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In Defense Of Helen Thomas

June 10, 2010
by

Journalist Helen Thomas has a most impressive resume.  She spent fifty seven years as a correspondent for the White House Press Corps, Thomas has covered every President of the United States since the later years of the Eisenhower administration.  She was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association, and, in 1975, the first female member of the Gridiron Club, the oldest and most prestigious journalistic organization in Washington, D.C.

This week, she announced her retirement.  But Thomas isn’t enjoying praise for her ceiling busting career or her unwavering journalistic integrity.

Her decision to retire comes after an outcry in journalism circles for comments she made at a White House Jewish heritage event.

A Rabbi asked if Thomas had any comments on Israel. Thomas replied, -quote- Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” and added that Palestinians are under occupation. Asked where they should go she replied that –quote-they should go home to Poland, Germany, America and “everywhere else”. She later issued an apology for her comments. But it was too late.

Members of the media, politicians and political pundits alike branded her an anti-Semite.  At 89 years old, after a lifetime of service covering the most important and controversial news issues of our times, Helen Thomas found herself the center of unwanted and certainly unflattering media attention.

There are a couple things disturbing me about this situation.  First, I wonder just how much Americans understand about the history of Palestine.

Second, to assert that Thomas is an anti-Semite because of her comment is quite the far jump and ultimately is baseless; but it’s good for ratings. Her comment may have been inflammatory, but that doesn’t mean it was rooted in hatred or disdain for Jews. PERIOD.

This is an example of the many false dichotomies we’re faced with on a regular basis, as if there are only one or two options in a situation.  Because Thomas is critical of a political act or policy she automatically hates Jews.  That’s like saying anyone who is for immigration reform must hate Latinos. No people.

Third, it’s laughable that media folk act like other media folk don’t all hold some PERSONAL bias, whether it’s on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, politics or national affairs.

The shallow end of the issue is what Helen Thomas said- a critique of a political act/policy (pushed by the American government btw).

The opportunity for REAL dialogue is elsewhere. a) what is a resolution to the issues surrounding Palestine? b) how does PERSONAL bias in INDIVIDUAL journalists impact news media? If you think journalist lose their personal bias in journalism school- yer trippin’. The only difference between Helen Thomas and any other journalist is that she openly expressed how she personally feels. Just because folks don’t speak it doesn’t mean they don’t think it, believe it, or more importantly, ACT ON IT.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2010 9:27 pm

    Thank you for posting that. ENOUGH with the over the top PC already.

  2. June 10, 2010 9:41 pm

    This situation is as sad as it is ridiculous for so many reasons. As Americans, we have a very short term view of history and a total lack of historical context. What Thomas said was definitely provocative, but that doesn’t mean she was wrong. Every political scientist worth a damn recognizes that the current situation is unsustainable. That leaves 1 of 2 options, Jews get out of Palestine or kill all the Palestinians.

  3. June 10, 2010 11:42 pm

    The part about Palestine being occupied, I have no problem with, at least if one is referring to the Palestinian Occupied Territories. But telling Jews to go back to Poland and Germany is kind of like telling a DV victim to move back in with the abuser. (It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s basically along the same lines.) Germany murdered 6 million Jews. It’ll be centuries before that’s a relic of history. It doesn’t excuse what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. That’s evil and wrong. But any solution to that which is composed of “go back to Germany” is wrong.

  4. October 21, 2010 1:10 pm

    Wow. this brings up memories. I wrote a really similar piece on my blog, http://sarahalisabethfox.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/on-helen-thomas/,
    and got accused of the same by a former professor/mentor/friend I used to cherish. Basically disowned me as a historian, a critical thinker, and a woman of Jewish descent. I was shocked by how painful it was, but I left his comment up on my blog because I believe we’re never going to achieve justice or peace in this world without open dialogue. Keep on keepin on, SableVerity…

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