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07 June 2010


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They made an example of Helen Thomas.

Is anyone else going to criticise Israel in the mainstream media? I don't think so.

Marv S.

"Speech is no longer free in the United States."

She was perfectly free to say what she wants. But when you are a reporter, you're supposed to report and keep your opinions to yourself (or certainly out of the public spotlight). No one wants to think you have an agenda as a reporter and thus cannot trust your reporting as unbiased.


Freedom of speech extends to the White House. The cure for disliked speech is more speech. So people taking sides about what was said is what the Framers intended.

It would be a violation of freedom of speech if the government, as such, attempted to impose a penalty on Helen.

A reasonable human being who was Jewish looking at the world after WWII could reasonably conclude that only with similar people did he and his have any prospect of safety. So the question the refuge faced with respect to Palestine would be what is the greater evil -- pushing a portion of the Arabs off a portion of their land or risking for my children and my culture
the outcome we faced in Germany.

Mike Rush

Colonel Lang,

Nice job here. Thomas took the J. Edgar Hoover route and let pass many good chances to retire. I take your point about "muffled" free speech.


The attempts to defend the remarks, such as the one below, are unconvincing for many reasons including those given by our host, but if unconvincing as a 'defense' some do remind us of important history. For instance this from Mondoweiss:
Her comments [telling Israelis to leave Palestine and "go home" to Europe] do not reflect a desire to see Israel/Palestine judenrein, but rather an ominous sense of what a dangerous place Israel has become, and will only increasingly be, for its people.

But the more important point is that the cries of "historical ignorance" by the Zionists only reflect their own. It was the Zionists, with a mighty assist from Stalin, who stood in the way of the surviving Jews of Europe being able to return to the only homes they ever knew. The anti-Zionists of that time, most notably the great Lessing Rosenwald, passionately and rightly argued that the suggestion that the Jews should not simply cast down their buckets but be transferred en masse to Palestine was an insult to all that the war against Hitler had been fought to achieve. Along with his friends in the Reform rabbinate, Rosenwald had also not been shy about calling out the proposition that there existed a Jewish "nation" for what it was - a fundamental and dangerous concession to the doctrine of Hitler. Indeed, per Helen Thomas, there could be no happier consequence of the fall of Zionism than the rebirth of Judaism in Poland that we have already seen in Germany.

Jack Ross is author of a forthcoming book on the American Council for Judaism and Rabbi Elmer Berger.


Why was it "offensive and reprehensible" for HT to say that, yet it's perfectly OK if Jews/Israelis express the wish that the Palestinians would "get the hell out" and "go back to wherever they came from" (Syria, Jordan, Egypt, etc.)?

We have the best Congress AIPAC's money could buy. An American citizen was shot four times in the head by IDF commandos attacking in international waters, and a congressman from California thinks any Americans who were in that flotilla should be prosecuted for aiding Hamas. Where's the outrage? Is everyone afraid they will be asked to resign if they speak out like Helen Thomas?

Pretty easy to see who's calling the shots in this country.

Adam L Silverman


If she'd just stopped at the initial comment about getting out of Palestine and was referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, she'd have been okay and in line with many people. It was the qualifying remarks that put it way over the top. Those were inexcusable and unfortunate.

I think this piece by Gabriel Winant at Salon's political blog, the War Room, does a very good treatment of this subject.
He makes the argument that those who publicly call for the expulsion of the Palestinians never pay any price. In many ways this is like conducting the thought experiment regarding the Turkish Flotilla of changing "Israel" for "Iran" and imagining how the US media and politicians would have responded.


It was a damned fool thing for her to say, especially after such a long career. However, Bush tired of being asked pointed questions and successfully ignored Helen for 8 years. Has anyone forgotten the great softballs provided by Jeff Gannon of Talon news?


No it was not. Especially when Palestinians remain homeless in their own land. The Jews of Israel have arrogated to themselves the right to deny the Palestinians their rights. They are usurpers. So it is perfectly legitimate for Thomas to tell them to go back to where they have come from (Contrary to what you allege, she was very clear on who she was talking about: the European and American ideological immigrants to Israel).

I find it interesting that you should make an issue of her age, but utter not a word about the fact that she is the only person in the White House press corp who has frequently challenged presidents and lackeys on issues of substance. Between integrity and youth, I'd have thought it'd be obvious which quality is more desirable in a journalist.


What she said should be condemned, but she herself was free to speak without the threat of prosecution. She was also smart to hang up her press pass. A sad way to go out after a long and, from what I've heard, mostly honorable journalist career.


The fact is that Israel is confiscating more land to build settlements every day, so who was "born in the land" is irrelevant.

Anyway, this is a world where saying something is deadly, but doing things, like confiscating land, is not only acceptable, but supported by 3 billion dollars of US aid.


The U.S. a 'muffled zone' at the whim of a foreign postage stamp, what would Thomas Jefferson think?


Helen Thomas specifically said that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine," not Israel, so she shouldn't be accused of being antisemitic. There is nothing controversial, let alone antisemitic, about her suggesting that Jews, who have stolen land from Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, should "go back home to Poland, Germany, America and elsewhere." I suppose she should have included Israel and Russia on the list of places where all Jews living on stolen land in Palestine should go back home to, but by her failing to do this don't make her an anti-Semite!

So if there's anyone who should be fired from his job, it should be former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer for falsely accusing Helen Thomas of being a Jew-hater. But since he got off the hook for being an aider and abettor to Bush's war crimes, I'm sure he'll have no trouble getting off the hook for defaming Ms. Thomas' character. Needless to say, none of this would've ever happened had the American press not been under Israeli occupation.

Patrick Lang

Jane, Marv

When the White House officially condemns you, that is punishment for speech.

If you think that journalists are not advocates these days, you are not paying attention. pl


The Neocons have had it in for her, since she was one of the few MSM people to criticize the Iraq Invasion.

Juan Cole had a post about several Neocons groups going after professors that didn't carry the water so American is truly become a land of limited speech. (Sorry, I didn't find the link.)

Walrus is right, they mad an example of her, but Colonel you are right she said something very stupid.


the first settlers arrived in Israel well before WW-II. Zionism is simply a branch of the tree of romantic nationalism that bloomed all through Europe at Herzl's time. Herzl himself was not motivated by the lessons of the Holocaust. Jabotinsky wasn't inspired by the holocaust either when he formulated his 'Iron Wall' approach.

The holocaust is an ex post facto justification for actions and policies that pre-dated it, a rationalisation.


At least it reveals that the White House is capable of condemning things reprehensible.

It is also revealing that the White House can take on little old ladies and not piracy and the murder a U.S. one's citizens and those of a NATO ally.

Why Israel would think to further antagonize their putative ally in Ankara, is due only to the train wreck that is Bennie Netanyahu.

So when Achille Lauro was hijacked, Israel could have due sympathy for the execution of Leon Klinghoffer. Certainly don't have anyone's sympathy now, beyond the media.

I think now Israel does indeed miss 'rais' Arafat now. At least he made their game easy.


I like Helen Thomas. She has probably held her tongue on this subject for a long time and maybe she figured at close to 90 she was going to let it rip. Being Lebanese was probably also a factor in her thoughts on this matter.

I'll leave it to everyone else to beat her up, but the old broad has guts!


I know I'm going to regret this but:

There is no incomprehension from some of us Colonel.

I too have to often point out that being born on stolen land does not infer legitimacy of ownership to that land any more than inheriting a stolen painting legitimizes your ownership of it.

What makes Israeli Jews born in the land less Palestinian than the Arabs, the handful of Armenians, Druze, Chechens, etc.?

Well for one they did not come to Palestine to be Palestinian. They came to destroy Palestine and create Israel. Had they come to simply live in their spiritual home in peace with those that had lived there forever, they would and could claim their children to be Palestinian. But they neither cared to or ever meant to.

Of course there is a similarity of situation of the Jewish settler population of Palestine and the European descended populations of North America, Australia, etc.

Each and every one of those examples is a colonial entity that has brutally put down the indigenous population. But there is a but, even though morally speaking, those indigenous people have only been given various if not complete redress for the actions of those early settlers.

The "but" is that in all those modern day nations the locals are no longer treated the way they were treated in earlier, less enlightened times. We enter the 21st Century where the black South African has finally been freed from state oppression; Where the Mauri has equal standing in New Zealand and the American Indian is allowed to leave his reservation without fear of being shot.

Only the Israelis still behave as 18th century thugs, treating the locals like chattle, taking Palestinian lives at will and without remorse, and shooting them should they leave the reservations without permission.
Only the Israelis continue to practice laws that mirror the apartheid of South Africa or the race laws of 50's America.

And finally, to put it ever so slightly bluntly, the North Americans, the Australians etc. never had to worry about "going home" because the resistance was beaten before enlightenment came.

The Israelis will not have that luxury.


The Israeli Hasbara crowd had it in for poor Helen because Helen is a Lebanese American who like many other Americans (Irish, Scots, Anti-Zionist Jews, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc..) have had a gut full of Israeli overbearing holier-than-thou attitude at anything or anyone 'other' than Israeli.


"One is to point out that most Israeli Jews of today's population were born in the land. What makes them less Palestinian than the Arabs, the handful of Armenians, Druze, Chechens, etc.? I have tried pointing out the similarity of situation of the Jewish settler population of Palestine and the European descended populations of North America, Australia, etc."

It takes more than a few generations of being born there to change the settler mentality. It is still present in Northern Ireland after centuries and if something sudden happened to alter the demographic balance in the northern statelet to put Catholics in the majority, quite a few Unionists might leave. One also thinks of the whites of South Africa, who were also there for generations. Israel is still a settler garrison state. Sometimes such entities last for a few hundred years. Not much more, if the demographics don't go their way.

As for Thomas, she should have known better and had to go, although it's perfectly clear what she meant and the media pile-on is disgusting.


The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Nothing in Gibb's reaction that the administration did not agree with her statement and that she needed to apologize and had done so contravenes freedom of speech.

The old tag that "I hate what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it" needs to be amended to add "and will defend to the death my free speech right to criticize what you just said."

There is a conservative meme going around that to criticize something which is said is a suppression of free speech rather than an exercise of it.

There is a reason why the White House is called the bully pulpit -- the occupant has earned enough respect from the people that his opinions carry weight.


Well here I am, thinking the unthinkable, because the thought occurred to me on Saturday that maybe the Jews of Israel should go back to their home countries or other place in the world where they'll be safe.

The flotilla incident has really spurred an "enough is enough" change in my thinking. It's not that I'm pro-Palestinian.

My focus is mainly what's best for us and them and what's practical.

It seems that the Israelis believe that if they just drag things out long enough, things will change to their advantage. How? When will they not be surrounded by Arabs and Muslims? Nothing the U.S. can do -- all our billions spent and to be spent in the future -- can change this fundamental fact.

If Jewish Israelis feel they can never be safe as long as they are surrounded by Arabs and Muslims, then the only logical thing for them to do is leave.

Isn't it time to stop the endless, pointless fighting for the impossible and for the Jews of Israelis to be redisbursed around the world to places where they could live safely?

Why should the U.S. sink another 50 or 100 years into perpetuating a stalemate?


A "muffled zone" indeed. HT was punished when so many others are not for their equally specious "opinions" on those who are the targets (immigrants, homosexuals, muslims, et al).

Or, in the words of Mandelstam (recently brought to greater light in the NYROB):

We live without feeling the
country beneath our feet,
our words are inaudible from ten
steps away.



Gibbs said he hadn't spoken to Obama about Thomas' comments, so who gave him license to condemn what she said? Either Obama has lost control of his administrations official voice or Obama is hiding behind Gibbs, afraid to make the comment himself. Either way, it shows poor leadership.

Authoritarian governments control your actions, totalitarian governments control your thoughts. We give the government the authority to arrest and punish criminals, but when government made certain forms of offensive speech a crime, as in hate crimes, we eroded the protection of the 1st amendment. With Kagan on the Supreme Court, IMHO, this erosion will accelerate.

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