Belief Beat

(I was going to save this for Fun Friday, but decided to save that for something more funny ha-ha, less funny tragic.) Last night’s episode of The Colbert Report featured a surprise interview with Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., regarding the fatal raid on the Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla and the controversial remarks that have forced longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas into retirement.

Here’s how Stephen Colbert concluded the interview. See if you can spot where my gasping startled the dog:


I want to say that I repudiate what Helen said. She’s a friend, but I repudiate everything she said. “Go back to Poland, go back to Germany.” That’s ridiculous. Israel is for Israelis. If anything, the Palestinians should go back to where they came from. (Audience laughs, as Oren hesitates.) Do you agree? Do you agree, sir? It’s time to get them back to wherever that was?


Alas I don’t agree. I think there’s room for both of us to share this homeland: Palestinians living in their homeland, Israelis living in their homeland, in a position of permanent and legitimate peace.

For the record, I’ve already explained my professional reasons for not slapping the “anti-Semitic” label on Thomas or what she said, both here and over at this GetReligion post; similar debates are raging in response to Robert Scheer’s Huffington Post column, on Rod Dreher’s Beliefnet blog and elsewhere. Meanwhile, for an in-depth analysis of why Israel (and many American Jews) interprets international criticism over the flotilla raid and its nine civilian casualties as “mostly hyperbole linked to centuries of anti-Jewish persecution,” check out yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor story.

Incidentally, I’ve been hesitant about whether every story about Israel automatically falls under the category of religion news, keeping in mind that I can only link to a fraction of the headlines I read every day from mainstream, Jewish, Catholic, etc. media. (So far, I’ve aimed to cover the obvious stories — the ones making headlines in both secular and religious outlets — while also checking in with as many faith groups as possible every week.) What do you think, dear readers? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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