Moving Beyond Helen Thomas
It seems that the furor over the virulently anti-Israel statements made by Helen Thomas, the renown White House correspondent, is starting to fade. And that is as it should be. The sooner the better!
What she said – that the Jews should leave Israel to the Palestinians and go home, to Poland, to Germany, to America, wherever – was unquestionably outrageous. It is completely incomprehensible how a person who for so long has carried the responsibility of bringing to the public an accurate reporting of all the news coming out our the White House could be so grossly ignorant of world history; could be so blatantly prejudice; and could be so journalistically naive as to ever make such a comment to a fellow journalist, nevertheless one with a camera and a microphone in his hand, simply boggles the mind!
Be that as it may, the Helen Thomas story is a small story at best. For at the end of the day, who is she? Is she responsible for formulating U.S. foreign policy? No. Do she possess a significant loyal following who hang on her every word and who transform her utterances into votes in the polling place? No. Yes, she is a known personality, but that is about it. She does not have the power to change the world. She does not personally pose even a minor threat to the security of Israel or the future of Middle East peace. Sad to say, today, she has become an opinionated old lady who can no longer maintain the objectivity her job requires.
But in her day, she really was something! She earned her place in the front row of Presidential press conferences. She achieved something no other woman before her was able to achieve; she was the first woman to serve as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. She challenged and earned the respect of 10 consecutive U.S. Presidents. She has done so much to advance the cause and status of women in journalism. Even in the heat generated by this recent diatribe, all the good that she has accomplished should not, and must not, be forgotten.
Helen Thomas made a stupid and bigoted statement. And she has suffered for it. So many of those who honored her in the past have denounced her in the present. From all sorts of places came calls for her to be fired. Many were truly out for blood. And to her credit, rather than cause her employers the embarrassment of having to fire her, she demonstrated the graciousness of resigning. Indeed, if one were to think of the reactions on a proportional scale, then one would have to wonder why, if Helen Thomas’ 15 second utterance has generated so much anger and vehemence then when one considers all the outrageous statements made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran over the past several years, why have we not nuked that country back to the stone age? The point is that even though what she did was indeed offensive, she has paid the price for her indiscretion. Having forced her to step away from the public life which has been so important to her for all these years, it is pointless to skewer her further.
I especially am concerned about whether or not my fellow Jews and my fellow supporters of Israel will be able to let this matter go. We have bigger fish to fry. So let us not get fixated on the utterances of a 89 year old woman, no matter how public a figure she once was. Let us not permit this episode to distract us from the real challenges which today face Israel; the ongoing challenge of achieving peace WITH security; the ongoing challenge of pursuing justice for Israel in a world which is all to ready to condemn her every action, with, and especially without, justification. Wish as some may, Helen Thomas simply will not effectively stand in the eyes of the world for all those who openly despise Israel. Whatever she said, she will not distract the rest of the world from looking to serious address the crisis in Gaza. So let us not harp on her ridiculous interview, but rather let us focus on how we can address the issue of Gaza in a way which will protect our brothers and sisters in Israel while at the same time be far more effective in advancing the flow of humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Gaza