Monday, June 7, 2010

Is Helen Thomas a racist?

Here's the story: Helen Thomas, super-important White House reporter for about a billion years, thought her clout allowed her to make some arguably distasteful comments about that hotbed of hummus (and controversy) - Israel.

She was asked, “Any comments on Israel?”

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she responded.

The interviewer then asked “Any better comments on Israel?” To which Thomas said, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not German’s. It’s not Poland’s.”

Thomas was then asked where the Jews in Israel should go and what they should do? Thomas responded, “They should go home” which the White House reporter identified as “Poland, Germany . . . and America and everywhere else.”

Now, Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary, and others say Thomas is now that easy-to-toss-but-hard-to-prove term, an anti-Semite. The evidence, as delivered by Lanny Davis, White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton:

“Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot,” said Davis. “This is not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.”

Davis added, “If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials - much less a privileged honorary seat?”

Aha. So that's the question. Is saying Jews need to leave Israel and "go back where they came from" the same as saying that Blacks should leave the U.S. and go "back to Africa?" Your thoughts?


shesthesheriff said...

I don't think its the same for a lot of reasons. One is that there are a lot of Jews who think that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is deplorable. Right or not, they think that.

Here's some more food for thought--lets say we had not annihilated American indigenous culture, and 30% of the population were of native stock, yet they lived in substandard conditions and had less access to resources. Would it be racist to tell whites to go back to Europe? Is it racist for Aborigines to tell Australian whites to go back to England?

Either way the reality is that's never going to happen, no ethnic group is suddenly going to decide en masse to do this so its kind of a dumb thing to say. It also shows how many people have thrown up their hands on the Israel/Palestine thing, I don't know this lady very well but it sounds like she's more frustrated than racist.

I guess it depends how broad your definition of 'racist' is. Personally I feel there's an important class component that can't be overlooked. For example a lot of whites understand 'reverse racism'
(a dumb ass term if I ever heard one) more as an anger generated by historical disenfranchisement.
It would be interesting to go a hundred years into the future and observe Chinese treatment of the White American underclass lol.

I don' think the ADM thinks of the words racist or anti-semetic in these terms however.

Jonathan Rubin said...

At first when I heard about Helen's remarks, I thought they were strongly worded and maybe ill-advised. But when I heard the "what if you said it about black people" argument I knew it was contrived, but it was also very persuasive. I hate feeling like I'm buying into propaganda.
I do think that "reverse racism" is real, however, even if the causes are different. If your race prevents you from getting a job that you're qualified for - it doesn't matter if the source is a government program or a bigot - that's racism.

David Rivelli said...

There are Palestinians who probably feel the way Helen Thomas feels however not every Palestinian is the dean of the white house reporters.

Lanny Davis knocked it out of the park.

If you disagree with Israel it doesn't mean you dislike Jews or you are Anti-Semetic.

But saying an entire group of people have no rights because of who they are - then you obviously cross the line.