The interesting thing about Helen Thomas’ widely quoted remarks (video here) is not that she has been revealed as an anti-Semite (or not). And the appropriate reply, much as it may seem unsatisfying to some, is not to bring up the Holocaust.
Why did she say that the Jews should go back to Poland and Germany?
The implication is that the Jews came and ‘occupied’ Palestinian land, dispossessing the former owners. The implication is that Israel is illegitimate and the Jews do not have the right to be there. Probably she would also say that “Palestinians should not have to suffer for European crimes,” suggesting that Israel was created to assuage European guilt for the Holocaust. This is a common theme in statements by Hamas and Iranian leaders too.
But a journalist of experience and reputation, as Thomas was, should have a better understanding of history. To coin a phrase, “she who doesn’t understand history is doomed to not understand current events either.”
Did she know that the majority of today’s ‘Palestinians’ are descended from Arabs of Syria and Egypt that migrated to the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many in the latter period, when the Zionist presence created economic opportunity? Was she aware that the father of Palestinian nationalism, Yasser Arafat, was born in Cairo, Egypt?
Did she sleep through the class where she could have learned that there were several hundred thousand Jews in ‘Palestine’ at the time of the Muslim conquest in the Seventh Century (Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, Chapter 1)? True, this number was significantly lower until the 1880’s — thanks to the friendly Muslims — but Jews have been there since biblical times.
Did she know that the League of Nations Mandate was approving of Jewish self-determination, understanding it as something which needn’t prejudice the rights of others in the region? And that early Zionists — including both the Labor and Revisionist variety — fully envisioned it this way?
Wasn’t she aware, though, that cooperation between Jew and Arabs during the mandate period was sabotaged by the Nazi-aligned Mufti, who encouraged murderous pogroms? Did she know that at the same time, the Mufti’s family was making buckets of money selling land at exorbitant prices to the Jews?
Did she know that the Jews had built the complete infrastructure of a state long before it was possible to kick the British out?
Did she know the story of the War of Independence — Karsh does a good job of telling it — and precisely how the behavior of their leadership, the Mufti in particular, ensured that the Palestinian Arabs did not get a state of their own?
Did she skip over the part about how the policies of the Mufti and the Arab nations bear the primary responsibility for the creation of 650,000 Arab refugees?
Did she know how the Arab nations conspired to create a permanently stateless group of nearly 5 million claimants to ‘Palestinian’ nationality, who must be supported forever on the international dole, as a club to beat Israel with?
Didn’t she notice how these same ‘Palestinians’, under the leadership of the aforementioned Arafat, tore apart the nation of Lebanon (from which Thomas’ parents emigrated to the US, incidentally)?
Did she also miss the greatest contribution made by the Palestinian people to human society, the popularization of terrorism as an implement of policy (or sometimes just for fun)?
Did she know that about half of the Jews in Israel are descended from Jews who lived outside of Europe, mostly in Arab countries? And that something like 800,000 of them were kicked out of these Arab countries between 1948 and the early ’50’s?
Whew. There’s a lot of history that Helen Thomas doesn’t seem to know.
Update [8 June 1122 PDT]: Thomas retired after a flood of criticism. But the criticism was almost entirely couched in the inappropriateness of her comments regarding Jews. It crosses the line to talk about Jews returning to Poland and Germany, where they were murdered.
The real thrust of her remarks was that Israel does not have a right to exist. I wonder if the reaction would have been the same if she had simply said that?