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Helen Thomas: A woman after my own heart

By Michael J. Smith on Monday June 7, 2010 07:58 PM

Seems to be Israel Week, doesn't it?

The Israelis and their "Amen corner", as Pat Buchanan once called it, have seized with visible glee and relief on Helen Thomas' somewhat broad-brush suggestions about the Israel-Palestine perplex. Notoriously, the best defense is a good offense, and if you don't have a good offense, any old offense is better than none.

My son A. and I happened to be riding in a car -- well, actually we were sitting in a car, stuck on Route 4 in Teaneck, New Jersey, going absolutely nowhere -- when we heard the report, probably the last people in North America to do so. Good old Helen's sharp vinegary voice rang out nicely: "Get the hell out of Palestine!" A. and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, Well, yeah, they should!

Of course when you sit down and think calmly about it, once the initial excitement has passed, this idea, appealing as it may be in the abstract, doesn't seem really practical. Nobody, but nobody, is going to welcome a bunch of Israelis anywhere, and who can blame them? Doubtless even Helen wouldn't seriously propose it, if she were on a commission charged with settling the Palestine Problem, and granted the power to make it happen -- and how I wish there were such a commission, and she were on it.

No, Helen was just popping off, as we all do from time to time. She was expressing exasperation; and anybody who doesn't feel highly exasperated with Israel just now isn't quite sane.

Moreover, she holds no post under Government. Even if she had meant to offer serious policy advice, her policy views would be of no more consequence than yours or mine. Sending all the Israelis back to their lands of origin may be a silly idea -- though it's no sillier than sending their grandparents to Palestine in the first place -- but even if she seriously advocates it, so what? People have lots of silly ideas. Even newspaper columnists. Especially newspaper columnists. Two words: Abe. Rosenthal.

It's awfully comical to see the towering moral indignation with which Helen's popoff -- considered or not, silly or not -- has been greeted. Obie's mouthpiece, Robert Gibbs, a man who tells his employer's lies for a living, said that Helen's remarks were "offensive and reprehensible".

Now the moral instincts of a paid shill for a corporate front-man and mass murderer need not detain us. But it gets better:

Lanny Davis, who was also special counsel for Bill Clinton, said: “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.”

Ari Fleischer, who served George Bush, said in an e-mail to the Huffington Post website that Thomas’s comments amounted to “religious cleansing”.

You've gotta hand it to these guys. They never met a shark they didn't jump.

Comments (34)


All I have seen was the now viral clip. If Thomas had simply added Israel as one of the destinations for Israeli relocation from Palestine in addition to Poland, Germany and America, it would have been obvious that she was referring to the settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and not the Israelis now living in "1948-1967 Israel". Is it even clear now that that is not what she meant?

It seems that Gibbs could have asked for a little time to get all the facts, as in the case of the Mavi Marmara, before 'going off'. Likely the need to show reflexive support for Israel in the light of the recent atrocit.. controversy dictated the instant reprehension.


All I have seen was is the now viral clip.


When Jackie Robinson was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers he was told he had to have "the courage not to fight back", that any attempt to respond to the racial taunts in kind would limit future opportunities for blacks in major league baseball.

I'm afraid Helen forgot that lesson.

That it's perfectly respectable to counterprotest a teabagger or a minuteman rally with a sign that says "Europeans back to Europe" and that nobody would conclude from this that you want to send the Irish back to the potato famine or the Poles back to Bismarck's Kulturkamp is irrelevent. The lobby is gunning for anybody who expresses any sympathy for the Palestinians. And they got Helen Thomas.

If she were 35, I'd be pissed at her for being stupid. But at age 90, the whole episode just seems a little sordid. The fact that the right wingers are posting photos of her 90 year old face to mock her seems even more sordid.


The Zionists never miss an opportunity to milk an opportunity. In a moment of anger Thomas played into their favorite game. Unfortunate, but also revealing for how quick our Castrato Mikado could muster his high moral dudgeon and outrage.


Kulturkamp? That's up in the Catskills, right? One of my neighbor's kids went there. Learned some piano pieces by Schumann.

Sorry. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

If she were 35, I'd be pissed at her for being stupid.
Was she being stupid, or being human? When we're really fed up -- when we've had it up to here -- are we still supposed to pick our words like a UN bureaucrat drafting a resolution?

The hell with that. I'm with Helen. If to say what she said is stupid, then I'm stupid too.

One could take this line of thinking a good deal farther. The whole Zionist thought-police project is about patrolling the boundaries of permissible discourse: to make people so shy of approaching those boundaries that the boundaries can be gradually drawn in, an inch at a time. Every time a Helen Thomas says something ill-considered, transgressive, and heartfelt, it undoes years of patient sapper work by the thought police. It makes the unsayable sayable; it puts on the table the ideas that must at all costs be kept under the table. And the Zionists' Sisyphean project of shutting down people's brains, and bridling their tongues, is all to do over.

Goddam rock. Keeps rolling down the hill. No rest for the wicked.


So what if she takes a much deserved retirement, too.

We have the luxury, now, of pointing out all the questions which won't be asked, by way of comparison.

The last gasp of the old fourth estate - and we got to see it and hear it with our own sensory organs.

Peter Ward:

I let a comment slip out at work the other day and for the rest of the day was stalked by my very orthodox manager who was trying to pin me down so he could set me strait.

The fact the latest Israeli atrocity is impossible not to talk about yet always results in a vicious, intractable argument when talked about gets very tedious. Although I've always regarded Thomas as a "licensed jester" I have nothing but respect for her in this case. What other journalist with "access" shows the slightest symptom of giving a shit about US-inflicted human suffering?

More extremely potent evidence supporting the Herman-Chomsky model of the corporate capitalist media. The WHPC purges itself at the speed of lightning. No need for commissars.

Fuck Israel. Fuck Obama. Fuck the WHPC.

P.S. The auto-purge is especially swift and undebated when there's a Dimbot POTUS.


Every time a Helen Thomas says something ill-considered, transgressive, and heartfelt, it undoes years of patient sapper work by the thought police.

I just wish she had asked a smarter, more pointed question.

Camerman: Helen. What do you think of Israel?

Thomas: How can we really know the truth about anything in Israel when their own press is under military censorship?

Can you imagine, for example, someone like Jeremy Scahill going off half cocked with a broad opinion like Thomas's?

Other than that I agree with what people were saying. Obama seems little different from Bush. In fact, I hadn't even thought of Ari Fleischer for years until the press allowed him to bash Thomas last week.



brutality ??

a voice of inquiry
from the the oakland cathedral
of the little pink flower


@Flak: I don't know one way or another whether Thomas was meaning that Israelis should return past the Green Line. I personally hope that her true feeling is that the usurping entity's existence is itself illegitimate, and that the just way forward is the restoration of one Palestine. That the Zionists have largely destroyed the possibility of a secular Palestine emerging from the ruins of their racist project is just too damn bad.


After a rethink I'm of the opinion that the use of Germany and Poland as destinations for departing Israelis identifies the WWII refugee population (and their descendants, I suppose) as the focus of Thomas' remark. Not too many Israelis could have come from those places after 1967. If she had mentioned Russia and 'America' and Israel, that would have suggested the settlers of the West Bank were her focus.

I just noticed that Helen Thomas is the daughter of Lebanese immigrants to the USA (note: not 'America', don't like that verbal usurpation). If she has any relatives back in her old country, she has probably been fuming quietly for years. May she have a pleasant retirement and a long one. I wish she had not made that particular apology, however.


Ain't that the truth. Palestine was like Lebanon, minus the Bekaa but plus thousand year old orchards and the region's pre-eminent secularity.

A fucking shame that the Israelis, in their urge to retake a homeland that was never theirs, have spent six decades transforming the Levant and Palestine into forward bases for the idgits in Saudi Arabia.

Michael Hureaux:

So once again we are treated to an egregious display of the basic cowardice of the professional classes. Lenin used to say they were incapable of either making a revolution or defending basic democracy, every day in every way it becomes more and more clear why this is the case.


Y'all might be interested in a post on Louis Proyect (Unrepentant Marxist) today, on the "Zionist Philanthropic Complex". Mentions many examples of cross-board-memberships between military, Zionist and liberal/progressive/humanitarian groups and figures, including (whew!) Doctors Without Borders, Save the Redwoods, Israel's Tree Planting Project, Chomsky (but not Pacifica radio).
Any leftist organizingr meetings are well-advised to start off by asking "are there any members of X, Y, Z here?"




Senecal, how do you read this expose as including "Chomsky?"

There is one footnote to the usual suspects, all of whom merely differ with Chomsky on tactics.

Chomsky is not a Zionist and does not support Zionist groups.

Take a look:


Meanwhile, I'm fascinated by the fact that the unrepentant Marxist prefers the racial to the class analysis. Quite comical, actually.

...and the conspiracy theory to the imperial power structure emphasis.

Louis Proyect:

I see that Michael Dawson is still a turd.


unrepentant thin skinned scold

rarely has one head
thought more thoughts
to less consequence


That was a guest post on Proyect's site. MH, you're right, the article didn't mention chomsky. I just tossed him in because though critical of US imperialism, he never includes Israel in his critique, and while he recognizes that Israel has no right to claim self-defense in a country they are occupying, he never questions its original expropriation of Palestinian land. So, though he is the most influential left thinker of my life, he's not reliable on that issue.

OP, I don't know if this is the place to comment on some other blog's lack of consequence. I wonder who has the larger readership? (not that I give a shit, I like it here.)

Lajany Otum:

MH, you're right, the article didn't mention chomsky. I just tossed him in because though critical of US imperialism, he never includes Israel in his critique, and while he recognizes that Israel has no right to claim self-defense in a country they are occupying, he never questions its original expropriation of Palestinian land. So, though he is the most influential left thinker of my life, he's not reliable on that issue.

Didn't Chomsky co-author a tome a while back on this very subject, Fateful Triangle: the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians?

I see that Louis Proyect is still Louis Proyect, if not more so.

Nuff said.

My understanding of Chomsky is that he is an ex-Zionist who certainly does think it was a mistake to divide Palestine on behalf of a religious state. If he didn't think that, why would he be an ex-Zionist?

But the division happened and there are now 6 million Jews living there inside Israel. To some extent, they are victims of the mistake that was made. But even if you don't like that interpretation, they are human being who now live there.

So the question is quite serious. What should be done to work our way back toward secularity and democracy and co-existence?

You can say "expel all the Zionists from Palestine" or shut down Israel and make a Palestine that is secular and allows Jews to stay but not run the show based on Jewishness.

But this isn't a mere thought experiment. What type of war would it take to "expel all the Zionists from Palestine"? I very big and ugly one. And where would they be expelled to, assuming some percent would rather leave than fight? The American South would be perfect, especially if we could expel the South from the Union here. But really? You really thin that would work?

Arguing, as Chomsky does, for two states based on UN 242 may or may not be the best strategy for achieving the best possible ultimate outcome. But defining anybody who argues this is an unreliable traitor is simply juvenile and unthinking. There just as many pitfalls in one-state advocacy, and the answer to one atrocity is not creation of another. Indeed, isn't that the main point about why Israel was an error in the first place?

Chomsky is utterly reliable and thoughtful on the topic of Israel and Zionism. He might be wrong, but he is utterly reliable. There really are two responsible positions here. To trash either out of hand is what is unreliable and wrong.


i agree md

in fact a jewish state
seems swell by me

if it pays cold cash
to the targets of its
90 years of terror and blood

certainly settler states can't be dogmatically liquidated

err at least in all cases at any rate

Reparations from Uncle Warbucks, on whose ass this little tail wags, would be good, too. Maybe even some for Central America and the long-delayed sum for Nam...

That must be a trillion by now, with compound interest and all. Certainly, Ho would have bought some shares in Microsoft and Goldman-Sachs, no? Maybe British Petroleum/Anglo-Persian, also.


We can all imagine happy-ending scenarios to the Israel-Palestine perplex. I have my own -- it's an old one: democratic secular state on the whole territory of historic Palestine, no ethnic or religious supremacy, no Israelis sent "back" anywhere, right of return for Palestinians for oh say 20 years, then no right of return for anybody after that. Indemnification for expropriated Palestinians who do return.

Probably Chomsky's scenario isn't so very different, unless I've been misunderstanding him.

But I wonder, not for the first time, why one is so often asked, What would you do? This isn't confined to the Middle East. One gets asked, what sort of drug laws would you like to see, what sort of society would make you happy?

The question always seems inane to me. What does it matter what we would do? We almost certainly won't get any opportunity to do it.

What we can do, in a modest way, is our level best to delegitimize the actually-existing situation -- in the Middle East case, actually-existing apartheid Israel -- in other people's minds. If a broad-brush throw-the-bums-out slogan like Helen's off-the-cuff suggestions helps to do that, then to that extent it's a good thing, though it doesn't coincide with my own master plan.


Obama: "Gaza blockade is unsustainable".

What a word to use!? I think he is getting credit for the statement, but what does 'unsustainable' really suggest?

Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming unsustainable for several reasons. But people want to fish and the unsustainability is a tragedy.

Blockading Gaza is becoming unsustainable for several reasons. But some people want to blockade Gaza and the unsustainability is a... what?!

Classic weaseling.


@ Michael Dawson: "What type of war would it take to 'expel all the Zionists from Palestine'?"

You are quite correct that it would take an horrific conflagration to "expel all the Zionists". Unfortunately it will likely require an equally vicious struggle to restore Palestine. Given that the Israeli program (de facto if not yet de jure) is a Palestinenfrei Greater Israel, it seems also certain that even a two state solution will not happen without punishing losses being extracted from Israel and Israeli Jewish citizens. (Punishing losses by the Palestinians, whatever their citizenship in Israel or Occupied Palestine, are of course long-standing and ongoing.)

The US could (not that it will) easily impose a two-state deal, RP. I'm not certain it could impose a one-state one.

Indeed, I'm not sure it's right and proper to do so. Few nation-states were founded on nice, defensible actions. The long-run goal is to rid ourselves of the horrid things. And, if it's wrong to invade Cuba or Afghanistan for political reasons, why is it OK to invade Israel? People do have the right to be wrong, up to a certain point. And two messes rarely make a neatness.

If Israel fucks with Palestine after the 242 division gets re-established, then, by all means, they need to be invaded and stopped.

But this is damned complicated and dangerous.

Alas, you're probably right about the hopelessness of either "solution." Maybe if the US enters a second stage of its apparent terminal decrepitude. But maybe that would make things even worse.


I keep hearing that young Israelis are leaving for more stable, attractive living places. i wonder what an economic/demographic/geographic analysis would say about Israel's long-term prospects? And then there's the new Iran-Turkey-Syria entente, smiled upon by Russia. Anyone know whether Goldman Sachs is shorting the sheckel?

The US could (not that it will) easily impose a two-state deal, RP. I'm not certain it could impose a one-state one.
Hard to see why one would be more difficult than the other. Assuming the US really wanted to exert itself constructively -- and I should live so long -- then a really serious economic embargo would do the job in no time.

No oil deliveries. No passenger flights in or out. No export markets for Israeli businesses. Foreign bank accounts frozen. No subsidies from angels in Williamsburg or Miami for those appalling West Bank settlers.

A year or two of that, and the Israelis would become very, very reasonable people.

I mean, hell, they may be crazy, but they are certainly not stupid.

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