Helen Thomas Comments Come Home to Roost

Helen Thomas Comments Come Home to Roost

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Helen Thomas & President Obama celebrate her 89th birthday.

The firestorm Helen Thomas caused following her comments that Jews should leave Palestine and return to Poland and Germany has been a long time coming. Still, the silence from some underscores the apparent lack of understanding they have of the importance of Israel and her right to exist.

On May 27, during a Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House, Ms. Thomas managed to step in it. Literally.

According to the June 7, 2010, issue of The New York Times, Thomas was interviewed by Rabbi David F. Nesenoff for his program RabbiLive.com when she made known her views. That interview surfaced several days later and eventually led to the 89 year old White House media correspondent being criticized, canceling a high school commencement speech and being dumped by her speakers’ agency.

But as of this writing the White House Correspondents Association had yet to issue their own comment about Thomas.

Thomas has long held a front row seat at White House news conference in deference to her experience and age. Representing Hearst Publications, Thomas has often questioned presidential spokesmen concerning a particular White House policy, living up to her reputation as a tough as nails, if not caustic press corps dean.

The child of Lebanese immigrants, Thomas was raised as an Orthodox Christian. Since Eisenhower was president, she has been a figure at White House media events and is widely recognized in media circles and is likely familiar to most Americans.

Writing for The Jerusalem Post, Yoram Dori wrote an open letter to Helen Thomas and talked about his parents’ families. Like most Israeli Jews, Dori’s family fled or died in Europe as part of Nazi Germany’s pogram to exterminate Jews. That event took the lives of more than six million people who were shipped to concentration camps in Germany and Poland and gassed. The same countries where Thomas said Jews should return.

On her blog last week, Helen Thomas issued the following statement regarding her comments about Israel and Jews in particular,  “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Though Thomas’ apology is certainly worth considering, the silence from some of her contemporaries has been deafening although not particularly surprising. Late news that Helen Thomas has decided to retire is a step in the right direction, but it shouldn’t stop there. Careful reexamination of why the US supports Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is important and could go far in helping people realize how vulnerable that nation is to threats we ourselves would never tolerate.

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