Helen Thomas

June 12th, 2010

By Larry Ennis

Having become a victim of old age myself, I have a certain affinity for Helen Thomas and old people in general. Never a fan of Thomas because of her liberal venom and self-righteousness, I should be delighted with her present predicament. I say “should” be, but in fact I’m far from it. Even though Thomas has been little more than an opinionated and bitter old crone for the last decade or so, she is a character that defines us in many ways. We have grown to accept most of her idiosyncrasies because she is, to a degree, a part of each of us.

Please note that my condemnation of Thomas, though pretty stinging, does not include any claims of her being stupid. No way, not even on her worst day. She has written five books and won more than a few awards and commendations for her journalistic endeavors. Having said that, I was taken aback by her statements concerning Israel. According to one report,

In an reply to a question, “Any Comment on Israel?” posed to her on Jewish American Heritage Month Celebration on May 27, She said, “tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”

She further said, “The Palestinians are ‘occupied’ and that the Jews should ‘Go Home’—to Germany, Poland, America and everywhere else.”

It could be argued that Thomas was taken out of context, maybe even led on into saying something controversial. The resulting fallout from her comments has become fodder for both sides of this issue.

Thomas started her journalism career in 1943 at the now-defunct Washington Daily News. She graduated from Wayne (now Wayne State) University in Detroit, Michigan. She was born in Winchester, Kentucky but grew up in and around Detroit. She was of Lebanese descent and one of nine children. Her first job ended when the Washington Daily News had massive cutbacks due to financial problems. Thomas was lucky enough to land a job with UPI shortly after losing her first job, and she stayed with UPI until 2000. Thomas left UPI after 57 years to join Hearst Newspapers. UPI made her their White House correspondent when John Kennedy took office. Thomas became such a fixture in the White House press corps that she was given special treatment by presidents, press secretaries, and her peers. She retained her White House position when she left UPI to join Hearst, even though she went from being a reporter to being an opinion columnist.

The thing that bothers me most was the glimpse of panic I saw in her eyes as she understood too late that she had lost it all in a single bad choice of words. All those years invested in a career most likely tarnished forever. Of course, Thomas is old and was overdue to retire, but not amid such controversy. She should have known that unlike her very vocal damnation of George W. Bush, she couldn’t say what she did about Israel, at least not without creating a controversy. Thomas is obviously not a great supporter of Israel or the Jewish claim on what was at one time Palestine.

Never a fan of Thomas, I still feel a certain amount pity for her plight. Living in this world of political correctness is difficult at best. I say political correctness because from 1948 until the present the U.S. has always been very pro-Israel. Only recently has there been an effort in some quarters to penalize or punish Israel because of its efforts to occupy the West Bank and contain the Palestinians within the area known as the Gaza Strip. Our State Department and our President have both turned very cold toward Israel and its government. Unlike times past, there seems to be more emphasis on appeasing Iran and other anti-Israel regimes in the Middle East. This marks a real divide in attitudes of the American people. Maybe the knowledge of such a divide caused Thomas to say what she did. As it now stands in the court of U.S. opinion, was Thomas that far out of line?

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12 Responses to “Helen Thomas”

  1. d |

    She has earned the right to have her own opinion,whatever it may be. I admire her,she is very old and has accomplished a great deal in her lifetime. I don’t necessarily agree with her,but so what? To ruin her career and her accomplishments with one statement is ridiculous,and we need to grow up and learn to tell the difference between old age and evil. Political correctness,is becoming absurd.

  2. Tom Carter |

    It’s absurd to even imply that this is an issue of political correctness. Thomas’ comments display an appalling ignorance of history and current reality and a strong streak of anti-semitism. I don’t know how it’s possible to repeat her quotes and not address the facts (assuming you know them).

    As just one example, it wasn’t possible for that many Polish Jews to go to Israel. At the beginning of WWII, there were about 3,400,000 Jews in Poland. All but about 300,000 were murdered in the Holocaust. Some of the few survivors did try to resume their lives in Poland after the war, and many of them were murdered by Poles.

    Larry, some of what you say in the last paragraph is wrong and/or distorted. When you ask, “was Thomas that far out of line?” all I can say is you really, really need to learn at least a little bit about the subject before you undertake to opine.

  3. Brianna |

    I recently finished a book on Israeli history. The difficulties the Jews had in getting out of Europe after the Holocast, when the VAST majority of those Jews were quite desperate to get to Palestine, were literally mind-boggling, as was what it took for the Jews in Palestine to win their independence and create the state of Israel. Jews who tried to “go home” to Poland were sometimes murdered for their pains. Many countries refused to allow large numbers of Jews to emigrate there, despite the atrocities that had been committed in the Jews’ previous homes. Quite aside from these difficulties however, is the fact that 70% of Jews currently in Israel have been born there. Calling for them to “go home” to Germany and Poland is not only extraordinarily ignorant of historical reality, it would be like telling Thomas to “go home” to Lebanon. I don’t care how respected she was or how wonderful a career she had, that doesn’t insulate her from the consequences of her actions any more than anyone else should be.

    Though I suppose she was at least slightly less explicit than some of the members of the Gaza “Freedom” Flotilla, who told the Jews to “go back to Auschwitz.”

  4. Tom Carter |

    Very good points, Brianna. And there’s so much more. For example, Larry refers to Israel’s “efforts to occupy” Palestinian territory. The fact is, there has never been a country or nation or government known as “Palestine.” It refers to a region and always has. The Romans first used it, then it went away for a thousand years or so, then came back for a while, then went away, etc. Beyond that, there is no such thing as the “Palestinian people” in terms of ethnicity, language, society, culture, etc. The term “Palestine,” again referring to a region, last came into use as an invention of the British after WWI, using it as a name to describe part of the post-war mandates they divided up with other powers.

    The Palestinians (as the term is politically used today) have been used and abused by other Arab nations for decades, since before 1948. They are kept poor and desperate and terrorist movements are fomented and supported among them by Arab states, all in a concerted effort to destroy the state of Israel and, if possible, the Jews who live in it.

    Jews, on the other hand, had nations and governments in the region starting more than three thousand years ago.

    The list of facts that people generally don’t know about the Middle East, Israel, the Jews, and Arabs is very, very long.

  5. larry ennis |

    Once again I’ve been accused of being uniformed at the very least. You want me to believe that there is a great difference between what Helen Thomas uttered as opposed to the current attitude of our government towards Israel. The damage that our President and our Secretary Of State can cause Israel far outweighs anything Thomas might do.
    Israel indeed does have the right to intercept any ships running the blockade with the intention to arm or feed Hammas. Humanitarian aid has not been blocked in any way. Why does our present government feel obligated to censure Israel for the blockade while at the same time giving a big increase in financial aid to the Palestinians. Which side are they on?

  6. Tom Carter |

    “You want me to believe that there is a great difference between what Helen Thomas uttered as opposed to the current attitude of our government towards Israel.”

    There’s a huge difference between what Helen Thomas said and the policy of the U.S. government. I don’t agree with the Obama Administration’s approach, but they certainly aren’t advocating the removal of Israelis from the region and returning them to … wherever. To believe otherwise is absurd, and it’s very disappointing to see that kind of nonsense being promoted here.

  7. Brianna |

    Well, Helen Thomas told the Jews to go back to Germany.

    Obama merely increased the aid to Palestine (read: Hamas) and called the Gaza blockade unsustainable.

    I don’t think Obama would tell the Jews to “go home,” but I have to agree with Larry’s question. Just whose side is our president on?

  8. larry ennis |

    Evidently “free and open discourse” like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I wouldn’t consider any of my comments to even hint of anti-Israel or anti-Jewish. I know what Ms. Thomas said. Once again I say she uttered things considered unacceptable in our politically charged society. If that were not the case this entire thread would be irrevelant. For those that care for and about the welfare of Israel, her comments were both hurtful and racist. Let us not forget that we live in a country that allows Thomas to express her opinions even if they aren’t popular.

    I can see no long term damages from what Thomas said unless we include the damage she did to her own reputation. Our President on the other hand has mislead the nation of Israel when he promised to continue our support but “welching” on that promise. A totally different stance from what he promised while campaigning. The actions of this President far out distance any damage that the Thomas blurp may have caused.

  9. Brianna |

    Apparently people have been sending death threats to the rabbi who recorded Thomas’s remarks, including such charming phrases as “go back to the ovens.”


  10. Ruvy Kossover |

    Mr. Ennis,

    May you be hale and hearty and live to see 120 years, as did our Lawgiver, Moses. I was led here by Dan Miller, who is a very good satirist, as well as a very well versed writer in law. I read your article, and while I agree with most of it, I’m forced to agree with this:

    I say political correctness because from 1948 until the present the U.S. has always been very pro-Israel. Only recently has there been an effort in some quarters to penalize or punish Israel because of its efforts to occupy the West Bank and contain the Palestinians within the area known as the Gaza Strip. Our State Department and our President have both turned very cold toward Israel and its government.

    The venerable Helen Thomas was, of course, entitled to her opinions, but even were I to agree with her statements advocating forcing Jews to leave the Land of Israel, she ought to have been fired – not because of her opinions, but because she made it appear that her employer, the Hearst Corporation was anti-Jewish. And so long as she was in front of an open mike, she represented the Hearst Corporation to the public, and her statements were unprofessional at the very least. She is not a stupid woman, and perhaps, seeing an opportunity to go out with a bang, she took it.

    But my disagreement with your statement has nothing to do with this. In reality, the policies of the United States government have been anti-Jewish and anti-Israel since that conference at Evian, France in 1935, where the American government agreed to refuse to take in Jewish refugees from the nascent Hitler régime in Germany and anti-Jewish régimes elsewhere in Europe.

    Rather than overwhelm the comments space and abuse the hospitality of this forum, I invite you to peruse my blog, Ruvy’s Roost, here, and these four articles at Blogcritics Magazine here, here, here, and here to see my points.

    You will not enjoy reading these articles. They may even anger you. I honestly apologize for that, for it is not my intent to anger another unnecessarily. But you will understand why I make the statements I do.

    I bid you a pleasant afternoon, sir.

  11. Ruvy Kossover |

    My apologies! This – I’m forced to agree with this: should have read like so – I’m forced to disagree with this:

  12. Elisheva Levin |

    Larry Ennis: Helen Thomas was not stopped from having her say, and indeed it went viral. There was no censorship on the part of the US Government, nor was there any attempt at all to quash her opinions, which have become quite well known over the years.

    At the same time, no one is required to provide Thomas with a platform to spew her hatred, which has been consistent over the years. Just like the rest of us, she can say what she wants, but she has to take the consequences for what she says. That is not political correctness, that is ordinary human discourse. Seems to me that the consequences were a long time coming for Thomas.

    Like many people who have become tired of her unfounded opinion couched in nastiness, I contacted her employer and told them that I do not wish to read her opinions any longer, and therefore would drop subscriptions to any of the papers they syndicate or own; and I would not check them out on the internet. That action has nothing to do with political correctness, rather it has to do with that saying that I learned as a child that “the customer is always right.”
    Apparently, Hearst still remembers that.

    Thomas’s forced retirement would have been a firing had she said what she said about any of the favored ethnic groups–the ones considered to be disadvantaged; since it was about Jews, it took three days and she was allowed to retire. I thought that was a reasonable sop to her age, but her unfounded opinions and ignorance has been uttered in the same nasty way since I became aware of her, somewhere during the Nixon Adminstration. Therefore, I don’t believe her age has anything to do with it.

    As for the look of panic on her face, she could have avoided that by remembering who she was talking to, where she was, and how to make an argument using facts and ideas, rather than venom. I am not in the least sorry for her. She got away with this for far too long, and finally, people got tired enough of it to refuse to pay to read her.

    It’s still a free country. She’s free to find another forum for her hatred, and I am free not to read it.

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