Monday, June 07, 2010

Helen Thomas Speaks Her Mind

As a teenager between the hours of 6PM to 9PM I often listened to sports talk radio host Art Rust, Jr. on WABC. Rust was a pioneer who as a black man broke down barriers to become a prominent media personality and important influence. Rust's call in talk show went well beyond sports and focused on our society as a whole. He had an enormous influence on me.

Rust was a courageous journalist who claimed illegal drugs were an epidemic in sports long before others in his profession did. It was also Rust who first made me aware of a subtle form of racism that existed in our culture when he observed that well spoken black athletes were typically described by white commentators as "articulate" as if we should be surprised they could speak. Rust often noted dryly that the same observation was seldom made about well spoken white athletes.

One evening in the late 1980s, Rust's program had callers voicing opinions about comments made by Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons who claimed that if Larry Bird were black he'd be regarded as just another good player in the NBA. A black caller attempted to make excuses for Isiah Thomas about how he was interviewed after the heat of battle against the Celtics in the playoffs and wasn't responsible for his words. As I remember it, Rust cut him off and said, "Caller he spoke what was on his mind."

Helen Thomas (obviously no relation to Isiah Thomas!) spoke her mind last week when she said Jewish people should leave "Palestine" and return to where they come from to countries such as Poland, Germany and the United States. Historically, her comments are absurd. Millions of Jews were liquidated in Poland and Germany during the Holocaust. Israel was created largely as the result of a refugee crisis created by the Holocaust from countries who didn't want to accept any more Jewish people. Among the countries that had stringent immigration laws against Jews was the United States! And the reference to Germany and Poland suggests Jews should have just remained among people who had demonstrated their homicidal hostility against them.

Practically speaking, as I wrote in my previous post, if your position is that the Jews should simply leave Israel and give up on the Jewish state then you're not serious about a judicious peace. Israel has existed for over six decades and its not giving up its sovereignty any more than the United States is likely to give back territory it seized from Mexico in the 19th century. That is a non-starter. Yes, a symbolic admission of the Palestinians right of return and the hardships they endured from losing their homes in 1948 should be agreed too. I'm intensely critical of Israel's continuing occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza. To suggest however that the Jews should simply leave Israel and return to where they came from is blatant anti-Semitism.

I have long admired Helen Thomas's career as a journalist. She often asked questions of Presidents that no one else dared. Her career also broke down barriers and made it possible for more women to cover the White House. A bigot is a bigot however and that is how she will be remembered. Even worse, her anti-Semitic diatribe has made it more difficult for an honest critique of Israeli policies and discussion of the disproportionate influence of the Israeli lobby. The happiest people of all right now about her comments are none other than AIPAC and Bibi Netenyahu.

Heck of a job Ms. Thomas. And good riddance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good riddance? Fuck you. Helen Thomas speaks the truth.