Pioneering journalist Helen Thomas, the first woman to serve in the White House press corp, is heard here for the first time since she resigned from her White House post after stating; “Tell ‘em to get the hell out of Palestine…. They should go home… [to] Poland, Germany.”)referring to the European Israeli settlers who were part of the founding of the state of Israel.
Ms. Thomas parents were from a part of Syria which is now in Lebanon. She has expressed a resentment which is felt throughout the Arab world towards settlers from Europe who settled in Israel. Thomas's words contained an incredibly open degree of frankness for someone in public life. However she is 90 years old. Elderly people are not known to mince their words. The real question is whether the statements were in fact anti-Semitic? I think they were.
I agree that modern Israel is in large part a settler colony with many European immigrants. But many of these immigrants have ancient ties of both blood and religion to Palestine. On the other hand how would we feel if first nations people (Native Americans) demanded the land of America back? Of course wee would not like it. Many Americans would take up arms to defend what they believe is rightly theirs. This is the quandary. Palestinians feel their land has been stolen. Israel's feel they are in the homeland that was promised to them thousands of years ago by God. This presents what appears at first blush to be a zero sum game. If onw person wins the other loses. It does not have to be this way.
The better approach for Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole is the approach pioneered by Nelson Mandela and the African Nationalist Congress in South Africa. The white settlers stole the land from the people of South Africa, oppressed and murdered them in a most barbaric manner. In spite of this great evil perpetrated by the Boers, The British and the Apartheid regime, Mandela decided to forgive these people of their evil deeds and laid the groundwork for a new society that incorporated everyone. Israel is not South Africa but if the south African people can forgive the white population of South Africa for its crimes against humanity the Arab world and the Palestinians can make peace with Israel. Forgiveness is redemptive. Hate is self consuming. Yasser Arafat, the late head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization wasted a major opportunity to make peace with Israel at the end of the second Clinton administration. This was the best deal that the Palestinians will see in our lifetime. This failure to make peace is the biggest reason that there is continued Palestinian suffering today. The surrounding Arab nations, along with Iran have a vested interest in portraying Israel as the great evil. In this manner they can blame all of their individual countries problems on Israel and maintain their tyrannical, undemocratic regiemes.
Unfortunately Helen Thomas and many people in the Arab world do not accept that Israel exists and will continue to exist whether they like it or not. Peace is the only answer. Ms. Thomas should have taken the approach of a Mandela and used her influence to foster reconciliation not division. Regrettably she did not do this.
Israel has been the victim of horrific and barbaric terrorist attacks and four wars since its inception as a nation. All four wars were initiated by its neighbors, even the 1967 war where Israel attacked first after her neighbors began massing troops on Israel's borders.
The Jewish people suffered the holocaust immediately prior to the founding of modern Israel, the greatest mass murder of the 20th Century. Many legitimately argue that the Palestinian people should not pay for Germany's great evil. The point is it is way past time to argue about the circumstances surrounding the founding of Israel. The question now is how can everyone in the area live in peace. Israel has much to offer its neighbors in the areas of economic and technological development. A resolution of the Palestinian conflict would bring a tremendous peace dividend to the whole region. In addition it might lead to the democratization of the whole region.
Helen Thomas does not understand the big picture of how Israel and the rest of the world are interrelated. Peace is the only answer.
John H. Armwood