Helen Thomas Retires, But Her Acolytes Remain

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 7, 2010


Having shocked and appalled people with a mix of historical ignorance and outright bigotry, longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas–who may not have seen the light, but who certainly has felt the heat–has decided to retire. No one, of course, should feel any sense of loss at her departure; to express the hope that Jews “get the Hell out of Palestine” and return to countries in Europe that launched pogroms against them in the best of times, and became charnel houses in the worst of times, is a singularly disgusting sentiment.

Some may chalk up such sentiments to “senility,” but Thomas is sufficiently in control of her faculties to pester and annoy White House Press Secretaries and Presidents on the intellectual hobbyhorses she likes to ride into the ground, so I am not chalking up her comments to any lack of mental alertness. Rather, I chalk them up to the pure, undiluted, incandescent, and incomprehensible hatred she seems to possess when it comes to Israel, Zionism, and Jews in general.

Of note in the story linked above is Robert Gibbs’s comment that Thomas remarks were “offensive and reprehensible,” and that they “do not reflect certainly most of the people here [apparently speaking of the White House Press Corps--ed.] and certainly not those of the administration.” The emphasis is mine, and the emphasis ought to be noted; whether deliberately, or inadvertently, Gibbs quite properly threw a spotlight on those in the White House Press Corps who do believe–as Thomas does–that Israel is some sort of illegitimate stepchild that ought not to be recognized, and whose existence ought to be wished away. As those who followed the Thomas story are well aware, plenty of White House correspondents sought to make excuses for Thomas’s comments; claiming that they were the result of advanced age, claiming that her apology ought to be sufficient, implying that those who took Thomas on were censors of a sort, asking that Thomas be allowed to retire gracefully, etc. The only thing the comments from these people generally lacked was the sentiment that Thomas’s remarks were stunningly insensitive, antediluvian in the extreme, and ought to be condemned without reservation by civilized people. From these findings follow the entirely reasonable conclusion that those who made excuses for Helen Thomas will in the future make excuses for those who seek to undermine and destroy Israel and Zionism. Indeed, I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that those who made excuses for Helen Thomas will follow in her example when it comes to commenting on the Middle East in general, and Israel in particular. I hope I am wrong in writing that, but I really don’t think that I am; anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism (and yes, the two are related in a great many ways) are not only an acceptable prejudice amongst certain groups, they are also a very fashionable prejudice as well.

As gratifying as it is to see that Thomas has had to pay a price for her bigotry by being forced to retire, it is equally gratifying to see that she is being shunned in civilized society; a commencement speech has gone by the wayside, a significant number of members of the White House Correspondents’ Association have expressed their outrage with Thomas’s remarks, and she is being dropped like a hot rock by former White House Press Secretaries who used to speak kindly of her, and by a former book collaborator. In addition, she is the subject of righteous and withering critiques, like this one by Yoram Dori, an adviser to Israeli President Shimon Peres. But of course, as the presence of her press corps apologists attests, the fashionable bias against Zionism, Jews, and an intelligent reading of Jewish history continues. Witness this blog post from the once-sane Andrew Sullivan, who favorably cites a purported Jewish pen pal arguing, in essence, “how dare Jews read history, and learn from it!”

To be sure, Sullivan has a habit of putting “correspondence” from “others” that not only agrees 1,000% with his views, but is also written in very much the same style as other correspondence on other issues (periodically, Sullivan issues a “Dissent of the Day” which I guess is meant to impress us, since it purports to show how enlightened and open to criticism he is, but even that correspondence carries with it much the same writing style. Suspicious, nyet?), so I would not be in the least bit surprised to find out that Sullivan’s alleged Jewish pen pal, in this case, is nothing more than a figment of Sullivan’s imagination; much like his obstetrical findings concerning Trig Palin’s matrilineal line, now that I think about it. But even if Sullivan’s correspondent is as real and as Jewish as I am, what does it say about that correspondent that he would tell others–including, of course, other Jews–that they ought to ignore the lessons of history, which state quite clearly that Jews are oftentimes the first targets for those seeking a scapegoat for events gone bad? And what does it say about Sullivan that he would endorse such a view, one that is at best benighted, and at worst, specifically and deliberately designed to mislead concerning the continuing dangers posed by anti-Semitism, and its close cousin, anti-Zionism?

The most Sullivan offers by way of direct commentary on the Helen Thomas affair is this. Squint hard, and one will find some semblance of discomfort with what Thomas has said, but Sullivan doesn’t seem to think that Thomas ought to get fired for stating that Jews ought to go back to the countries where they were once persecuted. Quel dommage, mais ce n’est pas une surprise.

Be glad that Helen Thomas has left. Unfortunately, her intellectual disciples still have their jobs. And they will continue to try to spread the very poison she sought to introduce into the American bloodstream from the front-and-center seat she occupied for so long in the White House Press Room.

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