Helen Thomas has resigned, effective immediately, from her position as a syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corporation. The step, taken in the aftermath of her recent comments suggesting that Jews should get out of Israel and “go back home, to Poland or Germany”, should be welcomed by all intelligent people.
Unlike many in the Jewish community however, I do not think that the issue is her supposed hatred of Jews. Clearly she hates Israel, but that is neither the same as anti-Semitism, nor is it grounds for either her dismissal, for which many had called, or her subsequent retirement. A free press guarantees the right of people to freely express their ignorance and rage.
Nor should her retirement be welcomed because it opens a potential slot in the White House Pressroom for bloggers like Andrew Sullivan, as A.S. suggested earlier today. Though, as a friend commented to me, the notion of all those bloggers needing to get out of their underwear in order to work, is interesting. For the record, I always wear clothes when I write!
The problem with Thomas’ comments is that they reflect either a hatred which skews her understanding of reality, or the thinking of an aging mind no longer up to the task of interpreting complex events in the contemporary world. Either way, the time for Thomas to go, has surely come.
Her claim that Israel/Palestine belongs to its “original inhabitants” is simply inane. A country based on who was there first would require that the area called Israel and Palestine today, be reserved for idol-worshiping Canaanites and Philistines, who were the “original inhabitants” as far as we know.
If Ms. Thomas wants an area not only free of Jews, but free of Muslims and Christians as well, that would be the way to go. Otherwise, her comments show Thomas to be either a dotty old woman, or someone filled with more hate and rage than people previously understood – emotions which render her analysis of world events irrelevant. In either case, her retirement is entirely appropriate.
Perhaps her most egregious error from a moral or spiritual perspective is her claim that peace will only be found when some group is eliminated from the picture. In traveling down that road, Thomas joins enemies of peace on both sides of the Middle East conflict, people who fantasize about the disappearance of entire cultures and communities from the land they call home.
To be sure, after more than sixty years of journalistic service, Ms. Thomas’ career should not be defined by this moment alone. None of us would survive a test in which the only measure of our lives was a recounting of our worst gaffes. So with no malice or sense of triumph, we should simply welcome Thomas’ departure from a position which she was no longer fit to hold.