Helen Thomas, the veteran journalist and dean of the White House Press Corp, abruptly retired on Monday in the wake of a comment she made following the Israeli raid on the Turkish Flotilla in international waters that killed nine activists, including an American citizen. During a conversation that was videotaped, the interviewer asked Ms. Thomas to make a comment about the Israeli raid. She responded by saying, "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, [Palestinians] are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, it's not Poland." When the interviewer asked where they should go, she said, "They should go home, to Poland, Germany and America."
She issued an apology on her website, saying among other things that she "deeply regretted" her comment, and they it did not reflect her "heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance."
But as expected, her original comment threw the mainstream media in a blind sighted rage and predictable frenzy that no amount of apology could eliminate. Ari Fleischer--George W. Bush's White House Press Secretary--has been one of those people, vocally criticizing Ms. Thomas, saying in a letter to this publication that "she should lose her job over this." And Lanny Davis, former Clinton White House counsel, released a statement on Sunday, calling her an "anti-Semitic bigot." Howard Kurtz,the supposedly independent media critic of CNN's Reliable Sources, also took a holiday from impartiality during his show on Sunday by saying he found her comment "just shocking."
While this is a predictable reaction on the part of many, a close look at all the attacks can help one make the argument that those who criticized Helen and others who have made the same arguments are the real anti-Semites.
Israel was established following World War II and the wake of horrific crimes against the Jews by the Nazis and other axis powers. It was created as a Jewish state based on the rationale on the part of advocates of modern Zionism that historically, Jewish people have always been the subject of persecution, and hence, they can never be safe anywhere else but in a Jewish homeland.
The same people who are vigorous supporters of Zionism are also the ones who speak out fiercely against any action that implies a deep-seated hostility toward Jews. But if one thinks about it, this is counter-intuitive. The very reason why Israel is a Jewish state--a theocracy, like Iran, rather than a melting pot democracy like the United States, or Turkey--is because Zionism itself is based on the notion that Jewish people are different in some sense than non-Jews. Why else would one believe that Jews and only Jews can never be safe anywhere in the world and must have their own homeland? Ins't one really then arguing that there is something that is different about Jews, which makes them subjects to persecution?
And here is the second question: Those who support Israel as a Jewish state are also the most vocal in their condemnation of anti-Semitism. But once again, those two are also contradictory concepts. How can one at once argue that there should be no anti-Semitism and then claim that anti-Semitism is the reason why Israel should forever be a Jewish State? How can one at once pretend to fight anti-Semitism with the implied belief that it can be eradicated and then support a state that was created with the justification that anti-Semitism can never be eradicated elsewhere in the world and accepts anti-Semitism as an ineffaceable human phenomenon?
These questions must lead one to ask who are the real anti-Semites? Helen Thomas didn't say Jews must be exterminated. She didn't say Jews are inferior human beings. And she did not say Jews are more loyal to their religion than to their country. Those comments would have been anti-Semitic. In fact, she didn't even say the word "Jews" at all. But what she did say was true, which is (with some paraphrasing) Jews from European countries have been occupying a land that already had inhabitants, Palestinians. They then began engaging in "religious cleansing"--which Ari Fleischer accused Helen Thomas of advocating--to displace the non-Jewish inhabitants. By saying that Jews must go back to Europe, Helen Thomas actually demonstrated that she was anything but an anti-Semite because she believed Jews can be safe in all countries and do not need a religious state to protect themselves. She showed her belief that anti-Semitism can, should and will be eliminated.
Rabbi Live, the original poster of Helen Thomas's video, has added a line at the end of her comment that reads, "Six million Jews were killed at home in Germany and Poland." As it was expected, Helen Thomas' comment immediately doomed her to immediate wipe-off from the map. But if the questioner in the video had bothered to ask her if she thought Jews should once again be subjected to persecution in Europe, she would have surely said something to the effect that that's absurd, and that the world of today is not the world of Germany in World War II, or the world of Spanish inquisition in 1497, or the world of Strasbourg, Maintz and Erfut in 1348 when Jews were blamed for the plague throughout Europe. But this is the world of 2010 when Jewish people not only enjoy equality, but some of the most respected positions of power and privilege in most societies as much as people of any other religions in countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Even President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, is the son of Andree Jeanne "Dadu" Mallah, who is of Otooman-Sephardic Jewish descent. Here is a news flash: Jewish people in Europe are not being sent to camps and ovens anymore!
Of course the reasons given to justify the creation of Israel as a Zionist state are purified to take away any element of religious fanaticism, because otherwise, how could the U.S. and other supposedly secular states be able to openly support the creation and defense of a theocracy? In reality, the main reason why Israel is a Jewish state is rooted not in logic and desire to protect human rights, but in the Torah, which promises the Land of Israel to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people.
Nonetheless, the real questions are for those who accuse Helen Thomas of anti-Semitism. Do these individuals believe anti-Semitism can ever be eradicated? If they do, how can they support Israel as a permanently Jewish state? And if they believe Jews must have special rights in the Jewish state, are they saying that Jews are inherently different in some way from non-Jews? Doesn't that make them the real anti-Semites? If they support the Jewish state, doesn't that indicate their belief in the eternalness of anti-Semitism throughout the world?
Despite the American mainstream media that continues to treat us like children by "protecting" us from certain debates and conversations, it is only by discussing these questions in free and fair forums that we can avoid the pitfalls of becoming the victims of religious ideologues who pushed such an esteemed and legendary journalist as Helen Thomas into her ignominious end.