Maybe, instead of easing Helen Thomas out the door, we should have listened more closely to her.
Thomas, who always seemed to be trying to stir up controversy with her provocative comments during White House news conferences in recent years, ended up creating her own media whirlwind. But as usual, the mainstream media is missing the point.
On May 27, an anonymous rabbi with a video camera asked her if she had any thoughts on Israel. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” Thomas spewed. “Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Poland.” Thomas added that Israelis should leave the Middle East and “go home” to Germany, Poland and the U.S.
Within days, the 89-year-old Thomas had been shuttled into retirement by Hearst Newspapers, and the explanations began.
Journalist Jon Ward penned a piece for The Washington Post’s June 13 Outlook section explaining that Thomas had been overcome by the elements. He explained that he helped her that day. It was oppressively hot “as she walked in her slow shuffle along the White House’s North Lawn driveway.” It was, apparently, while Ward was hailing her a cab that Thomas made her fateful comments.
Ward insists we’ll miss Helen Thomas (that’s even the title of his piece). “As zany and obvious as Thomas’s journalism-turned-advocacy had become, is there something the White House press corps could learn from her attitude?” he wonders.
Her long-time nemesis doesn’t think so. “I think those remarks were offensive and reprehensible,” Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “I think she should and has apologized, because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of, I assume, most of the people in here and certainly not of the administration.”
That’s probably true. But.
The words do seem to reflect the opinion of prominent Palestinian leaders. “Helen Thomas offered the official Hamas position, as far as I can tell,” explained The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.
Hamas, a terrorist group, is also the democratically elected government of Palestinian Gaza. If we’re looking for a point in Thomas’ rant, it should be this: Many Palestinians -- perhaps even a majority -- think the same things she said. They want Israelis to “go home” and turn over the land that is now Israel to them.
We don’t hear that often enough in the U.S. For decades, a series of American administrations have focused on keeping a “peace process” alive. Our policy has been to tell Israelis they should trade “land for peace.”