Eighty-nine-year-old Helen Thomas is being maligned by nearly everyone these days for having voiced to Rabbi David Nesenoff, of Long Island, New York, her opinion that Jews in Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home to Germany and Poland — and America — and everywhere else!"
Many in the government have in recent history been displeased with the esteemed and generally well-loved Ms.Thomas. The George W. Bush administration was a frequent target for her criticism. She was outspoken in saying that The United States was out of line in the invasion of Iraq. She held that President Bush had no regard for the deaths of so many innocent people in Iraq. These remarks invoked the ire of President Bush.
Helen Thomas has served as a Hearst Newspapers columnist, then as a member of the White House press corps for 57 years, and later as White House Bureau Chief for United Press International. She has also authored five books on politics and presidents.
Hostilities of late involving the Israel and Palestine differences have reached fever pitch. Osama bin Laden has stated that the Western occupation of Palestine is his greatest motivation for terrorist activities such as the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Iran, which some Muslims claim as the center of the Islamic world, has indicated that Israel could be “wiped off the map in a week.” The West may be taking subtle steps to distance itself from Israel. Thomas was far less than subtle — she believes the Palestinians are the indigenous people of the region and the Jews, driven from Egypt many centuries ago, are interlopers on the Palestinian Land. Helen Thomas’ remarks reflect a possible solution to this age old and now flaring problem.
The liberal Ms.Thomas remarked to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that the White House's stated position of "regret" for a flotilla raid by Israeli commandos in recent weeks was less than appropriate. Her words: "Our initial reaction to this flotilla massacre — deliberate massacre, an international crime — was pitiful. What do you mean you 'regret', when something should be so strongly condemned? And if any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms. What is the sacrosanct, iron-clad relationship where a country [Israel] that deliberately kills people and boycotts – and we aid and abet the boycott?"
Clearly Ms. Thomas' views are her own. Democratic President Barack Obama told The Today Show that "her comments were out of line; that it was a shame her long and much celebrated career should end in controversy."
Helen Thomas does indeed reflect extreme views, this at a time when many are avoiding extremism, embracing moderation. She later apologized for her remarks. She wrote: "I deeply regret comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt 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."
Helen Thomas will be well remembered. It may be said she spoke her mind, now at this time of great peril. Freedom of speech may be the issue, but we concede her remarks were not in keeping with the official American point of view.