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The Only Democracy? » Discrimination » Helen Thomas response, hypocrisy here and there

Helen Thomas response, hypocrisy here and there

By Cecilie Surasky, crossposted from

It’s impossible to defend White House Grande Dame of journalism Helen Thomas’ recent off the cuff statement that Israeli Jews should go back to Germany…..or Poland. (She said Israel should get out of Palestine, but it wasn’t clear if she meant the Occupied Territories, which Israelis should get out of, or Israel behind the green line.) It was deeply offensive and wrong.

One of this country’s most important and courageous journalists said something terribly wrong, was massively criticized, apologized for it, and was forced into retirement. Exactly the way it should be, right? Wrong.

It’s hard to even chart out the hypocrisy of the whole affair. What happened in 2002 when House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on MSNBC’s Hardball? An outraged response? Nary a peep. That same year Senator James Inhofe also called for Israel to permanently retain all of the Occupied Territories, “Because God said so. ”  Did he quit? No. And what to make of the fact that Obama’s White House summoned infinitely more moral outrage for Thomas’ terrible but certainly not lethal remarks, than for the death of 9 people on the Mavi Marmara, including a 19-year-old US citizen shot in the head. (One prompted “deep regret”, the other was “reprehensible”. Guess which was which.)

There’s also the glass house in which Rabbi Nessenoff lives: he’s the one who recorded the Thomas gotcha video and who, it seems, has offered the world his own offensive imitation of a Mexican priest, and believes that Palestinians all belong back home…in Jordan.

In Israel, the hypocrisy is even more painful, where it should be noted that the Israeli military recently created an order that, according to many human rights groups and Ha’aretz, “will enable mass deportation from West Bank.” Who had to retire because of that? Maybe because it wasn’t an off the cuff remark to suggest ethnic cleansing, but an actual military order to allow it, its authors escaped opprobrium.

Just this week, Likud party MK, Miri Regev shouted at Hanin Zuabi, an Arab member of the Knesset from Nazareth who went on the Gaza flotilla, “Get back to Gaza, you traitor!” Sounds familiar, as though Thomas herself could have said it. Outrage meter? Zero. Then again, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai wants Zuabi stripped of her Israeli citizenship, so telling her to go back to a place she is not from actually seems pretty mild by those standards.

Moshe Yaroni, who abhors what Thomas said, compares her treatment to Israel’s response to the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick who is surely responsible for what will go down as one of the most morally heinous pieces of agitprop in modern history:

In Israel, the premier woman journalist in the country went a hell of a lot farther, in a premeditated, rather than an impetuous fashion. And there is hardly a peep in response in her home country.

Caroline Glick is well-known to readers of right-wing e-mail lists, and of course, of the Jerusalem Post, where she is the deputy managing editor and a regular columnist. She is also a fellow at the extremist neoconservative Center for Security Policy in Washington.

Caroline Glick with fellow travelers Morton Klein and John Bolton

Glick herself is an extremist, and even those who agree with her (and who would, of course, not refer to her as an extremist) would have to agree that she situates herself well to the right of the current Israeli government. And that’s all well and good; she’s an op-ed writer, and she is certainly entitled to her opinions.

But at her web site, Latma, Glick has raised her vitriol to a whole new level. In a video overflowing with racism, a group of Israelis satirize the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. You can see it for yourself here, if you can make it through the whole thing.

In a most contemptible fashion, almost every trope of bigotry is on display in the video, which features the contention that the massive suffering in Gaza is all an elaborate fabrication. For a quick rundown of this “fabricated” suffering, check out B’Tselem’s summary of conditions in Gaza.

This level of cruelty is truly astonishing. Even if one contends that the Gaza blockade is a necessary security measure (see my earlier article for why it has the opposite effect), it is appalling to see fellow Jews laughing about it. And don’t we know all too well the offense in denying such things?

The punch line, of course, is that because of her truly abominable and utterly vile video, Caroline Glick and is being hailed as a Hasbara hero in Israel- while one of our few truly great journalists has ended an otherwise remarkable career. Yaroni continues:

No, the real concern, the real question is where is the Israeli outrage? We wouldn’t expect it from the government, of course. In fact, the Government Press Office e-mailed the video to journalists and later apologized, saying it had been done in error. That is unlikely to say the least. Mark Regev, the Prime Minister’s Office Spokesman said “I called my kids in to watch it because I thought it was funny. It is what Israelis feel. But the government has nothing to do with it.”

The courageous blog, Coteret, run by Didi Remez, blasts the video and all it represents. But in the mainstream Israeli media and commentary, there is nothing. This blatantly hateful and racist video is perfectly acceptable in Israel.

Glick, on her blog, magnifies her hypocrisy by spending a great many words blasting Thomas for her offensive remarks.

Grit Tv’s Laura Flanders may be onto something when she says:

Thomas’s crime wasn’t just Antisemitism — it was Antisemitism in defense of Palestine. That’s the true source of the outrage. The outrage that Obama and Biden and most other U.S. officials, to say nothing of the majority of the press corps, can’t seem to find for others.

I’m not sure. Had Helen Thomas made a similar remark about African Americans, for example, I’m not sure the same fate wouldn’t have befallen her. If only I could feel confident that power-brokers in the world of journalism and even my own government cared as much about my Arab and Palestinian friends as they seem to care about me… as a Jew of course.

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Cecilie Surasky is the grandaughter of Socialist Zionist activists, and her analyses of Israel-Palestine politics have appeared in media outlets around the world. She is the Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace and the founding editor of Muzzlewatch, JVP's blog documenting efforts to silence open debate about Israel-Palestine policy.

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