in vicious antisemitic stereotypes. She crossed a line.
posted by zarq at 5:24 PM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Trochanter: " Let's put that horse shit to bed right now, okay?"

If you have an argument to make, then make it.
posted by zarq at 5:24 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Back at cha. If you have an argument to make, then make it. Don't accuse me of ignorance. Google passive aggressive.
posted by Trochanter at 5:31 PM on March 22, 2011


I know you are but what am I?

Good lord. Let's strive for a better discourse, people.

And no "but he started it!" either or I'll turn this car right around.
posted by desjardins at 5:37 PM on March 22, 2011


Trochanter, you did see where I wrote: "She's raising a myth that Jews control everything in this country. Are you aware that such rhetoric has quite literally led to the persecution of Jews throughout history" RIGHT before the line you quoted, yes? I'm not being (or trying to be) passive aggressive. I asked you a clear, unambiguous question, then made a suggestion.
posted by zarq at 5:49 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone who argues that Israel is exceptional for one or another reason (it has more European influence, it is a democracy, it receives funds from the USA) is really ignoring the fundamental distinction between Israel and the other Middle Eastern countries, the one which was the raison d'être for establishing it in the first place.
Or perhaps they have a consistent opposition to settler colonialism* first and foremost, a feature of the Israeli state not shared with other regimes in the region, with considerations of ethnicity, religion and the historical background among the specificities to be taken into account when thinking about what just political solutions are possible in the case of Israel/Palestine. I suppose that is your fundamental distinction, viewed in a negative light.

*I'm aware of refutations of this position that say such a description can't apply given the history in the case of Israel, but that reasoning is wrong IMO.
posted by Abiezer at 5:53 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I once had to pick her up like a large, gangly baby and put her into an enormous throne made of velvet and bottlecaps. As it happened, my watch got hung up somewhere in her undercarriage as I was trying to extract myself from this awkward position, and when I tugged at it, it felt like I was going to pull her skirt down.

"Umm, Ms. Thomas, I think my hand's caught," I said, "Would you mind if I..."

"Oh, I'm quite comfortable, thank you," she said. She was wearing a rather grand and extraordinary fluffy hat of a type that I've only ever seen on Royce before.

"No, I mean...umm..."

She looked down, smiled, and leaned to the side so I could get my arm out.

"Thank you," I said.

"You're quite welcome."
posted by sonascope at 6:01 PM on March 22, 2011


Trochanter, if I came across as condescending, I apologize. Having re-read my comment and your reply I can see how it might have sounded that way. I really wasn't trying to call you ignorant.
posted by zarq at 6:03 PM on March 22, 2011


Not to worry. I'm probably techy because I know I'm trying to make a point that puts me on shaky ground.
posted by Trochanter at 6:30 PM on March 22, 2011


You have to destroy her to make your reading of her words mean what you want them to mean. [...] Everything else she says in this interview, everything else in the rest of her life says she is neither of these things.

She's 90 years old. Everything else in the rest of her life has no bearing on whether she may have gone a bit off her rocker in her old age. It happens to a lot of people; getting old sucks.
posted by Justinian at 7:35 PM on March 22, 2011


After decades of questions that kicked presidential ass, I'm going to allow that Helen's stray off the PC ranch for a minute doesn't really change my high regard.
posted by Twang at 3:58 PM on March 22 [+] [!]


Like Jean-Marie Le Pen "strayed off the PC ranch."

She used strong rhetoric to make that connection and now Fox has her seat in the briefing room.

WTF is right.
posted by Trochanter at 4:37 PM on March 22


"Strong rhetoric" -- what a nice euphemism for hate

I can see that this type of thing just isn't beyond the pale to you.

She's 90 years old. Everything else in the rest of her life has no bearing on whether she may have gone a bit off her rocker in her old age. It happens to a lot of people; getting old sucks.
posted by Justinian at 7:35 PM on March 22 [+]


I would attribute Helen Thomas's views to senility, but she wants to be taken seriously as a journalist and a public figure, with acceptance for this hatemongering.
posted by knoyers at 7:48 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


She crossed a line.

A little empathy is in order here.

Here's a woman whose fifty year, barrier-breaking career got instantly snuffed because she said something politically incorrect to some clever axe-grinding fellow with a video camera.

I won't speak for you, but if I ever reach 90 (I won't) and find my whole career sunk becaue of something I said in an unguarded moment, I'd be a bitter too, and likely to speak a little more broadly than warranted.
posted by orthogonality at 9:55 PM on March 22, 2011


Orthogonality wrote: Here's a woman whose fifty year, barrier-breaking career got instantly snuffed because she said something politically incorrect to some clever axe-grinding fellow with a video camera.

He didn't seem especially axe-grindy, but whatever. Her followup remarks demonstrate that this wasn't an isolated outburst. Either she was losing it or she's a hateful person. I'd feel the same way if she'd said something like "blacks should go back to Africa", let alone if she'd followed it up with some diatribe about crime and inner cities and so forth.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:19 PM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here's a woman whose fifty year, barrier-breaking career got instantly snuffed because she said something politically incorrect to some clever axe-grinding fellow with a video camera.

I won't speak for you, but if I ever reach 90 (I won't) and find my whole career sunk becaue of something I said in an unguarded moment, I'd be a bitter too, and likely to speak a little more broadly than warranted.


At what point does something become anti-Semitic to you? Does she need to be lighting Jews on fire or something?
posted by Snyder at 10:21 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here's a woman whose fifty year, barrier-breaking career got instantly snuffed because she said something politically incorrect to some clever axe-grinding fellow with a video camera.

If this was an unguarded moment, I would see her deliberately rephrasing and explaining herself and what she meant when she had a forum—especially if she had half a year to get out of the limelight and organize how best to do it without pressure.

Instead she reiterated her position in print, and made what she said not an exception, but a firmly held view. I don't care if she's the nicest person in the world or previously the greatest journalist in that press room. She has made it known that this is the type of person she is and that these are her views. If we can't judge her on her actions, what else is there to judge her on?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:53 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


By the way, I'm not unsympathetic to Helen Thomas, but this doesn't get a pass if she wants to be considered still in the journalistic ring. I perhaps understand the factors that led to these views, but that doesn't stop me from considering what she said.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:55 PM on March 22, 2011


orthogonality: "A little empathy is in order here.

Here's a woman whose fifty year, barrier-breaking career got instantly snuffed because she said something politically incorrect to some clever axe-grinding fellow with a video camera.

I won't speak for you, but if I ever reach 90 (I won't) and find my whole career sunk becaue of something I said in an unguarded moment, I'd be a bitter too, and likely to speak a little more broadly than warranted.
"

She knows exactly what she is saying. She has been writing about oppressed peoples for decades. She quite literally had a front seat at the center of power from which much of modern history emanated. She's also well aware --intimately aware -- of the histories of the Jewish people, of Israel and the Palestinians and is capable of placing that into reasonable perspective.

With this interview, she's confirmed and reinforced the worst assumptions that everyone made about her original comments. She is coherent throughout the rest of the interview, and does not seem to have taken leave of her faculties at any point throughout. She's proven to the world that she wasn't mis-quoted and that she's really an antisemite.

Perhaps it's easier to excuse the behaviour of racists and bigots and antisemites when one is not their target of their hatred. I don't know. I'm having a great deal of trouble feeling sorry for her.
posted by zarq at 4:37 AM on March 23, 2011


Here's another interview with Helen Thomas from the Joy Behar show, of which I know nothing. Hat tip.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:48 AM on March 23, 2011


Its a shame that what could have been a good opportunity to stir up the debate about isreali/zionist influence over congress [wrt to funding, international law, human rights abuses, racism, and the myriad other issues that could have been highlighted] was squandered away by her references to Judaism rather than zionism.

It is inexcusable and counterproductive to conflate the two.

But then I highly doubt an interview that doesn't out her as anti-Jewish and simply discusses facts would have been juicy enough to be published by anyone, let alone Playboy.
posted by xqwzts at 5:15 AM on March 23, 2011


> Also be aware that she's probably using the term "Palestine" to mean all of Israel and the Occupied Territories. In places where they do not acknowledge the existence of Israel, that stretch of real estate is labeled "Palestine" on the map.

In places where they do not acknowledge the existence of Palestine, that stretch of real estate is labeled "Israel and the Occupied Territories" on the map.
posted by xqwzts at 5:20 AM on March 23, 2011


In places where they do not acknowledge the existence of Palestine, that stretch of real estate is labeled "Israel and the Occupied Territories" on the map.

They call it "Eretz Israel" or Greater Israel.
posted by scalefree at 6:40 AM on March 23, 2011


Helen Thomas is an annoyance. I don't give a rat's patoot about her opinions.
However!
Someone in the public eye has disproportionate influence over public sentiment, usually. I do accuse her of reinforcing, perhaps not knowingly but consciously, Jews as devils. This is perhaps the most prevalent racial hatred ever, perhaps even today (and if you care, I'm catholic).
Israel's treatment of Palestinians is brutally criminal. But that gets completely lost when Thomas conflates Israeli human rights crimes by with comments that at least resonate with the proclamations of anti-semites.
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:48 AM on March 23, 2011


They call it "Eretz Israel" or Greater Israel.

Oh, for crying out loud. This is the kind of thing that shows the extent of anti-Israeli bias here. Eretz Israel means "Land of Israel," not "Greater Israel."
posted by ocschwar at 7:07 AM on March 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


orthogonality: “A little empathy is in order here. Here's a woman whose fifty year, barrier-breaking career got instantly snuffed because she said something politically incorrect to some clever axe-grinding fellow with a video camera. I won't speak for you, but if I ever reach 90 (I won't) and find my whole career sunk becaue of something I said in an unguarded moment, I'd be a bitter too, and likely to speak a little more broadly than warranted.”

I'm very sorry, ortho; but if you're a racist at the age of ninety, I'm still going to call you a racist at the age of ninety. And no, you don't get a pass on racism if you lose your job.
posted by koeselitz at 7:47 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


ocschwar: "Oh, for crying out loud. This is the kind of thing that shows the extent of anti-Israeli bias here. Eretz Israel means "Land of Israel," not "Greater Israel.""

No, scalefree's right. "Greater Israel" is a term which refers to the religious and political philosophies embraced by the Israeli Settler movement that began as Revisionist Zionism, but eventually developed into platforms of Israel's right-wing Likud political party. Likud and the Settlers assert that the land promised to the Jews in the Talmud by G-d encompasses all of the current State of Israel as well as the lands now belonging to the Palestinians -- the West Bank and Gaza. That's "Greater Israel." This is why they feel Israeli Settlers have a religious imperative to settle in Palestinian-held areas.

The term "Greater Israel" has become controversial due to (among other things) association with the Settler movement. So the term "Land of Israel" is now used by Likud instead.
posted by zarq at 8:11 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia has a rundown: Greater Israel / Land of Israel
posted by zarq at 8:13 AM on March 23, 2011


No, scalefree's right. "Greater Israel" is a term which refers to the religious and political philosophies embraced...

No. Eretz Israel is a very simple Hebrew phrase. Eretz means "land." Israel means "Israel." "Foo Bar" in Hebrew syntax means "Foo of Bar." "Eretz Israel" means "land of Israel."

Hebrew is a modern language with a vernacular, and I'm sick and tired of seeing twisted as if it's a code for somethign sinister.
posted by ocschwar at 8:21 AM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Am quite aware of the superficial meaning in Hebrew, thanks. The phrase has a deeper political connotation in Israeli politics.
posted by zarq at 8:25 AM on March 23, 2011


oschwar, I'll grant you that the original meaning of Eretz Israel is Land of Israel. But it has taken on the additional meaning, given to it by far-right expansionist Zionists. You can argue that they're abusing the phrase but you can't say they're not using it that way.
posted by scalefree at 8:41 AM on March 23, 2011


Scalefree, do you actually speak Hebrew or are you basing this on one of those dubious websites you link to?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:13 PM on March 23, 2011


I have no idea what you're talking about. Wikipedia is dubious?
posted by scalefree at 2:20 PM on March 23, 2011


It's practically Stormfront!
posted by kafziel at 2:23 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Eretz Israel" means "Land of Israel", as Ocschwar said. It is used that way throughout Hebrew and Jewish literature. Your broken Wikipedia link (which I have fixed for you, because that's the sort of guy I am) says as much. When you say it means "Greater Israel", a modern political term, it's like saying that "urban" means "black" because some people use "urban gangs" as a euphemism for "gangs of black youth" as distinct from other gangs.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:00 PM on March 23, 2011


Feel free to argue about semantics, folks. But that explanation I wrote was accurate. The phrase has specific political and historical connotations in Israel's right wing. Dissembling about what phrases mean isn't going to change that.
posted by zarq at 4:09 PM on March 23, 2011


That's one of those irregular verbs, is it? I elucidate, you equivocate, he or she dissembles. If we're talking about semantics, that's a charged use of language right there.

Zarq, my understanding is that you don't speak Hebrew. You can't possibly have any idea what sort of political implications the phrase has when it's used by Hebrew speakers in Israel. "Eretz yisrael" is a phrase that occurs zillions of times in Hebrew and Jewish literature and liturgy and it's ridiculous to suppose that it's meant to convey some sort of political statement when used in a neutral context, even by people you identify as "right wing".

Of course, I will cheerfully agree that any phrase may have any meaning when it's being used as a codeword - but the onus would be on you to prove that it has a special meaning in that instance, rather than hint darkly about the sinister messages Israelis convey when talking to one another in their own language.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:20 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Geez, Joe. Did you even read the wikipedia link? It goes over this in great detail. Nobody's saying that usage is some sort of dark propaganda; that's just how the term "Eretz Israel" is used in Israeli politics. Wondering if the wikipedia explanation that the phrase had become a euphemism used by the Likud party was correct, I asked an Israeli friend of mine who wrote his doctoral thesis on Zionism whether that was accurate. He claims that it is.

scalefree made a small mistake about the literal translation of the term, but he was substantially correct. People are being bullheaded about this here just to make a point, as ocschwar's comments above make clear; one migh mention that the point you're apparently trying to make is a point a lot of us already get.
posted by koeselitz at 6:32 PM on March 23, 2011


Joe, let me make it clear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that all Jews or all Israelis mean Greater when they say Eretz. I am saying that there's a subculture that uses it that way, one that's the mirror image of the Arabs & Palestinians who refuse to acknowledge Israel in their maps (or elsewhere). My point is simply that you have to acknowledge that the unreason & hatred runs both ways, that each is the image of the other in reverse.
posted by scalefree at 6:37 PM on March 23, 2011


This started as a discussion of the use of Eretz Israel on a map. Unless the map is printed by right wing Israelis as a dog whistle to other right wing Israelis, it might be nice to acknowledge the point that, in this sort of circumstance, it probably means Land of Israel.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:13 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eretz Israel.
posted by scalefree at 9:29 PM on March 23, 2011


The page Scalefree linked to proves my point. It isn't a political platform: it's a vision of a messianic utopia and its author would view any political or military attempt to achieve those borders as being radically impious:
The rebuilt Jerusalem we pray for is not this modern city, and the redeemed Eretz Israel is not the political state of the Jews we see today.
The page appears to have been written by a follower of the late rabbi Elazer Shach, as you can see from the bottom of this page. Rabbi Shach was, for theological reasons, a vehement anti-Zionist. Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia page I just linked to:
Shach supported the withdrawal from land under Israeli control[....] He also criticized Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (at that time mainly settled by secular and Religious Zionist Jews) as "a blatant attempt to provoke the international community", and called on Haredim to avoid moving to such communities.
Sounds like a real liberal, doesn't he? But actually he was a theocrat and he opposed democracy, secular education, and pretty much anything other than full-time religious study. In any event, when his followers talk about "eretz yisrael" they aren't doing it because of some ambition to increase the borders of the State of Israel: they talk about it that way specifically to emphasise the (theological) irrelevance of the State. So yes, here's someone using the phrase "eretz yisrael" to refer to an area greater than the modern State of Israel, but he's actually the antithesis of the sort of right-wing dog-whistler that people here are referring to.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:38 AM on March 24, 2011


they talk about it that way specifically to emphasize the (theological) irrelevance of the State.

Which we need a hell of a lot more of. From the theological point of view, there's quite a bit there to consider. The Diaspora is not scheduled to end until The Messiah comes. Given our G-d isn't the hippy-touchy-feely one the Christians believe in, but rather the "smite 'em all and if the lucky ones look back, turn 'em into a pillar of salt..." kind, what are the implications of acting in opposition to divine prophecy?
posted by mikelieman at 4:05 AM on March 24, 2011


Zarq, my understanding is that you don't speak Hebrew. You can't possibly have any idea what sort of political implications the phrase has when it's used by Hebrew speakers in Israel. "Eretz yisrael" is a phrase that occurs zillions of times in Hebrew and Jewish literature and liturgy and it's ridiculous to suppose that it's meant to convey some sort of political statement when used in a neutral context, even by people you identify as "right wing"

Heh.

I do not speak Hebrew.

My mom speaks Hebrew. Lived in Israel. And she's a Likudnik. I still have family living in Israel. So does my wife. Some of our Israeli family members are also living here in the States now. They all pretty much support Netanyahu and Zionism.

I was raised on right-wing Israeli philosophy. A bunch of my friends and a few of my wife's co-workers are Israeli, but they're younger and all fall on widely divergent ends of the political spectrum.

We all talk about the political situation in Israel. A lot. Endlessly! I typically hear about incidents such as the yesterday's bombing or the recent Settler family slaughter from friends and family before they show up in the wider news media.

I'm definitely not an expert. But the concept and political position that the land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people by the Lord, with borders that include what are now known as the Palestinian territories isn't a new concept by any means. It seems silly to argue otherwise.

Forgive me, but I think this is kind of a dumb derail and I'm bowing out of it. I'm not particularly interested in drilling down into the various political justifications based on Talmudic interpretations and secular expectations given to why and how much of Israel was promised to the Jews by G-d. I get enough of that at home. ;)
posted by zarq at 4:32 AM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Given our G-d isn't the hippy-touchy-feely one the Christians believe in, but rather the "smite 'em all and if the lucky ones look back, turn 'em into a pillar of salt..." kind, what are the implications of acting in opposition to divine prophecy?

Well, Rabbi Shach thought the Holocaust was Divine punishment for lack of religious punctiliousness, so I guess there's that. Mind you, my understanding is that the Satmar groups think it was specifically a punishment for Zionism, not just a general level of impiety. On the very other side of the spectrum, Rabbi Kook (*) thought that the return to Israel was in itself the beginning of the Messianic era, so by definition it couldn't be contrary to prophecy.

(*) Yes, I know.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:52 AM on March 24, 2011


Christ, this thread is bringing out all the anti-semantics.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:43 PM on March 24, 2011


A lot of what she says is unpleasant, ill-considered and anti-Semitic. But "anti-Semitism" is a term debased by its abuse. If we can't recognise anti-Semitism any more, it's the fault of every fool who abuses the term for a political end, no matter what that end might be. Those who cloak anti-Semitism in "anti-Zionism" are bigots, and those who do the opposite use the spectre of bigotry to suppress debate. A curse on both their houses.
posted by howfar at 1:14 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


If we can't recognise anti-Semitism any more, it's the fault of every fool who abuses the term for a political end, no matter what that end might be.

I'm sorry, but that's the second time this argument has been brought up, and I don't buy it. We didn't recognize the antisemitism here because people were in such a rush to declare that she'd been fired merely for being critical of Israel that people didn't bother to read her actual article.

But if you want to believe it is somehow the fault of hair-trigger antisemite-screaming Jews, rather than people not actually getting their facts first, well, go ahead.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:27 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


But if you want to believe it is somehow the fault of hair-trigger antisemite-screaming Jews, rather than people not actually getting their facts first, well, go ahead.

I can understand that Helen Thomas is as much of a crank as her critics, while recognizing that the phrase "anti-Semite" gets thrown around so casually that it makes rational, thoughtful discourse really difficult.

If you're going to complain that people aren't rising up en masse and calling her an anti-Semite, then maybe stop abusing the terminology in cases where it doesn't apply.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:35 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


you want to believe it is somehow the fault of hair-trigger antisemite-screaming Jews

Thanks for suggesting that I have an anti-Semitic motivation, you're a real big man. Kinda suggests I might have a point though.
posted by howfar at 1:47 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you look at life entirely through one prism, things can look very distorted.

If you're an Arab who cares about the Israel/Palestinian mess, it's clear that "Jews run the media and politics." All you see are Arab villains in movies, 50 years of gross distortion of the conflict in the news media, and an American policy towards Israel which since 1967 has been dominated by pro-Israel lobby groups.

Because it's her hobby horse, she doesn't see that in America, as in everywhere else, powerful people control the powerful institutions. Many Jews care about Israel, and thus do what they can to support the state and influence American policy and media. Thousands of other groups do the same thing, and in fact the old (not sure if this is still true) line was that the only group more powerful then AIPAC on Capitol Hill is the AARP. Do old people control America? If you're on the wrong side of the issues the AARP cares about, maybe that's how it looks to you.

I don't find anything controversial or evil about saying that American Jews influence American policy towards Israel in various spheres. Isn't that what free people do in a free society? I'm really not commenting on Helen Thomas here, but on the general ideas that the thread is discussing.
posted by cell divide at 1:50 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cell Divide wrote: I don't find anything controversial or evil about saying that American Jews influence American policy towards Israel in various spheres.

I don't think anyone should have a problem with saying that individual American Jews influence American policy, but why would anyone ever bother with such an obvious truth? It's like saying that Cubans émigrés influence US policy towards Cuba. The problem with the statement that one of the main antisemitic tropes is that Jews are a coordinated subversive body with enormous power. So it isn't individual American Jews influencing US policy: it's a collective "American Jews" who define or control US policy. The consequence of this belief is that US policy is bad, because it was corrupted by Jewish power, and that Jews are bad because they seek to corrupt things.

As for the AIPAC being the second most-powerful group on Capital Hill ... really? I'd put arms producers, the Saudis, and the major intellectual-property owners first. The USA has gone to war to protect the Saudis more than once, and it has spent enormous efforts to strengthen the protection given to US copyright and trademark holders in foreign markets. Have you ever heard the White House criticise these groups? Israel, in contrast, gets regularly kicked to the curb.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:43 PM on March 24, 2011


Blazecock Pileon wrote: [T]the phrase "anti-Semite" gets thrown around so casually that it makes rational, thoughtful discourse really difficult.

Really? I'd say the contrary is the case: people like Helen Thomas use anti-Zionism as an excuse for their antisemitism, and they silence debate by claiming to be repressed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:47 PM on March 24, 2011


people like Helen Thomas use anti-Zionism as an excuse for their antisemitism, and they silence debate by claiming to be repressed

I don't think Thomas or people like her can silence any kind of debate, when they "retire" before they can really speak their minds.

Which isn't to say that she isn't a crank. Far from it.

But to claim that she has silenced discussion on anything seems a bit premature, since she doesn't have much of a public voice or any means to convey her ideas (except through "look at this asshole"-style interviews in, say, Playboy).

She is old and has views of the world colored through 90 years of her particular experiences and prejudices. I wouldn't go to her for an objective view of world affairs, any more than I'd ask my father-in-law for his insight on Islam.

Please. She doesn't silence debate. She's been turned into a sideshow freak for us to ridicule. She's powerless.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:49 PM on March 24, 2011


[P]eople like Helen Thomas use anti-Zionism as an excuse for their antisemitism, and they silence debate by claiming to be repressed.

Blazecock Pileon wrote: I don't think Thomas or people like her can silence any kind of debate, when they "retire" before they can really speak their minds.

When I said "people like Helen Thomas" I didn't mean to restrict my statement to 90 year-old descendants of Lebanese immigrants. I'm sorry that I was unclear.

What I meant to say was that there are antisemites - one of whom is Helen Thomas - who, when their views are challenged, claim that they are merely anti-Zionists and that they are being falsely accused by people who don't want their views to be heard. In fact my experience is the opposite: antisemites, like most racists, are rarely challenged. Helen Thomas didn't reach her views overnight.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:39 PM on March 24, 2011


Thanks for suggesting that I have an anti-Semitic motivation,

Since I didn't actually do that, it kind of suggests I have a point.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:32 AM on March 25, 2011


Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese: "Christ, this thread is bringing out all the anti-semantics."

Hey, some of my best friends are semantic.
posted by jquinby at 6:32 AM on March 25, 2011


Blazecock Pileon: " But to claim that she has silenced discussion on anything seems a bit premature, since she doesn't have much of a public voice or any means to convey her ideas (except through "look at this asshole"-style interviews in, say, Playboy).

She's gotten at least a couple of speaking gigs recently...
"I want an apology from the president," Thomas, 90, said Tuesday to the hundreds of student journalists and their advisers attending the keynote session of the annual spring convention of College Media Advisers (CMA) at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

...so I'd venture to say she still has at least something of a public voice beyond an interview in Playboy.

She is old and has views of the world colored through 90 years of her particular experiences and prejudices. I wouldn't go to her for an objective view of world affairs, any more than I'd ask my father-in-law for his insight on Islam.

Did your father-in-law also once have a syndicated column for decades that reached millions of people in print and online? Was he a journalist who, for many years informed the public about important (and mundane) things that were happening at the White House, in the US government and the world? If your father-in-law had once had that kind of public presence and a following, I'd be concerned about him spreading antisemitic tropes, too.

She was an editorial columnist, which meant she wasn't necessarily supposed to be objective. But her readers would not have expected her to lie to them, either. And one of the biggest problems with these specific antisemitic tropes is that they play into people's fears that they are not in control, and that powerful forces are trying to screw them over. This is the biggest danger of portraying Thomas as some sort of victim. That she's somehow "spoken truth to power" and subsequently been fired. That seems to prove her point, that one can't criticize Israel and get away with it. Look, orthogonality agrees: " Helen Thomas did what was not allowed; she criticized Israel. So according to the conventional wisdom, she must be either crazy or evil, a friend of Hitler and a hater of every Jewish man, woman, and baby." Only it's pretty damned clear from the article that Ms. Thomas is not just criticizing Israel -- she's attacking Jews by raising and attempting to give credence to very specific antisemitic hatreds.

I agree with what kafziel said, above. It's fine and yes, I believe it's necessary to be able to address concerns we may have about Israel's foreign policies and the way they're treating the Palestinians without unfounded accusations flying about antisemitism. Again, antizionism ≠ antisemitism. But Ms. Thomas says things that are clearly antisemitic in this interview. So yeah, I have trouble dismissing her as powerless victim. Or as a crank. I have trouble with the idea of dismissing her because she's 90 years old. She still has a public voice that certainly seems to resonate with people who want to believe her.
posted by zarq at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did your father-in-law also once have a syndicated column for decades that reached millions of people in print and online?

I dunno, but I seem to be on his ever-expanding mailing list about the wonders of Sharia law.

Look, I get that she's an anti-Semite. No debate here.

And one of the biggest problems with these specific antisemitic tropes is that they play into people's fears that they are not in control, and that powerful forces are trying to screw them over.

Fears are not necessarily reserved to Jews, these days. I'd be more worried about the general climate of fear that the powerful are fomenting in everyone, these days. Fears of Muslims, fears of minorities, fears of the gays. Fear is the binding constant, here, and actions carried out in response to those fears are the real worry, IMO.

I still think she is, in the scheme of things, a toothless dowager. Cranks of all types are to be found everywhere, I think. Synagogues burning in France, planned attacks in Chicago, violent demonstrations against mosques in NYC, gays being beaten up in Russia — it's the actions that are the stuff to watch out for. Words are words, but once your fascist demagogues get up to violence, then it's a pretty bad situation for free people of all stripes and colors, including Jews.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: in the scheme of things, a toothless dowager
posted by benzenedream at 2:23 PM on March 25, 2011


Astro Zombie, I wasn't saying that to be a smart-arse.

If you think the motivation for my forwarding that argument is a desire to blame things on Jewish people, I have nothing to respond with but disappointment and disdain. I don't understand how you think your comment could be read except as an imputation of anti-Semitism. Did you acknowledge my explicit criticism of the anti-Semitic so-called "anti-Zionist left"? No.

You suggested that I want to blame Jewish people for the failure to accurately and consistently identify Thomas' anti-Semitism. If that isn't calling me an anti-Semite, I guess I must have a broader definition of the term than you.
posted by howfar at 2:44 PM on March 25, 2011


I guess you do. I'd describe your response as an extraordinary misinterpretation, and would suggest that it may be a good idea in this sort of discussion notnto declare that you have been accused of antisemitisim until such an accusation is actuallynleveled. I do not care for having words putnin my mouth, especially not those words.

But it is an interesting example of hos somebody can decide theybhave been accused of being an anti-Semite in the absence of the change actuallynbeing made. I wonder how often that happens.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:03 PM on March 25, 2011


But if you want to believe it is somehow the fault of hair-trigger antisemite-screaming Jews, rather than people not actually getting their facts first, well, go ahead.

Nothing more to add.
posted by howfar at 6:41 AM on March 26, 2011


Yes, I know what I said. There's a million miles between that, which was a rephrasing, albeit perhaps an ungenerous one, and insisting I have called somebody an antisemite. I am not clear one why you wish to put works in my mouth, except perhaps it is because it supports the assertion that Jews are somehow hair-trigger in accusing people of being antisemities.

If your case is not that Jews, in support of Israel, are too ready to call people antisemites, I am not clear on what your point was. But a lack of clarity does not equal accusing somebody of having racial or religious prejudices, and if you're looking for evidence that this has happened, I would ask why you so desperately wish such evidence.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2011


Howfar, why are you angry at Jews for (supposedly) being too ready to call people antisemites, but not angry at antisemites for calling themselves anti-Zionists?

I would think that any genuine anti-Zionist would be really, really upset that Helen Thomas has muddied the waters and made it look as though anti-Zionists are actually prejudiced against Jews. Instead ... silence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:30 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


but not angry at antisemites for calling themselves anti-Zionists?

'Those who cloak anti-Semitism in "anti-Zionism" are bigots'

Joe, Did you not read what I wrote, or are you just really thick?
posted by howfar at 4:19 PM on March 26, 2011


Neither of those, actually. I see you acknowledge that antisemites are bigots, but surely that goes without saying. My question was why you're not specifically angry at bigots who use anti-Zionism as a shield. They're the ones causing the problem, right?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:07 PM on March 26, 2011


Where is the surprise? She's very much a mirror of liberals and progressives in America, in that she wants to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. Man, how can anyone think otherwise? She's outright stated that Israel is her arch-enemy. At least she's honest about it.
posted by CountSpatula at 1:31 AM on March 27, 2011


Joe, what I said specifically refers to those people. This is getting silly.
posted by howfar at 2:24 AM on March 27, 2011


Here's what you said in its entirety:
A lot of what she says is unpleasant, ill-considered and anti-Semitic. But "anti-Semitism" is a term debased by its abuse. If we can't recognise anti-Semitism any more, it's the fault of every fool who abuses the term for a political end, no matter what that end might be. Those who cloak anti-Semitism in "anti-Zionism" are bigots, and those who do the opposite use the spectre of bigotry to suppress debate. A curse on both their houses.
When you say those who cloak anti-Semitism in anti-Zionism are bigots
you're making a tautology: of course antisemites are bigots! But you're using this occasion to complain about people who allegedly use the spectre of bigotry to suppress debate and I can't see why. To the extent that such people exist (and they're certainly not very evident in this thread) they wouldn't have a leg to stand on if people like Helen Thomas didn't provide them with a justification. In fact you could say that they're not using the spectre of bigotry: the bigotry was actually there all these years.

Furthermore, I don't suppose that Helen is the only antisemite who uses anti-Zionism as a cloak. There are undoubtedly many more of them. You've assured us that you're not a bigot, and I accept that, but I don't know about your friends and mentors. After all, you didn't recognise Helen Thomas' bigotry - why do you think you'd recognise bigotry elsewhere?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:19 AM on March 27, 2011


But I did recognise her bigotry in the very first line of the comment. However, you have elected to read my comment as a complaint solely about those who abuse accusations of anti-Semitism, while an ordinary reading would include a criticism of those who abuse the term "anti-Zionism" to cloak their anti-Semitism, people like Thomas in fact.

But I take it back, you're not stupid, you're just axe-grinding. You aren't taking any exception to the things that I said, just criticising me for a perceived lack of vigilance in my treatment of anti-Semites. Classic straw-man and actually quite boring.

Cheerio!
posted by howfar at 4:54 AM on March 27, 2011


how far, you were drawing an equivalence between anti-Semites and people who use the word "anti-Semites" wrong. That's the problem here. You may have convinced yourself that unfairly labeling someone a racist is the same thing as actually being a racist, but your conviction doesn't make it so. You're wrong. And you can't blame your error on a straw man invented by Joe or AZ.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on March 27, 2011


how far, you were drawing an equivalence between anti-Semites and people who use the word "anti-Semites" wrong.

No I wasn't, and, as you point out, saying doesn't make it so. I said that abuse of the terms "anti-Semitism" and "anti-Zionism" is wrong, no matter who does it. That does not necessitate or even imply an equivalence between anti-Semitism and abuse of the term. Being a racist is a different (and greater) sin to being deceptive about it. If I say that bank-robbers and the police both drive too fast, I am making a judgement about the behaviour while imputing no moral equivalence between the two professions. If I call you a bastard for stealing my parking space, it would not be reasonable to suggest that I think you are morally equivalent to a murderer.

You are arguing against something I simply never said or implied. That is what a straw-man is.
posted by howfar at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2011


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