Another one under the bus...
June 7, 2010 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Helen Thomas, going rogue. White House corespondent since the Eisenhower administration, Helen Thomas, has "retired" at the age of 89 after saying something unacceptable to a Rabbi at a White House Jewish heritage event on May 27th, 2010. Thomas "told a rabbi at a White House event last week that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go back to Germany and Poland." She has also been rebuked by the White House, calling her remarks "offensive and reprehensible..." posted by daq (283 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Helen my hero Thomas? :(
posted by dabitch at 10:47 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


.
posted by uaudio at 10:48 AM on June 7, 2010


I want to believe that there's something other than latent fuck-it-i'm-old bigotry coming out here. Surely she has to be dementing, or suffering from an undiagnosed brain issue of some kind (stroke, tumor, etc.)?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:50 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oy.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:51 AM on June 7, 2010


Helen Thomas, slain by her own ego.

For people constantly in the public eye, when you get to be about 70, someone should pull you aside and go, "Look, I know you think you've still got it, and you probably do, but you can't outrun the clock. You're going to fuck up. And everyone will think it's partly due to the fact that you're just getting old. Of that we have no doubt. We just don't know when. So, why don't we start doing things to mitigate that risk and preserve your legacy? Look at the people lining up this week to praise John Wooden ... don't you want that, too?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:51 AM on June 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The silly thing about this is that it was pretty clear that she wasn't referring to Jews who were already established in Israel who should go back to a WWII-era Warsaw ghetto or something, but that she was referring to very recent immigrants to illegal settlements in occupied territory. But, Thomas of all people should've known better than to dish out a soundbite like that.

Hopefully, she won't slink out of the public eye just yet and will at least release a book ofmemoirs and do the talk show circuit several times.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2010 [23 favorites]


She has also been rebuked by the White House...

What happened to only looking towards the future? Another reason IOKIYAR.
posted by DU at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2010


Re: the title of the post: Despite the uproar, no one seems to have forced her out, have they? Only a few right wingers who already had a grudge against her were calling for her dismissal.
posted by zarq at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2010


Another one under the bus...

What is that supposed to mean?
posted by goethean at 10:54 AM on June 7, 2010


I posted these in MeTa earlier. For anyone who might be interested, some of today's editorials and reports regarding the incident:

White House: Helen Thomas' Remarks "Offensive and Reprehensible"

She's been dropped by her Speakers' Agency and has agreed to bow out of a scheduled high school commencement speech in MD.

Journalist Craig Crawford, who co-authored a book with Thomas, has announced he will no longer be working with Thomas on any book projects.

An Open Letter to Helen Thomas (by Mr. Yoram Dori, adviser to Israeli former-President Shimon Peres, in the JPost)

Former White House Press Secretary Joe Klein: Helen Thomas: Go to the back of the room.

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: Fire Helen Thomas; She is advocating ethnic cleansing.

Salon.com: The right's Helen Thomas hypocrisy

The Moderate Voice: How I feel about Helen Thomas

Andrew Sullivan

Think Progress: Thomas Has Apologized. When Will Huckabee?

National Review Online: A few basic thoughts...
posted by zarq at 10:55 AM on June 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


How delightful that this gave the White House a chance to rebuke somebody in regards to I/P.
posted by boo_radley at 10:56 AM on June 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


According to Wikipedia,

Asked where they should go she replied that "they should go home" to Poland, Germany, America and "everywhere else".
posted by goethean at 10:57 AM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile the White House promises us "better communication" with Jan Brewer. Fucking bullshit.
posted by phaedon at 10:58 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw something about her comments on a muted TV last night, and I was pretty prepared to find it a flap about nothing when I checked into it this morning. I must say, however, that her comments were awful in a way that we mostly expect people's comments not to be. Regardless of your take on the occupation, I don't think anything is served by "go back to XXX" language. It might be amusing if it were a song in an over the top Mel Brooks movie, but it's otherwise in very bad taste.
posted by OmieWise at 10:58 AM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think Helen Thomas has had an awesome career and is a very interesting woman.

I also think it totally sucks that there are some things that certain areas of speech that aren't allowed to be expressed freely.

But I also think that an 89 year old columnist who isn't really reporting anymore should still be sitting in the front row at White House briefings, even if they are mostly theatrical bullshit.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:00 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everybody should go back to where they came from.

Africa, if I understand history right.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2010 [24 favorites]


She and James Watson should have tea.
posted by gurple at 11:02 AM on June 7, 2010


Octogenarian says something that offends someone's sensibilities. This is my shocked face.
posted by modernnomad at 11:02 AM on June 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Everybody should go back to where they came from.

I think we need to just call "do-over," and head back into the primordial ooze for another try.
posted by Bummus at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


Here's a transcript of the offending remarks.
posted by electroboy at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck it, I'll defend her. She was pushing 30 when the modern state of Israel was established. I'll bet, in her mentality, Israel is still a country elbowing itself into the Middle East by importing Jews around the world (Poland, Germany, America,) pushing outward into foreign and hostile territory, claiming it as their own through armed conflict and getting one another killed. It was a call for peace based on an outdated mentality and spoken in harsh terms rooted in an ideology which no longer holds -- Israelis can't "go back" regardless of their roots: they're Israelis now, not imported Jewish Poles, Germans, Americans, etc.
posted by griphus at 11:04 AM on June 7, 2010 [74 favorites]


She has also been rebuked by the White House...

Holy shit, and the Obama administration is famous for its unyielding loyalty to its supporters.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:07 AM on June 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


How sad. I remember being aware of her when I was a teenager from the movie Dave, and was always in awe of her work ethic, and the fact that she was a pioneering woman in a field reserved for men. I hope this is more likely a situational brain fart brought up by the emotional intensity of the israeli situation. She certainly looks like a fairly nuanced individual. During the Bush years she was one of the better reporters willing to ask direct questions on the war on terror.
posted by Omon Ra at 11:07 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I consider the administration itself "offensive and reprehensible" - so let's call it even.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:07 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I also think it totally sucks that there are some things that certain areas of speech that aren't allowed to be expressed freely.

Aren't allowed? Who is stopping her? Was she fired by Hearst? Was she banned by the White House? Did all American Jews rise up en masse and call for her to be shipped back to Lebanon? She said something perceived as offensive and a bunch of Americans exercised their equal right to freedom of speech and called it out as such.

In the same way that Israel should not be above reproach, neither should Helen Thomas. The idea that the American public should not be allowed to criticize her is ridiculous.
posted by zarq at 11:08 AM on June 7, 2010 [31 favorites]


aren't allowed to be expressed freely.

By "allowed to be expressed freely" do you mean someone stopped her from saying it? or just that there should be no reaction?
posted by ServSci at 11:08 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, being an Arab-American isn't gonna win her any friends on the kookier side of the aisle, that's for sure. Wait...that's BOTH sides....
posted by umberto at 11:10 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's a transcript of the offending remarks.

That transcription is wrong. You can clearly hear Nesenoff say "So where should the Jews go?" not "So where should they go?" on the video.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on June 7, 2010


> Israelis can't "go back" regardless of their roots: they're Israelis now, not imported Jewish Poles, Germans, Americans, etc.

There are, however, thousands of recent transplants from America, Russia, and other countries who can indeed very well leave illegal settlements and go back to where they came.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:11 AM on June 7, 2010 [44 favorites]


aren't allowed to be expressed freely.

She's allowed to sound like an idiot, and she's allowed to accept the consequences of that idiocy. She had to resign, and she's splashed a fair bit of mud on her reputation right when she should be cashing in on the memoir circuit.
posted by Forktine at 11:11 AM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


goethean: It is a reference to everyone in the White House press corps turning their backs on her because of an ill worded statement. Also note, on her 89th birthday, this picture with President Barack Obama and a plate of cupcakes was taken in the White House Press Room.
posted by daq at 11:11 AM on June 7, 2010


Burhanistan: The silly thing about this is that it was pretty clear that she wasn't referring to Jews who were already established in Israel who should go back to a WWII-era Warsaw ghetto or something, but that she was referring to very recent immigrants to illegal settlements in occupied territory. But, Thomas of all people should've known better than to dish out a soundbite like that.

That was pretty much what I was thinking.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:13 AM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I bet the three million Israeli Jews who originated from Arab and Muslim countries are going to feel riiiight at home in Germany and Poland.
posted by lullaby at 11:18 AM on June 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


There are, however, thousands of recent transplants from America, Russia, and other countries who can indeed very well leave illegal settlements and go back to where they came.

I don't know if she was referring to this, simply based on the locations she named. Firsty, she referred to the location as "Palestine," and she doesn't strike me as the activism-by-language sort. More like she hasn't acknowledged the state in the first place. Poland and Germany are associated with massive ethnic cleansing during the Holocaust, but that is because they also had significant populations of Jews. (Anecdata: I am a Russian Jew and I along with many Russian Jews I know have Germanic last names.) As far as "America," I think it was more in reference to individuals like Golda Meir than the opportunists coming out of Russia and America at the present moment.
posted by griphus at 11:18 AM on June 7, 2010


I get where you're coming from, griphus, and I'm even mildly uncomfortable with the whole "you just can't say that" thing going on here, but... that was a massively stupid thing to say, even in passing.

And lest anyone think that the First Amendment is being infringed here, no one with any sort of governmental power is taking adverse action here. The White House rebuked her, which seems sort of appropriate given the scale of the gaffe. But just because the state can't prevent you from or punish you for saying something doesn't mean that the rest of us can't. If you, for example, insult your boss to his face, the First Amendment will prevent you from going to jail, but it won't prevent him from firing your ass.

She should have quit while she was ahead.
posted by valkyryn at 11:19 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a good piece she wrote a couple of years ago: People can handle the truth about war.

It's a pity she didn't quit while she was ahead.
posted by homunculus at 11:19 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Everybody should go back to where they came from.

Africa, if I understand history right.


That'll have to do until we re-learn the secrets of the FTL drive.
posted by stevis23 at 11:21 AM on June 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


That was a massively stupid thing to say, even in passing.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I wasn't defending her phrasing. It was an incredibly ignorant thing to say especially coming from an individual with weight and experience behind every word she says. I just want to make it clear that the charges of anti-Semitism and advocacy of ethnic cleansing are unfounded and coming from misunderstood interpretation.
posted by griphus at 11:22 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


People need to learn the difference between "free speech" and "consequence-free speech".
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:22 AM on June 7, 2010 [38 favorites]


stevis23, it wasn't FTL, it was slowboats and ramscoops.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:27 AM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Germaine.
Germane.
Heh.
posted by Floydd at 11:32 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Get back, Jojo.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:34 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am not sure why you think I care what you would prefer, but I assure you this sort of commentary is about as welcome in the company of adults as Helen Thomas's comments about Jews going back to the countries that exterminated them in mass was welcome in the White House.

Am I mistaken in believing that she was talking about people who came from particular countries to live in a place they haven't got a legal right to live needing to go back to where they came from? Not where their ancestors came from, but where they personally physically came from?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:36 AM on June 7, 2010 [19 favorites]


I don't think it betrayed some sort of desire to finish off what Hitler started, but let's not pretend that the reaction to this comment is only because she was talking about Israel. Sure, it doesn't help that she was talking about a hotbutton issue, and one particularly hot right now. But the furor (heh) would have been substantial had she been talking about blacks moving into a white neighborhood, or Latinos moving into Arizona. The valence of power is different in those cases, but for many involved in the American political establishment the emotional valence is not. Her rhetorical choice was awful, calling to mind the history of “go back to xxx” bigots, and her choice of countries to return to exposed a ghoulish imagination. (I’m not aware that there are enough Polish Jews around anymore to cause many problems for the Palestinians.)
posted by OmieWise at 11:38 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


[long shitty derail removed - metatalk is your option and oh look there's already a thread there about how crappy I/P themed threads go. MAKE AN EFFORT if you like this place, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:39 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, Metafilter is going all to hell these days.

The only solution is for all of us to go back where we came from.

(...what? Memepool hasn't been updated in how long?)
posted by griphus at 11:39 AM on June 7, 2010 [35 favorites]


Let's see: an octogenarian liberal said something ambiguously offensive about Israel (or at least about the Palestinian territories).

So, I guess it's time to forget about the Israeli killings of activists aboard the boat running their blockade of Gaza. Forget also about the blockade itself and the entire apartheid system of governance Israel enforces upon its illegally occupied territories, and the efforts of Israeli settlers (backed by American Christian fundamentalists) to bring about the end times by colonizing Palestinian land. It's time to talk about whether Helen Thomas crossed the line!

Meanwhile: Iran offers escort to next Gaza aid convoy.

Good grief.
posted by washburn at 11:41 AM on June 7, 2010 [23 favorites]


What she said was really remarkably stupid for a woman that has a reputation for being extremely intelligent. She should have known better, and I'm a little disappointed in her. I'm not sure why people think the "she was talking about immigrants!" is anything more than weak reasoning. You don't have to be pro-Israel (I am not pro-Israel) to recognise the history of the Jewish as being extremely sensitive. A little heart and empathy is required for god's sake.
posted by saturnine at 11:41 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile: Iran offers escort to next Gaza aid convoy.

That's one of those "Sorry, but we need you guys on our side like we need a hole in the head" situations.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:43 AM on June 7, 2010


Nooooooooo. Helen, how could you?

This is about as graceful a way for a respected journalist to go as was Ken Griffey Jr's abrupt resignation as a legendary star baseball player last week.
posted by bearwife at 11:44 AM on June 7, 2010


I'm still waiting for her to apologize for her part in that godawful Colbert skit a few years back.
posted by Optamystic at 11:46 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I mistaken in believing that she was talking about people who came from particular countries to live in a place they haven't got a legal right to live needing to go back to where they came from? Not where their ancestors came from, but where they personally physically came from?

She may have been; it's very possible. On the other hand, she doesn't make it clear, and, truthfully, not many of the new immigrants come from Poland and Germany. There are 25,000 Jews in Poland, total; if all of them moved to the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow, they would represent a grand total of six percent of the total Jewish population there. So I would be very surprised if the biggest problem in the occupied territories, that needs to be addressed immediately, is new Jewish immigrants from Poland.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:47 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


This subject is being talked about on Talk Of The Nation today. Interesting view from the NPR side of the media.
posted by daq at 11:48 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are 25,000 Jews in Poland, total; if all of them moved to the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow, they would represent a grand total of six percent of the total Jewish population there.

Down from 3 million Jews prior to WWII. 90% of the country's Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on June 7, 2010


What she said was really remarkably stupid for a woman that has a reputation for being extremely intelligent.

I could be wrong but I believe she knew exactly what she was saying. She is quite incisive and intelligent, and has been writing about oppressed peoples for decades. She's well aware of the histories of both the Jewish people and the Palestinians and is capable of placing that into an appropriate perspective.
posted by zarq at 11:56 AM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, I guess it's time to forget about the Israeli killings of activists aboard the boat running their blockade of Gaza. [blah, blah, blah]

It may surprise you that some folks can keep more than one idea in their heads at once; and, what is more, are comfortable recognizing that outside of Bond films and World War II, there is a lot of ambiguity inherent in international politics.
posted by OmieWise at 12:01 PM on June 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Burhanistan: The silly thing about this is that it was pretty clear that she wasn't referring to Jews who were already established in Israel who should go back to a WWII-era Warsaw ghetto or something, but that she was referring to very recent immigrants to illegal settlements in occupied territory. But, Thomas of all people should've known better than to dish out a soundbite like that.

The very recent immigrants to illegal settlements in the occupied territory are coming from Poland and Germany? That's news to me. Bullshit. She's talking about the Jews from Europe who went to Palestine inspired by the Zionist movement. Period.

Many in this thread sound a lot like the people who signed petitions in support of Roman Polanski. You are looking for an excuse for why she has said what she said, then saying she didn't mean what she said, then saying it doesn't matter because she's a trailblazer for women.

Guess what - you can be a raging antisemite AND a trailblazer for women AT THE SAME TIME. Hitler was a vegetarian, anti-tabagist and loved his dog. Who gives a shit?
posted by falameufilho at 12:11 PM on June 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm sure his dog was grateful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Her comments have been repudiated by people far more important then myself, so I just want to say I agree with them.

However it's a shame that these types of comments are only reprehensible from one side of the debate. It's fine for American commentators and even politicians to deny that Palestinians even exist, to say there is no such thing as an Israeli occupation, that all Palestinians should be shipped to Jordan, etc. etc. This has been happening for 30 years and with increased frequency and rancor.

The US is so divided when it comes to almost every big issue, it should but it continues to astound me that on this one issue, our congress and entire polity is in lockstep, and our media operates an incredibly unfair double standard.

Again, not condoning Thomas, just wish that comments from the "other side" were rebuked as harshly.
posted by cell divide at 12:14 PM on June 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


It may surprise you that some folks can keep more than one idea in their heads at once

That's a good point. On the other hand, recorded history.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:15 PM on June 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


> She may have been; it's very possible. On the other hand, she doesn't make it clear, and, truthfully, not many of the new immigrants come from Poland and Germany.

On reflection, this may be the case and I was giving Thomas more credit than she deserves here. The transcript is pretty thin but since she used Poland and Germany as examples then it might mean she is referring to the creation of the state of Israel rather than recent immigration. That's certainly idiotic and untenable (and I say this as someone who dislikes the fact that the state of Israel was created) since there have been Israelis for almost four generations now.

> Let's see: an octogenarian liberal said something ambiguously offensive about Israel (or at least about the Palestinian territories).

So, I guess it's time to forget about the Israeli killings of activists aboard the boat running their blockade of Gaza.


This very much saddens me. The US media has already letting the the real story fade away and moving on to the non-story of an elderly person who arguably should have already retired making pointless off the cuff remarks. She couldn't have picked worse/better timing.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:16 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Griphus: Fuck it, I'll defend her. She was pushing 30 when the modern state of Israel was established

Fuck it, I will too. Israel circa 2010, is not the Israel of when it was formed in the late 40s , or even during any point past the 90s. It has grown decidedly oppressive, and fundamentalist, with a great deal of the political power now coming from the Orthodox Hasidim base, who're basically a version of the Jewish Taliban, with deplorable attitudes towards women and Islam.
posted by Skygazer at 12:17 PM on June 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


Anyway, I think we should be using Jay Smooth's approach here. I have no evidence Helen Thomas is an antisemite, and I am going to assume she is not. I am going to likewise assume that she has a more nuanced version than she expressed, until she demonstrates otherwise, and she claims she does, and she has apologized, and I am fine with that.

But what she said sounded antisemitic, and it did so because it was careless and reductive and generalized and did not seem to be based on an ounce of actual information (otherwise, why Poland?). We always try to be sensitive in addressing sensitive subjects, and she failed at that, and people have the right to be angry about that, and to call her on it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


"
Am I mistaken in believing that she was talking about people who came from particular countries to live in a place they haven't got a legal right to live needing to go back to where they came from? Not where their ancestors came from, but where they personally physically came from?"--
are you talking about my grandmother, who came from Latvia and settled in NY? or the Pilgrims?
If she meant, as one comment suggested,the settlers go back to where they legally came from: that would be Israel and not Poland. Note to Helen: Israel legally established via the UN.

Helen: she has family roots in Lebanon...doesn't that explain something, or should she go back there?
There is no indication that she is referring to settlers but every indication that she refers to any and all Jews in the region....
Note that she readily quit the UPI the day after the Moon organization (Unification church) took it over, stating that it was "a bridge too far." Had ethical view then, right? Not in this instance.

Ps: it is not her age but her ingrained feelings...
posted by Postroad at 12:17 PM on June 7, 2010


What I find offensive is the right wing "rage" over this. Fake rage from a group of people that only support Israel in hopes that Israel rebuilds the temple so Jesus comes back. Personally, I'm in Helen's corner.
posted by zzazazz at 12:21 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


She said something offensive, and she knew it, no matter what she may have actually meant by "Jews" or by "Palestine" or whatever.
The standard procedure for these things is loss of current job and not being taken seriously any more (if she ever has been in the last 30 years).
It's not as if firing her is a tragic loss of a potential career or anything. She's been done for a while now.
posted by rocket88 at 12:22 PM on June 7, 2010


What, are you kidding me? She's a very influential and respected journalist.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:24 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"There are 25,000 Jews in Poland, total; if all of them moved to the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow, they would represent a grand total of six percent of the total Jewish population there. "

And where would they move to? Oh, I know, let's build some settlements. But where? Hey, no one (Jewish) is using that land over there!
posted by wah at 12:24 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


And where would they move to? Oh, I know, let's build some settlements. But where? Hey, no one (Jewish) is using that land over there!

Yes, that would be a problem, if 25,000 Polish Jews were actually doing that. The point of my comment was that it's not happening, and so Helen Thomas telling them to go back to Poland is bizarre.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:26 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


A little heart and empathy is required for god's sake.

The state of Israel could learn that lesson, too.
posted by xmutex at 12:29 PM on June 7, 2010


The state of Israel could learn that lesson, too.

I am not sure there isn't a single nation-state on earth who wouldn't benefit from that lesson.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:30 PM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Has anyone bothered to distinguish anti-Semite from anti-Israel in this thread yet? Very well then.
posted by desjardins at 12:34 PM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Has anyone bothered to distinguish anti-Semite from anti-Israel in this thread yet? Very well then.

Her use of the specific countries of Poland and Germany denotes antisemitism to me.
posted by amro at 12:35 PM on June 7, 2010


She's been done for a while now.

No.

I also want to defend her. Maybe because I have a great sympathy for people who misspeak who are probably not racists/antisemites (in contrast, cf. the 'macaca' moment the whatever election).

This is because I lack tact and diplomacy. Granted, in her job, she would need those skills and certainly must have them to have gone as far as she has. But I certainly sympathize with somebody who blurts out something that makes her seem like x y or z of badness when the person is really not that way.

The pile-on seems far more vicious than is justified by what she said.
posted by angrycat at 12:39 PM on June 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


> Her use of the specific countries of Poland and Germany denotes antisemitism to me.

I'm not so sure. It's one thing to be anti-zionist and another to be an actual antisemite. That's a fool's game to parse, really. But I'd wager that she doesn't hate Jews per se, but hates the state of Israel. However, I should stop extending anyone the benefit of the doubt unless I have more to go on.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:39 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone bothered to distinguish anti-Semite from anti-Israel in this thread yet? Very well then.

Telling Jews (specifically Jews) to go back to Poland and Germany qualifies in my mind as an antisemitic remark. I'm with Astro Zombie, though. I don't believe she's an antisemite and I am not convinced that an expression of antisemitism is necessarily what she intended.
posted by zarq at 12:40 PM on June 7, 2010


It's a shame that someone in her position is forced to retire for merely voicing her opinion, and yet Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are fucking millionaires.
posted by crunchland at 12:41 PM on June 7, 2010 [33 favorites]


Am I mistaken in believing that she was talking about people who came from particular countries to live in a place they haven't got a legal right to live needing to go back to where they came from?

Apparently, you are in fact mistaken: see this early comment in this thread.

Very sad though. Not what a reporter should be saying. I have lots of sympathy for people whose patience with Israel is rather thin right now, but I agree she should have hung it up before this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:43 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think we need to just call "do-over," and head back into the primordial ooze for another try.

I agree with this many times over, Bummus.
posted by kinnakeet at 12:44 PM on June 7, 2010


However, I should stop extending anyone the benefit of the doubt unless I have more to go on.

You mean anything other than the 60+ year journalism career wherein, at least to my knowledge, she hasn't said another clearly anti-semitic remark, surely...
posted by quakerjono at 12:45 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Has anyone bothered to distinguish anti-Semite from anti-Israel in this thread yet? Very well then.

I believe her comments were intended as a criticism of Israel, but were so poorly considered as to sound antisemitic. I am sorry that I was not clearer on this. That being said, even as a criticism of Israel, it was pretty insubstantial.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


"The point of my comment was that it's not happening, and so Helen Thomas telling them to go back to Poland is bizarre."

Oh great, so there's no need to build any new settlements. Problem solved!

Wait, why are they still building then?
posted by wah at 12:47 PM on June 7, 2010


I feel that you have misunderstood my comments, and would appreciate you rereading them before I respond to you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:48 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


* Personally, I'm in Helen's corner.

Are you "in Helen's corner" just because the right wing is raging over this? If Helen had kicked a puppy and the right wing raged over it, would you be in her corner? Your comment sounded as if you make moral choices based on how the other side reacts. That's a rather flimsy moral compass.

*Has anyone bothered to distinguish anti-Semite from anti-Israel in this thread yet? Very well then.

Not every position against the state of Israel constitutes antisemitism and I assume that this card (like the racism card) normally gets played rather prematurely, but if there's one angle of criticism of Israel that is 100% antisemitic it's hers. She said that Jews from Europe had no business being in the Middle East, regardless of the fact that six million had just been killled at "home" (the home she wanted them to return to and that they were never very much welcome in to begin with) and that the UN had recognized a partition plan.

"They should go back to Germany or Poland" is the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from the Mufti.
posted by falameufilho at 12:48 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


We've been through this at length in MeTa recently, but it may be worth repeating here for anyone who's unclear: there is a difference between anti-Israel and anti-Semite.

From her statement (and her history) we can infer that Helen Thomas is anti-Israel. So are a lot of folks, including many Jews. Her statement (careless as it was) did not address Jews in general - it only addressed the very specific case of Jews settling in disputed territory. ("Remember, these people are occupied," she says, and it's a pretty safe guess especially given her previously expressed opinions that she's talking about Palestine here.) Whether she specifically meant to comment on recent immigration, or the establishment of Israel itself 60 years ago, is hard to say, but either way it's not fair to the woman to characterize her as a "raging antisemite" on the basis of this statement. The territory *is* disputed and has been ever since the establishment of the state of Israel.

That said: yes, her remarks were awfully tone-deaf and ill-advised. Hate to see her go out on such a negative note - she really should have quit while she was ahead. On preview, echoing crunchland and others - our national conversation would be a healthier one if ridiculous and reprehensible statements from Glenn Beck and others drew as much controversy as this one has.
posted by fundamillinery at 12:50 PM on June 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The silly thing about this is that it was pretty clear that she wasn't referring to Jews who were already established in Israel who should go back to a WWII-era Warsaw ghetto or something, but that she was referring to very recent immigrants to illegal settlements in occupied territory. But, Thomas of all people should've known better than to dish out a soundbite like that

I'm not so sure she was, if so, I doubt she would have named Germany and Poland. There are plenty of other recent transplants from Russia and other former Eastern Block countries to choose from. To me, she obviously was being flippant and having the mother of all senior moments.
posted by prodigalsun at 12:51 PM on June 7, 2010


You mean anything other than the 60+ year journalism career wherein, at least to my knowledge, she hasn't said another clearly anti-semitic remark, surely...

She has, to the best of my knowledge, always been highly critical of Israel, but in the past that criticism has never taken the form of any sort of expression of antisemitism. She has questioned White House Press Secretaries about the United States' relationship with that country numerous times, on many topics. Doing so is not antisemitic.
posted by zarq at 12:54 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think she just wrote the first line of her obituary, and it's not what it should be.
posted by tzikeh at 12:56 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


> Are you "in Helen's corner" just because the right wing is raging over this? If Helen had kicked a puppy and the right wing raged over it, would you be in her corner? Your comment sounded as if you make moral choices based on how the other side reacts. That's a rather flimsy moral compass.


falameufilho: These threads are already contentious enough without your cheap theatrics and disingenuous readings of other people who have positions that differ from your own.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:00 PM on June 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is not the regular anti-Israel does not equal antisemitic argument. Not after she said they should go back to Poland and Germany. It's just not.
posted by amro at 1:00 PM on June 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is a really interesting article on her, from 2003:

Screw You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas used to ask questions in press briefings. Now she makes speeches.
posted by falameufilho at 1:01 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


She has, to the best of my knowledge, always been highly critical of Israel, but in the past that criticism has never taken the form of any sort of expression of antisemitism. She has questioned White House Press Secretaries about the United States' relationship with that country numerous times, on many topics. Doing so is not antisemitic.

Exactly, which is why this pile on of a woman who has been a respected journalist for 60 plus years on the basis of a single comment makes very little sense to me. Was it poorly worded? Yes, but to go straight from anti-Zionist/anti-Israel to anti-semitic seems rather baseless given her extensive record of being specifically not anti-semitic.

Frankly, one flub in 60+ years is a fairly good average.
posted by quakerjono at 1:02 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Josh Marshall condemns her today based on some relatives fleeing Europe to "go to Palestine." But I think the definitions differ and what Thomas was talking about was the West Bank or Gaza. The next time someone says something anti-Arab, and it should be only minutes, I want to see Fleischer and others rage against racism. The former should take only a matter of minutes.

Interesting that no one's asked questions about the rabbi who provoked this scene, and who himself has a rather controversial history with the congregation that fired him.
posted by etaoin at 1:03 PM on June 7, 2010


* Her statement (careless as it was) did not address Jews in general - it only addressed the very specific case of Jews settling in disputed territory.

That is not what she said. I am against the settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. If asked about that specific subject (which she was not, she was asked about Israel in general), I would say: "they (the settlers) should GO BACK TO ISRAEL". But that was not was Helen was asked. And it certainly was not what she responded.

She said something very very different - she said they should go back to GERMANY and POLAND. The last time there was a significant influx of immigrants from Germany and Poland to Israel was in the 40's. Those people were not settling in disputed territories.
posted by falameufilho at 1:08 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


* Interesting that no one's asked questions about the rabbi who provoked this scene

No idea who the guy is. If he was reporting her quote in writing, I would definitely be concerned if he was a valid source. In this specific case, the video speaks for itself. He was just holding the camera and pointing at her.
posted by falameufilho at 1:12 PM on June 7, 2010


Regardless of your take on the occupation, I don't think anything is served by "go back to XXX" language.

That's what bothers me most about this. A large percentage of Jews in Israel are of Middle Eastern descent, from Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, and so on. They couldn't "go back" even if they wanted to.
posted by jonp72 at 1:13 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


*
Frankly, one flub in 60+ years is a fairly good average.

Don't you think that the fact that she has a 60+ year career actually makes it worse?
posted by falameufilho at 1:14 PM on June 7, 2010


Interesting that no one's asked questions about the rabbi who provoked this scene, and who himself has a rather controversial history with the congregation that fired him.

I'd be interested in learning more about him. Can you provide a link to read?
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on June 7, 2010


Look. All she did was say what she thought. It wasn't a fucking hate crime. However, Israelis have sufficiently bullied the rest of the planet into thinking that anything remotely or overtly criticizing them is an anti-semitic hate crime.
posted by crunchland at 1:16 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am going to likewise assume that she has a more nuanced version than she expressed, until she demonstrates otherwise, and she claims she does, and she has apologized, and I am fine with that.

Yeah, that’s always the problem with issues like this. You can’t say “Israel” without 200 people taking 200 different contextual paths and putting whatever one says into their own perspective.

When the drum was beaten for illegal immigration (again) a bit back ago there were some people (skinheads in suits basically) demonstrating and things got a bit acrimonious.
T.V. reporters go up and ask a plainclothes cop who looks Hispanic and really, really pissed off what he thinks about all this. Deadpan he says “They’re completely right. Illegal immigrants ruined this country and they’re all screwing it up now too.” And he walks off.
Now if it got left at that, that sound bite would have looked pretty bad. But the public information guy goes running over and says “Uh, Detective R&J Wolf is a Native American.”

Thomas may have been an opinion columnist with a long history but the situation in the middle east has gone through a lot of convoluted iterations and clearly it’s far more complex than just leaving or just –anything.
The woman’s distinguished career notwithstanding. It’s not like Cronkite was still racing cars at 90. Why her opinion is relevant or wanted, I don’t know. I suspect this is only considered egregious because she is (or was) an actual journalist and not a pundit.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:17 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


* These threads are already contentious enough without your cheap theatrics and disingenuous readings of other people who have positions that differ from your own.

Come on, go back and read zzazz comment and tell me if my reading is not plausible. And I am giving the benefit of the doubt that zzazz just "sounds like" these moral choices are made based on the right-wing feel about the issue.
posted by falameufilho at 1:18 PM on June 7, 2010


Don't you think that the fact that she has a 60+ year career actually makes it worse?

Given the fact that current journalistic standards tend to run more towards the Glenn Beck version of Broadcasted Verbal Diarrhea With No Consequences, no, I truly don't.
posted by quakerjono at 1:20 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, Israelis have sufficiently bullied the rest of the planet into thinking that anything remotely or overtly criticizing them is an anti-semitic hate crime.

I'd like to suggest that the endless parade of comments such as these does as much to stifle discussion as actually accusing all criticisms of Israel of antisemitism does. Let us address it on a case-by-case basis, if we could, rather than simply presuming that there is a silencing tactic going on here. There have not been many people -- or any -- in this thread saying that her comments are antisemitic because they criticize Israel. When this argument comes up, perhaps we can address it then.

What has been done in this thread is to discuss the thoughtlessness of the comment, and how it almost certainly inadvertently referenced a historic oppression of the Jews. This has been quite a good conversation, and mostly respectful, and do we really need to silence it by screaming that Israelis are just trying to censor everybody with their bullying cries of antisemitism?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:21 PM on June 7, 2010 [19 favorites]


It's time to talk about whether Helen Thomas crossed the line!

well, yes - in this thread. see, this thread is about helen thomas and remarks she made. i know it's hard to discuss anything that pertains to I/P without bringing in the hundreds of years of history, but if every time one side does something shitty they yell back with "but what about that shitty thing you did last time!" well, we'd be exactly where we are now. history isn't contextless, but metafilter pretty much runs on trying to keep things as on topic as possible. it's not like we aren't tackling the very topic you're accusing us of ignoring in a few other places on here.

now, on to the topic of the post.

i adore helen thomas. i adore the fact that she says unpopular things that make the people in power feel uncomfortable. i hate that she said this and i won't be joining her apologists. whatever she meant to express, whatever nuance she feels - what she said is reprehensible and shows either malice or temper or a misunderstanding of the international stage. sadly, with helen thomas, the last one isn't really an option.
posted by nadawi at 1:23 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


What Helen Thomas said was, as Robert Gibbs put it in his typically bland way, "offensive and reprehensible," not to mention ignorant and incendiary.

At the same time, I think that Thomas probably fell behind the times some years ago and despite her past evidence of pugnacious intelligence is probably more than somewhat unaware of the pernicious "gotcha" culture that predominates in the public sphere now, in which comments that you make that are not meant for public consumption become public property whether you like it or not. Did Rabbi Nesenoff tell Thomas that she was being filmed and that he was going to publish her comments? If he's a "journalist," as he claims, and he didn't tell her that she was being filmed, why didn't he tell her? Should she just have assumed that he was filming her whether she knew it or not?

Would her remarks have been any less offensive had they never seen the light of day? Is there any excuse for her having said what she said whether it was eventually made public or not? No, of course not. But there are people who've had it out for Helen Thomas for years who are chuckling that she finally put her foot in her mouth the way she made other people put their feet in their mouths over the years, and that she's finally out of the catbird seat at the White House, including one columnist at the Washington Post today who wrote that she should have been booted years ago because she was a notorious "grandstander" who had long since ceased being relevant.

It's time to talk about whether Helen Thomas crossed the line!

And yes, as nadawi said, it is "time" to talk about her, because that's what this thread is about and because her comments were so asinine as to defy description.
posted by blucevalo at 1:26 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


What nadawi said.
posted by falameufilho at 1:30 PM on June 7, 2010


Astro Zombie is so right. The tactic of labeling something that is anti-Zionist as antisemitic is terrible and rightly deplored. However, I have also definitely seen the opposite: the preemptive complaint about this tactic (or a complaint about this tactic when the vast majority of people discussing the issue are not deploying that tactic) used to shut down those defedning a Zionist or pro-Israel view.

As Astro Zombie said, the only way to avoid these obnoxious rhetorical devices is to judge each person individually based on their actual comments.
posted by Falconetti at 1:30 PM on June 7, 2010


I guess I'm left wondering exactly how brazenly offensive and horrific a comment about Jews has to be to keep the usual "Being anti-Israel doesn't make you anti-Semitic"-brigade away. Would she have to actually refer to them as "kikes"? Because clearly suggesting that Jews in Israel should return to many of the countries best known for rounding them up and systematically torturing and murdering them is still defensible.
posted by The Gooch at 1:34 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look. All she did was say what she thought. It wasn't a fucking hate crime.

well, hate speech is a hate crime. to tell a group of historically repressed people, no matter what their power is today, to go back to the place that killed 6 million of them - well, it doesn't rise to hate speech, but it's certainly closer than i, a staunch anti-israeli gal, would like to see. i can see how people who are pro-israeli might take that opinion a far bit further than me and i don't think they'd be totally wrong.

the point has been made many times - but, freedom of speech isn't freedom of consequences from your speech. all she did is say what she thought and now she's paying price of voicing an unpopular opinion as a public figure.
posted by nadawi at 1:37 PM on June 7, 2010


Apparently, you are in fact mistaken: see this early comment in this thread.

I think you're actually the one who is mistaken; see Burhanistan's followup comments. It is pretty clear from what Thomas said that she is not talking about the very most recent immigrants to Israel. She is talking about the creation of the state of Israel itself. Because that's when Polish and German Jews were involved. There hasn't been a lot of German and Polish Jewish immigration to the area recently. This is because the Germans and Poles murdered all the Jews.

I respect Helen Thomas tremendously as I think many in this thread do. People are bending over backwards to read her comments in the best possible light because of that respect. But I think that it is hard to see these comments (if we are being honest) as anything but calling for Israel to to away. Not the settlements in the West Bank but all of it.
posted by Justinian at 1:37 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Another one under the bus...

Oh, I think the title of the post is quite inaccurate. Thomas wasn't "thrown under the bus"; She got off the bus, lay down in front of the bus, and told the bus driver to hit the gas.
posted by Justinian at 1:39 PM on June 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Lanny Davis, who used to be the Clintons' special counsel said this (emphasis mine):
"Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot," Davis said. "This is not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite."

Davis added, "If she had asked all blacks to go back to Africa, what would the White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials -- much less a privileged honorary seat?"
ARRRRRRRGH.

There's a bit of a difference in how black people came to the US and how Jewish people came to Isreal.
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:44 PM on June 7, 2010


There's a bit of a difference in how black people came to the US and how Jewish people came to Isreal.

Actually, there isn't; most of both are born there. How their ancestors got there is irrelevant.
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's a bit of a difference in how black people came to the US and how Jewish people came to Isreal.

Well, parallels are always going to be imprecise; this was especially imprecise. That being said, both wound up there as the result of mass death and forced mobilization, both have been there for generations, and just saying "Go back where you came from" is pretty stupid in both cases.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:47 PM on June 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


well, hate speech is a hate crime.

Not in the United States.
posted by Falconetti at 1:49 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


all she did is say what she thought and now she's paying price of voicing an unpopular opinion as a public figure.

Fair enough and well taken, but my concern is the punishment fitting the crime. While free speech does indeed come with consequences, my sense is that those consequences in this case far outweigh the rhetoric itself, given her public record. Tough on Israel, sure, but no specific incidence or history of active antisemitism.

So my question is what else is going on here?
posted by quakerjono at 1:50 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, Lanny Davis and Helen Thomas -- how many more people who I used to respect but now feel conflicted (at best) about over based on just one comment can this "scandal" create?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:53 PM on June 7, 2010


well, hate speech is a hate crime.

Not in the United States.

i take your point - but, it's not actually all encompassing like that. some hate speech can be a hate crime, the burden is just at a higher threshold than other places.
posted by nadawi at 1:53 PM on June 7, 2010


* So my question is what else is going on here?

There is nothing else going on here. "[BLANK] should go back to [BLANK]" is not an acceptable position for mostly anyone, specially someone like her. Her experience, history, career and current position make it all worse, not better.
posted by falameufilho at 1:54 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


> So my question is what else is going on here?

Media circle jerk/hyenas feeding on an easy kill
posted by Burhanistan at 1:54 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not every position against the state of Israel constitutes antisemitism

Not every position against Israel's occupation of the territories is "anti-Isreal." In fact, most are not. Unless we want to just break the English language permanently, the term "anti-Israel" would have to mean something like "opposed to the existence of Israel" or "having as an end purpose the defeat, subjugation, or eradication of Israel." Yes, there are some nutjobs out there who advocate such policies, but they're a pretty tiny percentage of those who oppose the occupation. Certainly this is the case among U.S. citizens, the group whose opinions are principally under discussion here.
posted by Clay201 at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2010


"[BLANK] should go back to [BLANK]" is not an acceptable position for mostly anyone, specially someone like her.

And I don't believe anyone here is saying that is IS an acceptable position. The question I'm asking is one of proportion of reaction given her public history.
posted by quakerjono at 1:59 PM on June 7, 2010


. While free speech does indeed come with consequences, my sense is that those consequences in this case far outweigh the rhetoric itself

when you make your living rabble rousing, one day you'll probably go too far and when that happens, don't be surprised if there's an army of people there to applaud your fall.
posted by nadawi at 2:00 PM on June 7, 2010


So my question is what else is going on here?

Recent history indicates that when it comes to Israel, every action has a complete and opposite overreaction.
posted by crunchland at 2:00 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Media circle jerk/hyenas feeding on an easy kill

when you make your living rabble rousing, one day you'll probably go too far and when that happens, don't be surprised if there's an army of people there to applaud your fall.

This is probably the right of it, but man does it feel kludgey.
posted by quakerjono at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2010


This is probably the right of it, but man does it feel kludgey.

Nah, it seems perfectly designed for the task it's accomplishing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:10 PM on June 7, 2010


Not every position against Israel's occupation of the territories is "anti-Isreal." In fact, most are not.

True. But we're not talking about every position, we're talking about Helen Thomas'. And her comments were not anti-occupation of the territories, they were fundamentally anti-Israel. Maybe she misspoke. But that's what she said.
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on June 7, 2010


This is because the Germans and Poles murdered all the Jews.

Huh? Poland was under German occupation. A lot of the Holocaust took place on Polish soil, but it was conducted by the Germans (incidentally, there are more Polish than any other nationality names in the Righteous Among the Nations list in Israel, honoring those who rescued Jews at great personal risk). While anti-Semitic Poles certainly existed, their participation was minuscule comparatively speaking... certainly Vichy France was a bigger actor in the Holocaust, as were some countries which had governments that colluded with the Nazis to varying degrees (Hungary, Romania, Independent State of Croatia, Slovak Republic etc.). Poland wasn't even nominally or actively aligned with Nazi Germany, like Norway, Spain, Italy etc.. Poland ceased to exist as an independent country a month after the Nazis marched in in 1939. To lump in the Poles together with the Germans as "murdering all the Jews" is a mind-boggling misrepresentation of history - in a thread where we're careful not to slur whole nations, this misrepresentation must be called out.

Incidentally there are more Poles than any other nationality represented in the Righteous Among the Nations list in Israel, honoring those who rescued Jews at great personal risk - a risk that was also the greatest of all to Poles:

"In German-occupied Poland, all household members were punished by death if a hidden Jew was found in their house. This was the most severe legislation in occupied Europe."

Let us not sling false accusations of genocide and participation in the Holocaust with such abandon.
posted by VikingSword at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


This is because the Germans and Poles murdered all the Jews.

No. Anti-Semites and Nazis murdered German and Polish Jews. This is the point of Thomas' argument. These people were murdered in their homes. Jews have lived in Germany and Poland for hundreds of years, more-or-less peacefully. They identified with the local culture while retaining their own. Thomas thinks that they still do, apparently unaware that there now exists an Israeli culture the descendants of the original European and Middle Eastern Jewish founders subscribe to.
posted by griphus at 2:21 PM on June 7, 2010


But we're not talking about every position

Falameufilho was talking about "every position." In fact, the phrase is a quote from his comment.
posted by Clay201 at 2:22 PM on June 7, 2010


I came in to make Viking Sword's point. Fortunately, he did it better than I would have. Nazis killed 3 million Jewish Poles, and 3 million non-Jews in Poland. And many, many Poles tried to stop them.
posted by zarq at 2:27 PM on June 7, 2010


i think Helen Thomas is right, where's the outrage on the outrage ?
posted by Substrata at 2:28 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't get into Thomas' mind, and clearly, her remarks are indefensible. But if I may speculate, there is also the possibility, that she was referring to Jews who emigrated from Poland (in the wake of an anti-Semitic political campaign) and settled in Israel, which was in the late 60's. Whatever she was referring to, however doesn't matter - she was wrong, and offensive, full stop.
posted by VikingSword at 2:28 PM on June 7, 2010


Having defended the Poles, I don't want to leave the impression that it's all roses when it comes to anti-Semitism in Poland - it's present, though abating, and there were some very disturbing instances of pogrom-like murder in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Once Communism fell, Poland aligned itself pretty closely with Israel, and in fact today is a reliable ally - for better or worse. Jewish life is coming back to Poland, though it's a slow process. You can still see anti-Semitic graffiti in some places, while it's become virtually absent in the rest of Europe.
posted by VikingSword at 2:35 PM on June 7, 2010


It may simply come down to this:
she has become useless as the queen of the White House press corps. It is the job of trained professionals there to ask questions, not to give out op ed beliefs...
Yes she apologized quickly. That tells us she knew what she had said was dead wrong. Yes she quit her job. That means she also knows she has lost prestige and credibility for the job she had been given.
posted by Postroad at 2:46 PM on June 7, 2010




Well, that's why we need to wait for people to die before naming awards after them.
posted by falameufilho at 3:08 PM on June 7, 2010


falameufilho: She said something very very different - she said they should go back to GERMANY and POLAND. The last time there was a significant influx of immigrants from Germany and Poland to Israel was in the 40's. Those people were not settling in disputed territories.

Not disputed? Why all the wars then?
posted by desjardins at 3:09 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm really scared that this is a derail, but---
Okay, I've just got to get this off of my chest. It's been bugging me for a long time, and I just never seem to find a good time or place to say it: Jews, Arabs, Eritreans, some peoples from Ethiopia, the friggin' Maltese even, they are ALL Semitic peoples. Israel doesn't have a monopoly on being Semitic. Some will argue that nowadays, "EVERYONE knows that the term 'anti-Semitic' means 'anti-Jewish'". To that argument, I say we need to realize that this is just another way to create a stronger sense of difference between Jews & Arabs (& all the other groups of Semites). It's working, too. It seems to me that what people need to be doing (for peace) is to start accentuating the similarities between two warring peoples, rather than going on about how irreconcilably different they are. Here are two: their languages are related & there are Y-chromosomal links between Semitic-speaking Near-Eastern peoples like Arabs, Assyrians and Hebrews. See? It's not THAT hard!
Now, on to Helen Thomas. I really don't know what she meant when she said that. And, judging from the above comments, the only consensus here is that what came out of her mouth was not at all a nice thing to say. Did she mean "leave the occupied territories"or "leave the Middle East"? She seems like the kind of person who would've meant the former, but the way she phrased it implies the latter. It kind of reminds me of the time in 1966 when John Lennon said the Beatles were, at the time, more popular with the Western World's youth than Jesus. He didn't say they were better, just more popular, but Oh! the outrage by people who were SURE he meant they were better. Sigh. so many problems would not exist if people just took the time to think about what they were about to say before they actually said it. That, and using a standard terminology for things.
posted by frodisaur at 3:14 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Predictably, people who worked for Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II are coming out of the woodwork and saying she should have been fired long ago, not only because of her most recent comments, but because she was insufficiently deferential to the presidents she questioned.
posted by blucevalo at 3:20 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Predictably, people who worked for Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II are coming out of the woodwork and saying she should have been fired long ago,

Ah yes, the "Yeah you better run" that's been the hallmark of the weak and cowardly since time immemorial.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:25 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Astro Zombie is so right. The tactic of labeling something that is anti-Zionist as antisemitic is terrible and rightly deplored. However, I have also definitely seen the opposite: the preemptive complaint about this tactic (or a complaint about this tactic when the vast majority of people discussing the issue are not deploying that tactic) used to shut down those defedning a Zionist or pro-Israel view.

Well, in this specific case, she has been forced to resign. In this specific case, her speaking agency has refused to work with her anymore. And in this specific case, she's being called a bigot, and an anti-semite by anyone who can work a typewriter.

And during the build up to the Iraq war, how necessary was her voice? How lonely was her voice?

The fact that that old fart is no longer going to be at the White House is a bad thing! The purveyors of Orwellian weasel speak just had their jobs made easier.
posted by Trochanter at 3:28 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


That, and using a standard terminology for things.

your language derail argues against this point. standard terminology is based on usage - the usage of anti-semitic is almost always to mean anti-jew. here is more on that topic. while wikipedia is certainly not the end all be all, the cites listed are interesting, i think.

and i think this statement by helen thomas has more in common with elvis costello's comment about ray charles - said to be inflammatory and to invoke a reaction. and i would wager that both thomas and costello would wish they were less inflammatory when the reaction was by more people than just the person in front of them.
posted by nadawi at 3:28 PM on June 7, 2010


* Desjardins: Not disputed? Why all the wars then?

Sorry, I meant "occupied", as in occupied by the Jews or Israel.
posted by falameufilho at 3:32 PM on June 7, 2010


I'm willing to give some leeway for anyone currently criticizing Israel at the moment, considering they are being complete douchebags.

Not that she's correct, mind you. She's wrong for the many reasons outlined in this thread. However, Israel needs to be knocked back to reality a little.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 3:34 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


'I will marshall all the media forces of darkness to hound you to an assisted suicide'.
posted by fullerine at 3:34 PM on June 7, 2010


Jews have lived in Germany and Poland for hundreds of years, more-or-less peacefully.

More or less? the less being the Holocaust, I assume?


Anti-Semites and Nazis murdered German and Polish Jews.

No, this was a collective national effort on the part of Germany which has to own the atrocities of the third reich.
posted by cjets at 3:35 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, in this specific case, she has been forced to resign.

No, she's not.

In this specific case, her speaking agency has refused to work with her anymore.

She lost a single speaking gig. too. That doesn't mean she's been blacklisted. I'm sure some agency would pick her up again and other speaking gigs will look for her again soon. Nor do any of us have evidence that Hearst forced her to resign. She's smart enough to know that this incident would have been forgotten by all but those with a very large axe to grind in a few days.

And in this specific case, she's being called a bigot, and an anti-semite by anyone who can work a typewriter.

Again, no she isn't. I linked to at least two or three well-written essays earlier in the thread which argued that just because she made the comment, that doesn't make her a bigot, nor an antisemite.
posted by zarq at 3:37 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


* Frodisaur: The term "Semitic" was not coined to refer to ethnicities but to a group of languages. The term term "Antisemitic" was coined to refer exclusively to negative sentiments against the Jews. Your argument is a very common derail of I/P discussions in the real world: "Hamas cannot be antisemitic before they are semitic too". It is a bit of a red herring and that started on the 2001 World Conference Against Racism where the trend of Palestinian movements and NGOs trying to appropriate of concepts closely associated to Judaism such as antisemitism and holocaust consolidated.
posted by falameufilho at 3:45 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, I've just got to get this off of my chest. It's been bugging me for a long time, and I just never seem to find a good time or place to say it: Jews, Arabs, Eritreans, some peoples from Ethiopia, the friggin' Maltese even, they are ALL Semitic peoples. Israel doesn't have a monopoly on being Semitic.
Well, it's important to remember that the term "anti-semetic" was actually thought up by jew haters to describe themselves, In particular the name was chosen by groups like the Antisemitic League. Apparently the term was coined by this guy in Germany.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


What delmoi said. Also, there have been a lot of scholars as of late who don't like to use the term because, well, it's not accurate in the first place.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:56 PM on June 7, 2010


Huh? Poland was under German occupation. A lot of the Holocaust took place on Polish soil, but it was conducted by the Germans
While that's true, there were instances of Polish complicity, not to mention an ugly massacre of surviving Jews who tried to return to their homes in Poland. After the Kielce massacre, it's not really all that surprising that the 10% of Polish Jews who weren't murdered by the Nazi were reluctant to stay in Poland.
posted by craichead at 3:58 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nor do any of us have evidence that Hearst forced her to resign.

Just one of those things, eh? Just one of those things that just happen to happen.


Andrew Sullivan agrees in your first link that Thomas' comment is "morally abhorrent". The Time article says her views are "odious". And the third one says,"... before Thomas’s speaking agency dropped her, and before Craig Crawford, who is represented by the same agency, announced that he would no longer work with her on a joint book project. And before Joe Klein opined that Thomas should be made to sit in the back of the room during White House briefings."

You must have linked to the wrong articles.
posted by Trochanter at 3:59 PM on June 7, 2010


Yes. Somebody says something stupid and they experience repercussions. That was precisely what Orwell was talking about.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:04 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nadawi: well, hate speech is a hate crime.

You do the idea of hate speech and hate crime, a disservice by viewing them as being interchangeable.

Thomas, went off the deep end (and even that is questionable in light of the fact that she came of age, in a completely different era, than most people, except those her age, have any awareness of) , but she certainly did not commit hate speech.
posted by Skygazer at 4:08 PM on June 7, 2010


And during the build up to the Iraq war, how necessary was her voice? How lonely was her voice?

'89 year old’s stupid remarks during ceremonial figureheading prove entire 50-odd years of life’s work questioning power as journalist completely wrong; Iraq war justified. U.S. citizens encouraged to continue not putting 2 and 2 together or risk being like racist bastard like Thomas.'

I think she was wrong, but yeah, there's a lot of equating this statement with a slew of other standard-bearing issues for other purposes, so yeah maybe this isn't about Thomas.

(Einstein had a real problem with Menachem Begin, doesn't mean relativity is b.s. And that was a while ago. Things change.)

Bit of a catch-22 for Thomas. She doesn't let things go. Which is a quality you probably want in a journalist. On the other hand - she doesn't let things go. Which is a problem if things have changed.

How far do we want to go back in history to try to hit the reset button, when there's actual issues that need to be addressed on their own merits right now?
Her comments were pointlessly acrimonious.
The people I have contempt for are the ones who know how pointless they are and focus on retaining the acrimony.

Which only supports giving her more relevance, even as people 'call for'* the opposite.
If she's just an old, tired out journalist who's stuck in the past and just plain wrong, well hell, not much point in making a fuss.

*and what the hell does that even mean beyond betraying one's own sense of self-importance?
posted by Smedleyman at 4:11 PM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nor do any of us have evidence that Hearst forced her to resign.

No, I'm sure it's just a coincidence. The Hearst Corporation would never quietly request that anybody do anything he or she didn't want to do.
posted by blucevalo at 4:13 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nadawi: and i think this statement by helen thomas has more in common with elvis costello's comment about ray charles - said to be inflammatory and to invoke a reaction. and i would wager that both thomas and costello would wish they were less inflammatory when the reaction was by more people than just the person in front of them.

Do you think Costello ever hated James Brown or Ray Charles?

It is deep ignorance to think he felt anything but the deepest love and respect for them, no matter that he used the N-word.

Again, poor wording. Meant in reverence, not "hate."

Context. Know it, live it, learn it. love it.
posted by Skygazer at 4:13 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan agrees in your first link that Thomas' comment is "morally abhorrent". The Time article says her views are "odious". And the third one says,"... before Thomas’s speaking agency dropped her, and before Craig Crawford, who is represented by the same agency, announced that he would no longer work with her on a joint book project. And before Joe Klein opined that Thomas should be made to sit in the back of the room during White House briefings."

Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan do not call her an antisemite. They characterize her comment, rather than make a sweeping generalization about Thomas herself. Did you even bother to read the third essay? Or did you cherry pick its facts to ignore the larger point it made?
posted by zarq at 4:15 PM on June 7, 2010


Another one rides the bus
posted by Burhanistan at 4:23 PM on June 7, 2010


skygazer - you missed my point entirely. i was saying that helen thomas's statement was closer to elvis costello's ray charles statement and less like the beatles bigger than jesus - in that both thomas and costello said what they said to be inflammatory, while i feel that lennon wasn't trying to be hostile in his comment. i know quite well the context of costello's comment. i never said i thought that costello honestly meant what he said.
posted by nadawi at 4:27 PM on June 7, 2010


also, he in no way meant his statement in "reverence". he meant it to shut up two blowholes and for it to go no further than a drunken argument at a hotel bar.
posted by nadawi at 4:28 PM on June 7, 2010


In 1982, former head of the Irgun terrorist group and then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin described the Palestinians as "beasts walking on two legs." In 1988, former head of the LEHI terrorist group and then Prime Minister Yizhak Shamir threatened that the Palestinians "would be crushed like grasshoppers... heads smashed against the boulders and walls." Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 described the Palestinians as "like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more." link
"Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don't worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it." -- Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, October 3, 2001, to Shimon Peres, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio. link

Jacqueline Rose has an interesting piece in this month's LRB: ‘J’accuse’: Dreyfus in Our Times (video) (dedicated to Tony Judt) in which she develops the thesis: Because of Dreyfus, so Israel.

She quotes Bernard Lazare, a French Jew who defended Dreyfus while French Jewry deserted him:
For a Jew, the word ‘nationalism’ should mean freedom. A Jew who today may declare, ‘I am a nationalist,’ will not be saying in any special, precise or clear-cut way, ‘I am a man who seeks to rebuild a Jewish state in Palestine and who dreams of conquering Jerusalem.’ He will be saying, ‘I want to be a man fully free, I want to enjoy the sunshine, I want to have a right to my dignity as a man. I want to escape the oppression, to escape the outrage, to escape the scorn with which men seek to overwhelm me.’ At certain moments in history, nationalism is for human groups the manifestation of the spirit of freedom. (written in 1900!)
and "I belong to the race of those,’ Lazare said, ‘who were first to introduce the idea of justice into the world."

Rose sees Israel in the position of the French Military, and the Palestinians in the position of Dreyfus, in shackles on Devil's Island looking for international justice.
All comparisons are invidious, but we could say that we already have our Zola. We already have ‘J’accuse’.
posted by psyche7 at 4:39 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh goody! Now we get to the bit about the all-powerful Jews running America. Fun! Can someone find an awesome quote about how we run the banks and the media, too?
posted by craichead at 4:43 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Any other western country on earth, and this comment would be a non-story. Every day when I login to my facebook page I see something along the lines of "Israel should get the hell out of Palestine," because it's an increasingly common opinion.

Only in the USA, land of freedom, is there zero tolerance for criticism of Israel.
posted by mek at 4:47 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Only in the USA, land of freedom, is there zero tolerance for criticism of Israel.

man, this straw man seems to be made of nothing, and yet he still stands! amazing.
posted by nadawi at 4:52 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Although her comments were categorical and, as such, ought to be understood as founded on some sort of prior thinking, maybe in the interview situation Thompson was being a contrarian, which is her trademark in a way. Sort of like: "Aha, a rabbi! Let me see how I can I wind him up!" Of course, it didn't work with the unflappable rabbi. But if he'd been a congressman or a cabinet secretary or some other administration official that she usually interacts with, would there have been such a kerfuffle? No excuse for her comments, but she did what contrarians do. Notice I didn't say what a "grumpy old lady" does, because I doubt her age has anything to do with this.
posted by drogien at 4:58 PM on June 7, 2010


Nadawi - Your red herring argument just confuses the issue even further and you fail to understand where Helen Thomas is coming from, I don't think she meant to be inflammatory, I think she meant to inject perspective and illumination into the situation and instead stuck her foot in her mouth. As for Lennon, he fully knew he was being inflammatory (we're bigger than Jesus now) and gleefully and happily wanted to stick that dagger into the bible belt. And boy was that fun....
posted by Skygazer at 5:00 PM on June 7, 2010


Morally abhorrent, and odious are strong, charged words, and those articles condemn Ms. Thomas. Maybe you'll find the odd use of the terms anti-semite and bigot here.

The quote from the third link was more about the blacklist (your word -- but it walks like a duck, and I can smell the duck shit from here).

Yeah, I read the third article... she's sad.
posted by Trochanter at 5:04 PM on June 7, 2010


"[...]there were instances of Polish complicity, not to mention an ugly massacre of surviving Jews who tried to return to their homes in Poland. After the Kielce massacre, it's not really all that surprising that the 10% of Polish Jews who weren't murdered by the Nazi were reluctant to stay in Poland."

Absolutely (and I pointed out both these issues myself), because there were anti-Semites pretty much all over Europe who sometimes helped the Nazis (with the possible exception of Denmark), but it is bizarre to single out the Poles along with the Germans as the principal executioners guilty of "murdering all the Jews" - that's a travesty. Because if you are to single out any other nation for crimes against the Jews during the Holocaust, the Poles would be somewhere at the very lowest levels of responsibility in the context of numbers of Poles, numbers of Jewish victims and Polish anti-Semites vs Poles who actually saved Jews, often at the cost of their own lives. At least Poles didn't have a puppet regime that actually deported or massacred Jews by the hundreds of thousands - here's a sample starting with Romania, and note the quote about Romania being responsible for more Jewish deaths than any other country outside of Germany:

Romania: "Of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania bears responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself. The murders committed in Iasi, Odessa, Bogdanovka, Domanovka, and Peciora, for example, were among the most hideous murders committed against Jews anywhere during the Holocaust. Romania committed genocide against the Jews. The survival of Jews in some parts of the country does not alter this reality."

Hungary (over 450,000 Jews deported and exterminated in camps): "In cooperation with the Nazis, Szálasi attempted to resume deportations of Jews, but Germany's fast-disintegrating communications largely prevented this from happening. Nonetheless, the Arrowcross launched an unbelievable reign of terror on the Jews of Budapest. Thousands were tortured, raped and murdered in the last months of the war, and their property looted or destroyed."

Slovak Republic: "In all, German and Slovak authorities deported about 70,000 Jews from Slovakia; about 65,000 of them were murdered or died in concentration camps. The overall figures are inexact, partly because many Jews did not identify themselves, but one 2006 estimate is that approximately 105,000 Slovak Jews, or 77% of their pre-war population, died during the war."

I assume we all know about Vichy France, but we can go on and on with so many other countries in this grim tally, not forgetting the ones re-born during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union - the Baltic states, especially Lituania: "The genocide rate of Jews in Lithuania, up to 95–97%, was one of the highest in Europe. This was primarily due, with few notable exceptions, to widespread Lithuanian cooperation with the German authorities." Lithuania had around 250,000 Jews - 97% of whom perished.

And now you single out Poles along with Germans as "murdering all the Jews"?? Considering the lack of involvement of Polish authorities in the Holocaust, unlike so many other nations of Europe I mentioned above (and don't forget Austria!), this is nothing short of a historical calumny. You label yourself a crank, when you claim that it was the Poles and Germans who "murdered all the Jews", just as a Holocaust denier is a crank. Poles, both Jews and Slavs were the biggest victims of Nazi extermination, over six million of them.
posted by VikingSword at 5:08 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


skygazer - we'll have to agree to disagree about intentions unless you've been doing some mind melding i don't know about.
posted by nadawi at 5:10 PM on June 7, 2010


* Any other western country on earth, and this comment would be a non-story. Every day when I login to my facebook page I see something along the lines of "Israel should get the hell out of Palestine," because it's an increasingly common opinion.

Except, for the thousandth time, this is not what she said. She said "Jews should get the hell back to Europe". VERY VERY VERY DIFFERENT THING.
posted by falameufilho at 5:20 PM on June 7, 2010


Two things can both be true at once, without one contradicting the other. Thomas said something that is indefensible, and she's rightly earned a lot of opprobrium for it. At the same time, there's a distinct group among her critics who are only too happy to pile on for political reasons having nothing to do with just this remark, but more to do with what Thomas stands for politically and has stood for for decades.
posted by VikingSword at 5:27 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


She said "Jews should get the hell back to Europe".

You probably shouldn't outright lie about what she said when there is clear video evidence of your inability to quote accurately.
posted by mek at 5:34 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Heck, when I first read the comment, I interpreted her comment as meaning Jewish people should stop trying to settle in Palestine and rebuild their former communities in Europe that were destroyed by the Nazi's genocide... but I do have a habit of seeing what would make sense rather than what is actually there. Though the mainstream interpretation of her comments is not at all a defensible position, and worth apologizing for. Though the reaction to me strike me as unreasoned and knee-jerk rather than being sound denunciations of anti-semitism and bigoted behavior.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:49 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know that accusing people of lying is going to make this thread any more civil. I suspect the opposite. I would like to ask that people be on their best internet behavior in these threads, which historically have not gone especially well. I have been trying to do so, and understand that it takes quite a lot of effort, but, hell, what are we going to do? Beat a solution out of each other?
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:13 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heck, when I first read the comment, I interpreted her comment as meaning Jewish people should stop trying to settle in Palestine and rebuild their former communities in Europe that were destroyed by the Nazi's genocide... but I do have a habit of seeing what would make sense rather than what is actually there.

This makes sense to me, too. Honestly, I'm having trouble figuring out what those condemning Thomas take her to have said.
posted by washburn at 6:25 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Andrew Sullivan agrees in your first link that Thomas' comment is "morally abhorrent".

No, he doesn't. That's a quote from Jonathan Chait.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:29 PM on June 7, 2010


Floydd:
"Germaine.
Germane.
Heh.
"

Jermaine?

posted by Bonzai at 6:30 PM on June 7, 2010


I understand how some people might construe Thomas' remarks as "we must abolish the state of Israel and all the jews should go the hell back to Europe" or something along those lines, but that is not what she said. You can argue that is what she meant, or she could be interpreted that way, but the record is clear and creating false quotes as falameufilho did above, is clearly an act of lying.

She definitely put her foot in her mouth in the second half of her statement where she started absentmindedly listing nations (concluding, more importantly, with "anywhere else"), which is where people start getting creative in their interpretations.
posted by mek at 6:34 PM on June 7, 2010


there's a distinct group among her critics who are only too happy to pile on for political reasons having nothing to do with just this remark, but more to do with what Thomas stands for politically and has stood for for decades.

VikingSword, I am favoriting that so hard.

That Washington Post video puts a certain spin on things, by the way- "Does she know..." et cetera.

I find that smart people tend to talk about things assuming that the people they are talking to are also smart. Thing is, this can lead to their downfall when the people they're talking to aren't smart, and jump to dangerous conclusions.
In that video, it seemed (to me, at least) that she was suggesting that Jewish settlers leave the occupied territories and go back to where they came from. Where she screwed up, of course, is by mentioning Germany and Poland- allowing stupid people to go "omg, she wants to send the jews back to the gas chambers!".

You slip up once and the idiots of the world (who are always in confederacy against the smart) will throw you to the dogs.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:35 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


In that video, it seemed (to me, at least) that she was suggesting that Jewish settlers leave the occupied territories

Again, I think that interpretation of Thomas' comments is a real stretch and based more on what people want her to have said than what she did say. She's awesome, therefore she could not have said something non-awesome. That sort of thing, because there was absolutely no indication she was talking about the territories. Quite the opposite, in fact. She specifically refers to "Palestine". Not the Palestinian Territories. Palestine. Palestine is either the ancient land or the British Mandate of Palestine. In either case that includes all the territory we now consider Israeli, not just the territories.

One can certainly ignore what she actually said in favor of what we want her to have meant, but lets be clear about that.
posted by Justinian at 6:48 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I hear Palestine (at least in a modern sense) I think of everything outside the pre-1967 border, and I think a lot of other people on here probably do as well. It's not the British Mandate by any stretch.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:56 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The word "Palestine", to you, means Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights? That seems... idiosyncratic and not very consistent with many centuries of history, even modern history.
posted by Justinian at 7:00 PM on June 7, 2010


(for example, I note that the Palestinian Liberation Organization was created before Israel occupied those areas. It seems unlikely they wanted to liberate territory that had not yet been occupied, yes?)
posted by Justinian at 7:04 PM on June 7, 2010


It's stupid that the opinions of people, which are distilled from decades of experience, are often represented to us as a chance quotation -- a few words from a particular moment -- to be judged, and then the judgment ascribed the person. Instead of a one line apology, I would have preferred a 1500-word explanation. That might take a lot of the guesswork out of what she meant, and it might have actually lead to reasonable discussion amongst educated people.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have been trying to do so, and understand that it takes quite a lot of effort, but, hell, what are we going to do? Beat a solution out of each other?

I honestly think that the extremes of the argument have done a very effective job of polluting the topic from both ends, kind of moving the Overton Window in both directions at the same time. One side has made criticizing the very existence of Israel a rather mainstream and often encountered argument, and react to any critical appraisal of an attack or criticism of Israel as if it's an accusation of antisemitism and part of conspiracy to silence them. The other side has veiled (and not so veiled) accusations of antisemitism against all criticism, and instead of honest appraisals of how to deal fairly with the people of an occupied terrority, they have racism towards Palestinians and a wildly flailing foreign policy based on siege mentality and entitlement complex.

I'm not going to get into a "who started it" argument, I think it's irrelevant at this point, and I think it's indisputable that Israel faced existential threats from it's neighbors immediately upon it's creation, and not because of any noble intent on the part of the attackers, and certainly has faced attacks motivated by antisemitism. At the same time, Israel has made life for the Palestinians abominable, not to mention dangerous and have allowed very little opportunity for them to have an investment in the existence of Israel, let alone an investment in it's civil society.

Both sides have valid points, but the extremes have been arguing, and in bad faith, for so long that there arguments have become almost indelibly part of the discourse, and otherwise reasonable people can adopt these arguments without realizing their origins and implications. I think it is possible to discuss I/P, but I think like some topics, it requires a severing of one's passion for one's position, otherwise these poisoned arguments will crop up again and again.
posted by Snyder at 7:45 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Instead of a one line apology, I would have preferred a 1500-word explanation.

Agreed. I look forward to reading Helen Thomas's memoir, if she chooses to write one.
posted by polymodus at 7:56 PM on June 7, 2010


I'm not intimately familiar with Ms. Thomas's work, but on watching that clip, my first thought was did she have too much to drink? and second thought, given her annoyed expression, is she trying to pull a badly-executed snark off that interviewer?
posted by polymodus at 8:00 PM on June 7, 2010


I'm amazed at the logic-chopping that can go into defending such a blatantly racist statement. I don't think Helen Thomas is a hateful bigot, but her statement was clearly unacceptable and racist, and she had to go.

Telling Jewish Israelis to "go home" to Poland and Germany is about as plainly racist as you can get in the debate without actually calling for the destruction of the "Zionist entity." Not, "get out of the West Bank" and move to Tel Aviv, but "get the hell back to the place where you were sent to the gas chambers." Saying that founding Israel was a mistake is not, in my view, anti-Semitic. Saying that Jews who live their today have no right to live in the Middle East is.
posted by Dasein at 8:07 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


*You probably shouldn't outright lie about what she said when there is clear video evidence of your inability to quote accurately.

I am sorry. I was contrasting her statement with your statement. You said "Israel should get the hell out of Palestine", but she actually said something along the lines of "Jews should get the hell back to Europe". Again - I wasn't trying to manufacture a quote, I shouldn't have attributed the specific words to her. My fault.

HOWEVER.

What she really said, and I quote, is that Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else." (How is that so different from the quote I mindlessly manufactured is anyone's guess, but OK - still shouldn't have done it)

Please note how different that actual quote is from the "Israel should get the hell out of Palestine" quote that you said is an acceptable opinion amongst your Facebook buddies. Specially because by definition (depends on where you put the borders of Palestine), that Facebook quote does not negate the existence of Israel.
posted by falameufilho at 8:09 PM on June 7, 2010


I can see why people have a problem with her remarks, but IMHO people should take a more lenient view towards off-the-cuff remarks made in response to on-the-spot questions, compared to opinions expressed in written work or prepared speeches. It's really easy to say something offensive without realizing the implications of what comes out of your mouth when speaking impromptu, especially if you are hamming it up to try and sound brash or audacious or whatever (as media commentator types often are). If she was typing up a column, she would have probably looked at those words for about 5 seconds before thinking better of it and hitting backspace. That's not to say that what Helen Thomas said was acceptable, but her apology should probably have been taken at face value.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:12 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


What Dasein said.
posted by falameufilho at 8:13 PM on June 7, 2010


Yeah, I'd much, much rather have heard an explanation.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:13 PM on June 7, 2010


So let me understand.

Dick Nixon sabotages peace talks with Vietnam to win the presidency, subverts the Constitution when in office, authorizes firebombing the Brooking Institute, resigns the Presidency in disgrace, and nevertheless regains respectability as an elder statesman and is honored by the then-sitting President and all living ex-Presidents and the sincere tears of the Minority Leader of the US Senate at his funeral.

John Yoo for years comes up with legalism to excuse war crimes and torture, and yet remains respectable enough to be a professor of law at an elite law school.

Michael Milken, indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud, plea bargaining guilty to six, sentenced to ten years in prison, is now the 485th richest person in the world and lionized as a philanthropist for giving away a sliver of it.

Helen Thomas sustains us, and the institution of journalism, through the Bush 43 years, asking tough questions that her fellow "journalists" are too callow or captured by the old boys' club to ask.

But when in one unguarded moment Helen Thomas in frustration makes a comment that could be parsed as "Israeli settlers out of the occupied territories" or, admittedly if we insist on construing her in the worst possible way, as calling Israel an imperialist colonialism, then she must lose her agent, her latest co-author, her speaking engagements and her seventy-odd year career.

(The difference in sense hands on whether by "Palestine", Helen Thomas meant the totality of the Mandate of Palestine, or just that part of it promised to the Palestinians and later seized and settled by Israel. My reading is that she meant the latter, but it doesn't matter to my larger point.)

Which point is: apparently of her bravery and barrier-breaking accomplishments and public service are -- to judge by some of the comments here -- as nothing to compared to a few angry sentences about that political third rail, Israel and the Jews.

Even though she immediately apologized:
"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."
Meanwhile, we find that all sorts of folks who consistently excuse Israel's "excess zeal" by citing the horrors of the Holocaust give Helen Thomas no quarter for being a child of Lebanese immigrants. The country of Beirut, transformed from the Paris of the Middle East to a smoking ruin by Israel's wars and Israeli cynical manipulation of Lebanese tribalist factions.

Jan Brewer and Tom Tancredo, a sitting governor and an ex-Congressman -- who call for sending the people they broad-brush as "Mexicans" "home" -- are heroes in the same quarters that are so "shocked, shocked that there gambling going on here!" by Helen Thomas's comment.

And Lanny Davis who saccharinly claims that Helen Thomas he "used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect" -- apparently right up until two days ago -- demonstrates how much "close friendship" means to him as he turns the knife by using the familiar SLAPP against anyone who dares criticize Israel, by concluding that any criticism of Israel makes Helen Thomas, in Davis's words "an anti-Semitic bigot." With "friends" like Lanny.... Then again, Lanny been a friend to and advocate for an anti-democratic South American coup, and against unions, for pay. But Lanny's still called a good Democrat.

All these people get a pass, are still considered statesmen and leaders, but Helen Thomas must forfeit all because of two sentences?

That says more about the shallow hypocritical state of American politics -- both by itself and in its supine subservience to Israel --, than about Helen Thomas.

Helen Thomas made a bad mistake, which she apologized for. America's political leaders have decided it's convenient to crucify this inconvenient journalist for it, and even more so to stake out the corpse of her career as a warning of the Israel lobby's power.
posted by orthogonality at 10:41 PM on June 7, 2010 [54 favorites]


ortho, far better put than I could have. whoa.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:44 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are two elements of the real shame at hand here. The first is that a distinguished and respected journalist spoke her mind. She should not have. The second is that she did so, so incredibly clumsily. It's baffling that she would stumble like this, regardless of what she thinks, feels, or is.

As my mother says, "Xoebe, it's not that you speak so that you are understood - you must speak so that you are not misunderstood."

Helen Thomas should have known that by now, and by now, she probably does.

I wonder how many of her colleagues are piling on because they are concerned that they may be seen as "insufficiently outraged", and therefore also anti-Semitic.

They came first for the anti-Semites, and I did not stand up, because I was not an anti-Semite...
posted by Xoebe at 10:48 PM on June 7, 2010


Dammit ortho, I just now saw your comment. Well said.
posted by Xoebe at 10:50 PM on June 7, 2010


it is bizarre to single out the Poles along with the Germans as the principal executioners guilty of "murdering all the Jews" - that's a travesty

It's a bit bizarre, but I still remember a talk by a Polish-born Jewish survivor of one of Hitler's slave labor camps (not an extermination camp, that's what allowed him to survive). The guy seemed saintly as he explained "I don't blame the German camp guards. They were young men, far from home, who had to follow orders."

He then paused, and my mind raced -- how could he forgive those guards, who imprisoned him, killed his family, kept him for years starved and emaciated and in fear of his own execution if he failed to push his failing body hard enough to keep working for the German war machine?

Then the survivor went on: "No, it's my fellow Poles I blame. They were taught to throw stones at the Jews before then learned how to walk!"

Again my mind raced: he excuses twenty-year-old German soldiers for following orders then should have known were the nadir of evil, but blames twenty-month-old Polish babies for prejudices they unwittingly learned on their mother's knees?

True story, rendered as verbatim as I can remember. The human mind, whether Jew or German or Polish, is a funny thing.
posted by orthogonality at 10:54 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Helen Thomas in frustration makes a comment that could be parsed as "Israeli settlers out of the occupied territories" or, admittedly if we insist on construing her in the worst possible way, as calling Israel an imperialist colonialism, then she must lose her agent, her latest co-author, her speaking engagements and her seventy-odd year career.

You're not dealing with what she said -- that Germany and Poland are the true home of Israeli Jews, and that's where they should go. I see no way to parse her comments as "Israeli settlers out of the occupied territories," to be honest, because she named those two countries as their "home." You can only put your preferred interpretation on her comments if you ignore what she said.

There are plenty of nations whose founding could be construed as an act of "imperialist colonialism," but it's still bigoted to suggest that the generations-removed inhabitants get out and go "back home." And there is a particular history for the Jews in Germany and Poland that make her statement especially appalling.
posted by palliser at 11:12 PM on June 7, 2010


> There are plenty of nations whose founding could be construed as an act of "imperialist colonialism," but it's still bigoted to suggest that the generations-removed inhabitants get out and go "back home."

Really, who cares? She made a stupid, reactionary comment that really has no further implications than making her look bad. Meanwhile, scoundrels get away with much much worse and experience none of the fallout that she has. All this at a time when Israel again slaughtered people and spun it to make the victims into the boogeymen. She should have held her tongue, but using her remarks as a foil for real malice is just cheap and no one should allow themselves to be deceived.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:21 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, it's my fellow Poles I blame.

Poland was in the unfortunate position of being between a rock and a hard place. (Losing lives and territory to the Soviets, which from 1939-1941 was de facto allied with Germany).

Singling out Poland, wedged as it was between the twin nightmares of Nazism and Stalinism, seems very unjust, frankly.
posted by plep at 11:35 PM on June 7, 2010


Again my mind raced: he excuses twenty-year-old German soldiers for following orders then should have known were the nadir of evil, but blames twenty-month-old Polish babies for prejudices they unwittingly learned on their mother's knees?

True story, rendered as verbatim as I can remember. The human mind, whether Jew or German or Polish, is a funny thing.


Sometimes people lash out at those who are closest to them or whom they know best, even if those they lash out against are not the main oppressors. And given what the survivors went through, it's their right to hold whatever opinion they wish, and I won't argue against it. But you know, in the end, facts are facts. So whatever anyone's grievances, the numbers are what they are. Here again is the list - compiled and maintained by Yad Vashem in Israel - of those who sacrificed to rescue Jews - List of Righteous among the Nations by country.

Note a few things about this list:

1)The greatest number of rescuers who merited the distinction of being on the list, is from Poland, at 6,004.

2)Where is Germany on this list? It's at #10, with 443 names of the Righteous, behind Slovakia and Belarus. Yes, it does include Oskar Schindler.

And now consider three additional facts. The penalty for rescuing a Jew was the most harsh in Poland - of all European countries... one Jew whose rescuer was discovered, and the entire family of the rescuer was shot dead. This was incomparably harsher than anywhere else, and certainly harsher than what would await the German rescuer. Second: the number of Germans was considerably greater than the number of Poles... yet, Poles rescued almost 14 Jews for every 1 Jew rescued by a German - this despite the Poles facing a savagely harsher punishment (death of the entire household) compared to Germans. Kind of makes Poles (whom this gentleman blames) vastly disproportionately more heroic in rescuing Jews than Germans - whom this gentleman doesn't blame. And the third fact: Germans were the primary murderers of Jews and the architects of the Holocaust - in a different universe of numbers compared to those victims that can be laid at the feet of the Polish anti-Semites. So: vast, vast numbers of murders committed by Germans, yet, facing much milder consequences, the Germans, despite being far more numerous than Poles, rescue a tiny fraction of Jews compared to those rescued by Poles. These are facts, readily verifiable, and not really subject to dispute. Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.

We all have (or should have) compassion for any survivor, and their reality as they perceive it. But simple fairness compels us to also not malign and besmirch the names of those who gave up their lives to save their fellow human beings.
posted by VikingSword at 11:36 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]




In summary: A huge reaction over a single, isolated misstep by an individual. Kind of neurotic, really. And uncharitable.
posted by polymodus at 12:06 AM on June 8, 2010


Singling out Poland, wedged as it was between the twin nightmares of Nazism and Stalinism, seems very unjust, frankly.

As VikingSword says,I wasn't about to start an argument with an old man who'd survived Hitler's camps while seeing his family killed. Guy survives the Holocaust, I'm mostly for overlooking his idiosyncrasies. (Now the academic I later encountered who also survived the camps, and who used it get away with being a leering leech to any of his students who wore a skirt, Ok, he was a bit harder to forgive.)

And I'm not disagreeing with VikingSword's facts. My point is that it was unsettling to hear this guy go from sympathetic to (young) adult Germans to unforgiving of infant Poles. I don't agree with the guy, but I wanted to recount what his (necessarily personal and idiosyncratic, as for all of us) experience was.
posted by orthogonality at 12:12 AM on June 8, 2010


I wonder what would have happened if she'd said they need to get out of the west bank? I wonder what would have happened if she'd said that the Israelis need to kick all the Palestinians out, which is something you hear every once in a while, although that would have been very out of character for her. I don't really know if she meant all of Israel or she just meant the west bank (and of course they're already out of Gaza)

Oh well.
posted by delmoi at 3:50 AM on June 8, 2010


So let me understand. etc.

While I agree that this is a long list of deplorable instances in which people have been rehabilitated who probably should not have been, I think it's mostly a set of false dichotomies.

In the first place, I don't think one can compare reputational rehabilitation over the long-haul with the immediate aftermath of an event. Thomas is quite old, and likely will not have time to see her reputation rehabilitated, but that doesn't mean that it might not happen.

Secondly, the world is a strange and wonderful place, and just because one finds one set of actions reprehensible does not preclude finding another set equally reprehensible. I've read most of the comments in this thread, and while some have called for Thomas' departure, I'm not convinced that's the overall sense of the comments here. More to the point, I’m fairly certain that the majority (in this thread) would not think that Nixon or Milliken deserved a re-burnished reputation. I’d be shocked if majority opinion on Metafilter sided with Tom Tancredo in any general sense. So, in terms of the discussion here, those examples are a sort of red herring. The thread hasn’t really been about whether the (over) reaction to Thomas was appropriate, it’s been about what Thomas said. There is a crucial difference.

Thirdly, calling Thomas’ comments “a few angry sentences about that political third rail, Israel and the Jews,” both diminishes the issue and highlights it. There is an active argument in this thread regarding what Thomas “meant,” but I don’t think it’s in bad faith to suggest that most people agree that her rhetoric was shockingly bad. I personally think that her comments would have been significantly less problematic had she left out the references to Germany and Poland, but, that having specified those places, Thomas really crossed a line. Comments here that bemoan the reaction to Thomas’ comments should at least, in my view, display an understanding of the seriousness of her offense.

I would submit that her comments don’t make a test case for the anti-Israel/anti-Semitism logical fallacy because they were couched in anti-Semitic rhetoric. I don’t even think that that interpretation depends on parsing her comment as applying generally to Israel. I’m quite firmly anti-settlement, and I still think her comments were idiotic. Further, it’s hard to accept good faith reasoning about the anti-Israel/anti-Semitism logical fallacy when “Israel” is transformed into “Israel and the Jews.” I don’t think you get to have it both ways, and I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence that being anti-Semitic has anywhere near the resonance in American political life that being anti-Israel does. Politicians get into trouble over many kinds of bigotry (although they also get away with a lot) and I’m not sure that hating Jews is a third rail of American politics. Right now Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has a man working for him who helped Nixon compile a list of Jews to purge from the government. There have been protests, but Malek has been doing just fine for himself despite being an anti-Semite. (As did Nixon, to bring this full circle.)

Fourthly, the narrative whereby Thomas loses everything for this comment when others have been granted leniency for worse behavior ignores the very different situations that the listed folks have been in. To put it most bluntly, Thomas does not have a substantial constituency, and has no power. Nativist politicians, ex-Presidents, and excessively rich philanthropists have a lot more power than aging journalists. There may well be an element of sexism and ageism in this, but I also think there’s an element of blame that should be attached to her colleagues. While I think Thomas’s comments were awful, if her colleagues disagreed they should have spoken up. As it is, mainstream journalists are more interested these days in celebrity interviews than they are in reporting, and so likely pitch their reactions in these cases to preserve their access to people in power.

Fifthly, this list ignores disconfirming evidence that there seems to be less tolerance in the middle of American social life for blatantly expressed bigotry. Of course this is not completely consistent, but not very long ago George Allen lost a re-election senate bid in Virginia, at least in part, for making comments people perceived as racist.

Finally, I’m troubled by the insistence that this comment be parsed as being not so bad. I find it deeply troubling, and more than a bit disingenuous, when histories of oppression get ignored when there is any subtlety that might raise a question of whether the comments or attitudes or policies in question are linked to those histories. It happens here repeatedly, and across the spectrum of different oppressions, with several posters fairly well identified with positions that claim that the discussion of racism or anti-Semitism (or sexism, or classism, as the case may be) is doing a disservice to “honest” discourse. The problem isn’t that bad, they say, and the benefit of the doubt should trump the thought police. But this position is hard to distinguish from one in which any concern for oppressive histories is misplaced and beside the point. I find that it prevents discussion, that it represents its own kind of policing of thought and engagement, and that it does it in the service of preserving power for those who have not suffered oppression, and for the status quo. Indeed, I’m always left wondering what would rise to the level of a legitimate concern about hate speech. I believe that if we have to wait until someone gets called a kike or a cunt before we can discuss our concerns about anti-Semitic or sexist attitudes we all will have lost.
posted by OmieWise at 5:43 AM on June 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


The first is that a distinguished and respected journalist spoke her mind. She should not have.

But she's no longer acting as a journalist. She is (was) a distinguished and respected opinion columnist. What she said was more or less awful depending on how you interpret specific words, but the truth of the matter is that name-brand columnists/pundits and even national politicians say all kinds of horrible things about other ethnic groups/nations/countries--think of all the things people have said about Muslims and various Muslim countries since 2001--and they don't get pushed out of their pundit jobs, lose speaking or book representation, etc.

You can think what you like about what she said, but there's a big issue of unequal treatment here.

The Guardian on the penalties for Thomas' remarks (didn't see this posted, apologies if it was).
posted by immlass at 5:55 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, in the land of the free, where freedom of speech is guaranteed under the constitution, a person who expresses what are deemed to be controversial views is effectively gagged. Has Ms Nine never heard of Voltaire?

Honestly, immlass, reading your Guardian link, is there really this much confusion between "the Constitution" and what a speaking agency does? It's in fact not hypocritical to have legal protections for speech and also not force private agencies to continue representing people who say appalling things in public. The latter is, in fact, a protected right of association under the same principles.

If any current journalist espoused Voltaire's views on the Jews, by the way, I'd certainly hope his speaking agency would drop him.
posted by palliser at 6:19 AM on June 8, 2010


is there really this much confusion between "the Constitution" and what a speaking agency does?

That's a rather tendentious reading of Greenslade. Free speech is supposed to be a bedrock American value, as demonstrated by its appearance in the first amendment to our Constitution. The Hearst Corporation has every right to dump her, but it's not exactly honoring that value to drop a columnist because the mob is baying for her head. The issue Greenslade's pointing out isn't the Constitutional legalities, because there aren't any; it's the hypocrisy in the way Thomas' departure from public life is being handled compared to both our ideals and other, similar cases.

And it's not a particular actor or a single decision that makes this case a silencing. It's the simultaneous decision by her speaking agency, the White House, her other representation, etc. that Thomas shouldn't have a platform. Individual decisions can add up to a discriminatory pattern or system whether or not they're individually discriminatory.
posted by immlass at 6:44 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]




Free speech is supposed to be a bedrock American value, as demonstrated by its appearance in the first amendment to our Constitution.

She is still free to speak. Our Constitution does not enshrine a right to get paid to speak.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:29 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Helen Thomas and “Objective Journalism”

If I could favorite that 1000 times, I would.
posted by blucevalo at 7:44 AM on June 8, 2010


Roy Greenslade (Guardian): in the land of the free, where freedom of speech is guaranteed under the constitution, a person who expresses what are deemed to be controversial views is effectively gagged. Has Ms Nine never heard of Voltaire?

Mr. Greenslade, Your concern is fascinating, but in all likelihood, Diane Nine has never heard of Voltaire. But then again, as it must be pointed out over and over and over again, Voltaire never said what you think he said.
posted by blucevalo at 7:50 AM on June 8, 2010


"But, overall, I’m glad to see her go. In the past few years, she functioned as the White House press corps’ token journalist. The supersoakers and tire swingers used Helen’s tough questions as evidence that their institution wasn’t composed entirely of fawning idolaters. Her parting removes one of the last tiny fig leaves covering their gross incompetence." (source)
posted by jonp72 at 8:11 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two recent articles by Timothy Snyder from The New York Review of Books: "Nazis, Soviets, Poles, Jews" (December 2009) and "Jews, Poles & Nazis: The Terrible History" (June 2010).
posted by kirkaracha at 8:49 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Helen Thomas's statement is reductive and lame in its scope. Let's reduce it further:

A fairly good portion of Israelis are descended from people who helped create a country for their people when Europe was hostile and unsafe. There's a relative vacuum in Germany and Poland where there used to be a strong Jewish contingent.

Now, Israelis are constantly struggling against violence due to attempts to colonize more territory and are increasingly living in a hostile environment that is unsafe because of who they are. To an extent, it's a similar situation, and there are a number of people with a historical heritage, not going back thousands of years but just a few generations, and a Europe that might be safer.
posted by mikeh at 8:50 AM on June 8, 2010


Holy everyone-needs-my-2-cents, obvious-response frenzy.

But, beyond the obvious knee-jerk response that assumes Thomas' response is completely anti-semitic, why is everyone so offended at this opinion? I don't endorse this opinion whatsoever, I just don't understand why it is considered acceptable to force or strongly encourage her resignation (or convenient retirement because she's old) because she has a strong opinion about this.

Is it now wrong to even question the annexation/re-appropriation of land as a prominent member of the press?
posted by hellslinger at 8:52 AM on June 8, 2010


I said it upthread and I'll say it again: there is a difference between free speech and consequence-free speech. The first you have a right to, while the second nobody has a right to.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:56 AM on June 8, 2010


You make a great point, Pope Guilty.

The lesson I learned here is that having an opinion about Israel instantly qualifies you for being a racist. It is best to keep all opinions and analyses of the palestine/israel struggle to oneself.

This is why I will continue to remain ignorant of this particular conflict entirely because I tend to form opinions of things I learn about.
posted by hellslinger at 9:05 AM on June 8, 2010


So let me understand.

Dick Nixon sabotages...


I don't see anyone in this thread espousing those opinions, so I'm not sure why you're trying to hold people in this thread accountable for opinions that other, unrelated people expressed. Other then try to tar with guilt by association or implied hypocrisy, what was the point of that apologia?
posted by Snyder at 9:07 AM on June 8, 2010


The lesson I learned here is that having an opinion about Israel instantly qualifies you for being a racist. It is best to keep all opinions and analyses of the palestine/israel struggle to oneself.

It'e interesting to see someone "learn lessons" that they were already predisposed to hold.
posted by Snyder at 9:08 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's very interesting that this comes in the wake of the flotilla incident...
posted by borges at 9:09 AM on June 8, 2010


> It's very interesting that this comes in the wake of the flotilla incident..

As has already been discussed, it shows remarkably horrid timing on the part of Ms. Thomas and a stroke of luck for anti-Palestinian racist pundits.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:13 AM on June 8, 2010


there is a difference between free speech and consequence-free speech

But Helen Thomas' consequences are that she loses her job and representation. To pull something random that showed up from a link my RSS feed this morning, Glenn Beck recommends a book from the 1930s that makes Jews into Communists with all the hate that McCarthyism implies for that lumped in with anti-Semitism, and also says all sorts of horrible things about black people and so on and so forth and wow, Media Matters notices it and apparently nobody else. If people don't see a difference between the treatment meted out to someone like Beck and the treatment Thomas got, we're going to have to agree to disagree. And this is what Greenslade is talking about.

You can think Thomas said something abhorrent and still think she got a raw deal, whether you think it's because she's a woman or of Lebanese background or because her past journalism has made her enemies. Discomfort with how Thomas was shut down compared to others who espouse abhorrent opinions doesn't necessarily have to do with Israel and Palestine.
posted by immlass at 9:14 AM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


with several posters fairly well identified with positions that claim that the discussion of racism or anti-Semitism (or sexism, or classism, as the case may be) is doing a disservice to “honest” discourse

I don't know who those posters are, but honest discourse also cuts the other way. Too often I see one-liner of the form: "X is obviously a {racist, sexist, …} {statement, action}". That's not a discussion, that's labeling things as they see it. It's lazy thinking that skips the work of concretely relating the behavior under discussion to the necessary conditions of discrimination (i.e., distinction and injustice). Don't misunderstand me—in a lot of these cases, I agree that X is a Bad Thing; I'm saying that the level of discourse would be higher if people took the time to explain their assertions more carefully. Racism, sexism, etc., are not reasons—they are conclusions.
posted by polymodus at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2010


hellslinger: The lesson I learned here is that having an opinion about Israel instantly qualifies you for being a racist. It is best to keep all opinions and analyses of the palestine/israel struggle to oneself.

Trent Lott: The lesson I learned here is that having an opinion about third-party Presidential candidates instantly qualifies you for being a racist. It is best to keep all opinions and analysis of former Presidential candidates to oneself
posted by The Gooch at 9:29 AM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


If people don't see a difference between the treatment meted out to someone like Beck and the treatment Thomas got, we're going to have to agree to disagree.

Glenn Beck isn't supposed to be an objective journalist either. His audience is a bunch of crazy racists who listen to him for his crazy racist ravings. Beck would be fired if he stopped saying crazy racist things.
posted by electroboy at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2010


there is a difference between free speech and consequence-free speech

When the consequences are unfair, is it still solely the speaker's fault for uttering it?
posted by polymodus at 9:35 AM on June 8, 2010


Glenn Beck isn't supposed to be an objective journalist either.

Are you supposing that Helen Thomas was speaking, at the time of the ambush video, in an official capacity as an objective reporter for the Herst Corporation? Is the woman allowed to have personal thoughts or feelings, and speak for herself, or are these sorts of people always supposed to spout non-committal, non-judgmental, fair and balanced facts, 24/7?
posted by crunchland at 9:42 AM on June 8, 2010


> Glenn Beck isn't supposed to be an objective journalist either.

Comparing Beck to Thomas is really a non-starter. But, Thomas wasn't making her remarks part of her trade like Beck does, she was voicing a poorly thought out emotional reaction. She wasn't including it in her actual work.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:42 AM on June 8, 2010


* Are you supposing that Helen Thomas was speaking, at the time of the ambush video, in an official capacity as an objective reporter for the Herst Corporation?

Crunchland, I don't think she's an objective reporter anymore. She is (was) a columnist, which more or less means that her personal thoughts and feelings are directly related to her opinions which she exposes in her columns.
posted by falameufilho at 9:53 AM on June 8, 2010


Up until now, I've been pretty solidly on what seems to be the consensus side of this discussion (i.e., I've been inclined to agree that the fallout from Thomas' unquestionably repugnant remarks was appropriate), but after giving what immlass wrote some consideration, I'm now starting to wonder if the severity of the response was appropriate after all.

It is true that Glenn Beck and others in his mold have gone much further, doing and saying much more egregious things--hell, even as we speak, Glenn Beck's latest book club recommendation, which he's been promoting on his radio show, is a book by white supremacist and anti-semitic Nazi sympathizer Elizabeth Dilling.

Why do some media figures get a free pass when it comes to hate-mongering? Just because they do it so often and so aggressively we expect it from them? Are we punishing Helen Thomas for what she actually said or for betraying the high expectations we hold her to?

Surely, the active and unapologetic promotion of the works of avowed Nazi sympathizers and anti-semitics by a major broadcast television figure who's on-air nearly every day does more harm for the cause of social justice than a single off-the-record gaff made by a 90 year old press core reporter who enjoys the public spotlight for only a few minutes each year, no matter how deplorable the gaff?

Why is there such a double standard? Right wing commentators get to be full-on pricks all the time, spewing out racist bile that ranges in quality from subtle innuendo to outright incitement to violence, without fear of consequence, and with leftist defenders of free speech often even covering their backs because why exactly? Because that's just their shtick? Meanwhile, commentators perceived as being on the leftish side of the American political divide must be crushed on site like bugs for ever displaying even a single trace of latent bigotry?

If Helen Thomas deserved to have her career brought to an inglorious end over this gaff (and I still think she probably did, all other things being equal), then I say the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world deserve so much worse. But no, no, the Rush Limbaughs of the world get star-studded wedding bashes with Elton John standing in for the little wind-up monkey on piano.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:55 AM on June 8, 2010


Comparing Beck to Thomas is really a non-starter.

That this is the reality is undeniable. I am suggesting that this reality is less about actual racism or anti-Semitism than various people using racism (or charges thereof) to their political advantage. And not even particularly about I/P, about internal US politics, and it sucks.

His audience is a bunch of crazy racists who listen to him for his crazy racist ravings.

Because it's OK for crazy racists to be served as a media market, but not OK for "serious people" or whatever you want to call Helen Thomas in her career that's now ended to express racist opinions in a private capacity. Bay for Thomas' head on a platter, sure, but don't try to pretend that other opinion journalists/pundits/etc. don't say equally racist and abhorrent things in public or on TV or radio all the damned time with people just dismissing it like it's nothing.
posted by immlass at 9:56 AM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The lesson I learned here is that having an opinion about Israel instantly qualifies you for being a racist. It is best to keep all opinions and analyses of the palestine/israel struggle to oneself.

Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but we're now 230 comments into a lengthy debate on the subject.

It includes analyses of: what Thomas may have intended to say but didn't, the American and Israeli Jewish tendency to knee-jerk reactions and cries of antisemitism when faced with (justified and/or unjustified) criticism of Israel, and the various, real antisemitic touchstones which Thomas invoked, perhaps deliberately but probably inadvertently. We've had a decent, deep and nuanced discussion about an incident that some people found disturbing. Plus, we've reviewed reactions from across the political spectrum, in order to try to assess whether they're appropriate.

This is why I will continue to remain ignorant of this particular conflict entirely because I tend to form opinions of things I learn about.

Are you learning? Or had you already formed an opinion before you started commenting? Ignorance is correctable. But to do so requires that one keep an open mind, listen to and try to understand to other perspectives. Are you doing so?
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bay for Thomas' head on a platter, sure,

Who's baying for her head? She fucked up, her employer canned her and she decided it was time to pack it in. She hadn't been a serious journalist for years, and this just put the final nail in the coffin, so to speak.
posted by electroboy at 10:01 AM on June 8, 2010


Telling Jews (specifically Jews) to go back to Poland and Germany qualifies in my mind as an antisemitic remark.

It struck me as a kind of clumsy historical point. She's clearly wasn't saying that they should go back to the Germany of the early 1940s. Germany is pretty awesome right now.

I doubt I'm the only one who ever mused that everyone would have been a lot better off if they had carved a Jewish state out of Germany, rather than tore it from Palestinians.
posted by spaltavian at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2010


her employer canned her

Her agent dropped her. Her employer, Hearst did not.

If you have evidence to the contrary then please cite it.
posted by zarq at 10:10 AM on June 8, 2010


Her agent dropped her. Her employer, Hearst did not.

Hearst didn't fire her, she resigned.
posted by polymodus at 10:15 AM on June 8, 2010


The lesson I learned here is that having an opinion about Israel instantly qualifies you for being a racist.

All right, please show your work. How did you come to that conclusion from this thread, or from anything?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:16 AM on June 8, 2010


Ignorance is correctable.

One can imagine saying this to the very person this whole incident is about…
posted by polymodus at 10:17 AM on June 8, 2010


If you have evidence to the contrary then please cite it.

My mistake, I'm sure she wanted to spend more time with her family, take up knitting, etc etc.
posted by electroboy at 10:18 AM on June 8, 2010


Responding sarcastically is not the same thing as presenting evidence. Here's a potential alternate theory: She's been thinking about retiring for a while; maybe she no longer feels like she is in complete control of herself; she's old and exhausted; she recognizes that where once she unearthed unpopular truths, now she just stands and lectures; she has health problems; she said something that embarrassed her deeply; she decided to reign, feeling it was time.

Everything here is plausible. There is absolutely no evidence she was forced out of her position and into retirement. As soon as there is, we can discuss whether or not her speech was infringed on. Until then, you're arguing from conjecture, and any argument can be argued from conjecture. I can argue she's actually a space alien and has to retire to her home world.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It struck me as a kind of clumsy historical point. She's clearly wasn't saying that they should go back to the Germany of the early 1940s. Germany is pretty awesome right now.

Various surveys indicate that antisemitism is alive and well in Western Europe, particularly in Poland. The fact that Poland was the site of many German extermination camps where millions were murdered notwithstanding, if you're Jewish, neither country sounds particularly "awesome."

I've already weighed in at length in this thread that I don't believe she's an antisemite, and that her anti-Israel stance does not make her one, either. But her comment was insensitive and ill-informed and inadvertently or deliberately raises the specter of antisemitism. Let's not sugar-coat it, please.
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


My mistake, I'm sure she wanted to spend more time with her family, take up knitting, etc etc.

Sarcasm ≠ proof.

From her experience watching others, she would know better than most people how to weather this sort of misstep.
posted by zarq at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2010


I doubt I'm the only one who ever mused that everyone would have been a lot better off if they had carved a Jewish state out of Germany, rather than tore it from Palestinians.

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union was a mediocre book with a great concept: The Jews were given part of Alaska and became the "Frozen Chosen."
posted by zarq at 10:57 AM on June 8, 2010


As soon as there is, we can discuss whether or not her speech was infringed on.

It's irrelevant whether she was forced out or whether she resigned. In the absence of some contract indicating otherwise, an employer is within their rights to fire an employee that publicly makes statements like hers.

There is absolutely no evidence she was forced out of her position and into retirement.

It's pretty common for public figures to retire after an embarassing incident. There's really no advantage to her employer or her to make a public statement about it.
posted by electroboy at 11:40 AM on June 8, 2010


From her experience watching others, she would know better than most people how to weather this sort of misstep.

She certainly did. Resign for personal reasons before you're fired, lay low for a year or two, quietly resume working at some later date. You'd think 8 years of Bush would've taught her not to make idiotic pronouncements about sensitive topics on camera in the first place.
posted by electroboy at 11:48 AM on June 8, 2010


It'e interesting to see someone "learn lessons" that they were already predisposed to hold.


I meant it rhetorically, Snyder, as I'm sure you noticed by pointing out the obvious there... or did you mean to advocate the snap-judgement of anyone who expresses an opinion about this conflict as a racist?
posted by hellslinger at 12:12 PM on June 8, 2010


did you mean to advocate the snap-judgement of anyone who expresses an opinion about this conflict as a racist?

Obviously they did not, and your insistence on this rhetorical trope isn't really helping anything.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:16 PM on June 8, 2010


Obviously they did not, and your insistence on this rhetorical trope isn't really helping anything.

This was an honest question and obviously not addressed at you.
posted by hellslinger at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2010


hellslinger, it is not an honest question inasmuch as you are willfully ignoring the more incendiary aspects of Thomas' statement by categorizing it as simply "express(ing) an opinion about this conflict".
posted by The Gooch at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2010


As if anyone still cares because it's been an epic 24 hours already, here's the actual full video of the interaction with Thomas.
Q: Any advice for these young people over here for starting out in the press corps?

Thomas: Go for it. You’ll never be unhappy. You’ll always keep people informed, you’ll always keep learning. The greatest thing of the profession is you’ll never stop learning.

Q: Today they are covering the Jewish Heritage Month.

Thomas: ... and meet the President.

A: Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everyone today, any comments on..

Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

Q: Oooh. Any better comments?

Thomas: Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. It’s not German and it’s not Poland.

Q: So where should they go, what should they do?

Thomas: They can go home.

Q: Where is home?

Thomas: Poland. Germany.

Q: So you are saying Jews should go back to Poland?

Thomas: And America and everywhere else. Why push people out who have lived their for centuries? See?

Q: Now, are you familiar with the history of that region and what took place?

Thomas: Very much. I’m of Arab background.

{It goes on for a little while with friendly banter about languages they both speak with words I can not even begin to spell.}

Q: Thank you.

Thomas: All the best to you (directed at the Jewish students). Go for it- go for journalism, you’ll never regret it.
The guy who shot it runs a small video blog called RabbiLive.

Here's four and a half minutes of him doing bad Mexican stereotypes.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:10 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This was an honest question and obviously not addressed at you.

If it is your intention that a conversation be exclusive, and not include anybody else on the site, and not be open to responses by anybody other than who you are directly addressing, may I suggest email?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:53 PM on June 8, 2010


Wow... so after getting some background on Thomas, I get it now. I was not aware of her previous bias and behavior and this seemed like a huge overreaction to me.
posted by hellslinger at 3:12 PM on June 8, 2010


And... addressing my lack of knowledge with derision only reinforced my position that it was an overreaction.
posted by hellslinger at 3:18 PM on June 8, 2010


Why do some media figures get a free pass when it comes to hate-mongering? Just because they do it so often and so aggressively we expect it from them? Are we punishing Helen Thomas for what she actually said or for betraying the high expectations we hold her to?

A thought experiment: what would be the outcome if:
a) Beck went on the air tomorrow and ranted angrily about Arab terrorists.
a) Beck went on the air tomorrow and ranted angrily about Jewish bankers.
b) Beck went on the air tomorrow and ranted angrily about the Gaza crisis, declared the Zionist project a failure and insisted the state of Israel must be dismantled.

It's my opinion that Thomas' remarks crossed a very specific political taboo with the absolute worst timing, and there is basically nothing more reprehensible (from the perspective of the American media consensus) that could even be imagined.
posted by mek at 3:33 PM on June 8, 2010


You know, the more I've been thinking about this, the more I think it might have been alcohol related, maybe she's on some new meds that are contraindicated by booze. I mean, she goes and blows her whole career, and she of all people should have guessed the shitstorm that was gonna come down, and at the end of that transcript she's all like, "Journalism! Yaaay."
posted by angrycat at 3:53 PM on June 8, 2010


And... addressing my lack of knowledge with derision only reinforced my position that it was an overreaction.

I would caution that deciding you were right based on how much people mock you is a classic symptom of being a crank.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:18 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I meant it rhetorically, Snyder, as I'm sure you noticed by pointing out the obvious there... or did you mean to advocate the snap-judgement of anyone who expresses an opinion about this conflict as a racist?

Ok, I'll bite. It was obviously rhetorical, and it betrayed such a close-minded attitude that it was apparent that you somehow read the entire thread and came to the conclusion that to express an opinion about Israel will get you labeled as a racist. Your thing about learning lessons was just a cute way of saying that your mind is already made up about the topic and the people in it.
posted by Snyder at 4:27 PM on June 8, 2010


* XQUZYPHYR: Honestly, seeing the complete video doesn't make much of a difference. The conversation was so short that the originally shown clip was not completely out of context. Also the attempt to shoot the messenger is laughable. This dude was holding a camera, pointing at her. He was friendly, he didn't deceive her and gave her two chances to make some harmless silly comment about Israel and go about her business. She, well, had to state an opinion, and boy did she put her heart into it: 1st chance - she says they should get the hell out of Palestine. 2nd chance ("any better comments?") - not satisfied and ignoring that she's being given a chance not to sound like an idiot, she says go back to German and Poland.

The fact that this dude made a silly comedy skit where he played a Hispanic priest with jokes about the Immigration and washing dishes makes no difference on the content of the video, because he had very little influence of what came out of Thomas' mouth (outside of you know asking her for a comment on Israel - not even about the conflict), and honestly, even tried to help her a little.

She could have said that the weather in Tel Aviv is great. She could have said that she once had great falafel in Jerusalem. She could have said that the blockade is inhumane and people in Gaza are suffering. Or maybe that Israel should stop building settlements in the West Bank. All valid points. But she decided to say what she said.

Oh well. And now we hear people comparing her to Glenn Beck. "GLENN BECK SAYS WORSE THINGS AND NOTHING HAPPENS TO HIM AND NOBODY CARES THE WORLD IS SO UNFAIR". Well, guess what: Glenn Beck is an idiot. Glenn Beck doesn't have a chair with his name on it a few feet from the President. And really? Is this what you propose? That we measure Helen Thomas by Glenn Beck? Is that the standard we should hold people by?
posted by falameufilho at 5:31 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


And really? Is this what you propose? That we measure Helen Thomas by Glenn Beck? Is that the standard we should hold people by?

The point I was making is that Glenn Beck should be held to the standard that people are holding Helen Thomas to. That Glenn Beck (who was a random choice, btw; I could have come up with another name if someone hadn't blogged about this particular case) or any other pundit gets to spout racist garbage without complaint shouldn't be a proposition that goes unexamined in talking about what's happening to Helen Thomas.

But Helen Thomas is an old woman with a column that several people in this thread assure us nobody reads, and Glenn Beck has a popular radio program, a popular TV program, and a lot of political allies in the 9/12 movement. Hearst dropping Helen Thomas is easy, and so is calling for her head (witness that link list zarq posted way upthread, most of which was people saying she should be punished/lose her job/lose privileges, etc.). Speaking out against a popular radio & TV pundit who espouses 1930s-era antisemitism is hard and might cause a backlash from his fans. That's a big difference, but it's not the one people want to talk about.
posted by immlass at 6:03 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're ignoring the biggest difference: Glenn Beck is a pundit entertainer. Helen Thomas was a respected journalist who sat front and center at Presidential press conferences and always got the last question.
posted by Justinian at 6:07 PM on June 8, 2010




Glenn Beck is a pundit entertainer.

Which doesn't make his bigotry somehow better.
posted by immlass at 8:50 PM on June 8, 2010


No, it doesn't. It does mean that he's not held to the same standard as the journalist who gets the seat of honor at Presidential news conferences.
posted by Justinian at 8:52 PM on June 8, 2010


It does mean that he's not held to the same standard as the journalist who gets the seat of honor at Presidential news conferences.

Certainly it means that a lot of people don't hold him to the same standard as Helen Thomas, who, I note and not for the first time, has been an opinion columnist for the last decade. What I am saying is that this is less a reflection on Beck or Thomas than it is on people who feel this way.
posted by immlass at 9:04 PM on June 8, 2010


And, on thinking about it, Justinian, I should add that I understand what your points about Thomas and Beck are. They simply aren't the part of the Helen Thomas saga that interests me or that I am talking about.
posted by immlass at 9:48 PM on June 8, 2010


You're ignoring the biggest difference: Glenn Beck is a pundit entertainer. Helen Thomas was a respected journalist who sat front and center at Presidential press conferences and always got the last question.

Are you seriously arguing that Beck has less influence than Thomas? Wake me up when Thomas has a TV show, because I wanna watch.
posted by mek at 9:58 PM on June 8, 2010


Maybe she can be on HBO now!
posted by mek at 9:59 PM on June 8, 2010


Are you seriously arguing that Beck has less influence than Thomas?

How the hell did you get that from what I'm saying?

Hell, Lady Gaga has more influence than Helen Thomas but we don't hold them to the same standards either.
posted by Justinian at 11:39 PM on June 8, 2010


I'm discussing political influence. Both have jobs expressing political opinions. One has much more influence than the other. What else is there to discuss?
posted by mek at 3:13 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure where I fall on the I/P issue but I think it's a pretty rough deal on Thomas. However, she's a journalist, so she should know better than to voice an opinion.

Anyway, we don't get to decide where other people's homes are. If I/P had been sorted out five years after Israel was formed, things would have been easier (although still pretty shitty). But now, many (I imagine most) Israelis are home.

If you live in any non-Europe 'western' country, chances are if someone said 'you should go home to England, France, Spain and any other colonising country you might have some tenuous ancestral link to' you'd tell that person to fuck off. The U.S., Canada, Australia, NZ, &c. are Israel in 100 years.


I think it is possible to discuss I/P internet porn, but I think like some topics, it requires a severing of one's passion for one's position...

How delightful that this gave the White House a chance to rebuke somebody in regards to I/P internet porn.

I think it's better this way.
posted by doublehappy at 3:47 AM on June 9, 2010


Glenn Palin has the influence of Glenn Back and Sarah Palin combined! I don't know if that's as much as Lady Gaza, though.
posted by homunculus at 8:11 AM on June 9, 2010


Lady Gaga, that is. Lady Gaza's influence has been severely restricted by the blockade.
posted by homunculus at 8:12 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Israel Paying Agents to Post Pro Israel Propaganda on Internet Forums & Blogs, The European Union Times

An Army of Amateur Ambassadors : "Countering the negative image abroad," The Jerusalum Post

Twitterers paid to spread Israeli propaganda Internet warfare team unveiled, The Atlantic Free Press : "The passionate support for Israel expressed on talkback sections of websites, internet chat forums, blogs, Twitters and Facebook may not be all that it seems. Israel’s foreign ministry is reported to be establishing a special undercover team of paid workers whose job it will be to surf the internet 24 hours a day spreading positive news about Israel. Internet-savvy Israeli youngsters, mainly recent graduates and demobilised soldiers with language skills, are being recruited to pose as ordinary surfers while they provide the government’s line on the Middle East conflict. "
posted by crunchland at 2:00 PM on June 9, 2010


It's a little ridiculous for them to pay people to do that.

Both sides' supporters already flood the comments sections on websites and try to shout each other on a regular basis. What possible difference will a few coordinated voices make?
posted by zarq at 2:10 PM on June 9, 2010


The U.S., Canada, Australia, NZ, &c. are Israel in 100 years.

More like 200-300 years, but yes, that is an accurate assessment. Unfortunately, lot of terrible shit happened in those years. Should we buckle up and ride out another ethnic cleansing of the kind which we only now admit occurred in North America? Is this Israel's inevitable future, or is there a better way? Israel is our colonial legacy on instant replay, except we don't just have to watch it happen again... I hope.
posted by mek at 2:49 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What possible difference will a few coordinated voices make?

That's a good point, zarq. The only thing I can think of is what's spelled out in the second link I posted... the people recruited to participate are trained to to debate this one subject. They're supposedly taught to undermine specific points and tactics that are common in the I/P debates. But considering that the best outcome we've ever seen is a virtual stalemate on the topic, with no one apparently changing their minds, then it's interesting to wonder why they bother.
posted by crunchland at 3:11 PM on June 9, 2010


Press You're Stuck
posted by homunculus at 8:17 AM on June 10, 2010


Video of Activist Media Benjamin (as "Jews for Helen Thomas" ) backing Thomas at a recent demo outside the White House. Also, Ralph Nader lends his support in an interview with The Real News. --Nader makes the case that the attack on Thomas is due to her history as an irritant to both politicos and to the too-complacent White House press corps.
posted by warreng at 12:27 PM on June 12, 2010


Israel Paying Agents to Post Pro Israel Propaganda on Internet Forums & Blogs

NOW WHERE THE FUCK IS MY FUCKING CHECK
posted by falameufilho at 6:45 PM on June 13, 2010


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