Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rabbi Wants Personal Apology from Helen Thomas: More from Where do Jews Come from to the Future is Shmoozepoint

An article at the U.K. Guardian chronicles the life and career of Helen Thomas, a pioneer for women in journalism who resigned yesterday. While her anti-Israel views were no secret, she faced white hot anger after a Rabbi caught her on video saying Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine." Worse, she said they should go back to Poland or Germany.

Thomas also said the Jewish people should go to America, but that destination was overshadowed by the sheer horror evoked by anyone telling Jews to go to places where they've been the victims of genocide.

The ending of the Guardian piece has shades of my take on her outburst and her resignation that I posted yesterday. The Guardian writer concludes:
Even if White House correspondents sometimes grew exasperated with her, some said they respected her pedigree and generally put her shortcomings down to age. She grew so frail that other reporters had to help her walk from her desk to her chair in the briefing room, and she would sometimes fall asleep. She appeared less and less at the daily briefings.

Perhaps the best evidence that Thomas had lost touch was her failure to understand the consequences of saying that Israel's Jews should go back to Poland and Germany to a rabbi with a video camera at a White House event to mark Jewish heritage month. It is possible that given her Lebanese background, that is what she has thought all along. But she should not have been surprised at the storm of protest.
I considered in my post on her resignation that the elderly journalist may have been suffering mild dementia, which dampens speech filters, but I also said any such illness did not mean she wasn't saying what she believed about Jewish people and Israel. It's clear from other incidents that she was strongly biased against the Jewish state of Israel.

One aspect of her commentary that was not covered in my original post is mentioned by Suzanne Reisman, who commented on a round-up at BlogHer.com. She condemned Helen Thomas's "hate," but was also surprised by her ignorance about where Jews come from.

I responded to her comment and said I also had wondered about that, saying "I was surprised that a woman that we assume is knowledgeable seems to think Jewish people originally came from Germany or Poland. I wonder how many other people think this is true."

Reisman, who's about to visit Poland to explore her roots, says that country is "no more my homeland than any other arbitrary place in the world":
We are not just from Europe. Jews have lived in Israel/Palestine/Israstine/whatever for hundreds of years. They have also lived in the Middle East for hundreds of years. Should the 800,000 Jews displaced from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt go "back" to Poland and Germany? How about Ethiopian Jews? ...I am sad that it came to this, but ignorance and hatred like this cannot be tolerated.
Today, CNN's religion section has a profile of Rabbi David Nesenoff, the man who asked Thomas to give her opinion on Israel and captured the immediately infamous speech on video for his website Rabbilive.com. Nesenoff told CNN when he asked Thomas the question, he wasn't thinking about her politics, but hearing her response, he was hurt.

He was at the WhiteHouse for Jewish Heritage Month, filming with his son, 17, who also has a website, Shmoozepoint.com, "the future of Judaism," and one of his son's friends. Thomas was there for a press conference. Per CNN:
It was in the driveway outside the north entrance to the White House where Nesenoff saw Thomas. “Let’s meet her, let’s learn something” Nesenoff recalled telling the boys. “I didn’t remember that she had pro-Palestinian thoughts, anti-Semitic feelings,” he said.
Nesenoff would like a personal apology from Thomas to him and his son.

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