For what it’s worth – and like fellow Big Journalism contributer Jeff Dunetz – I don’t think Helen Thomas should have been forced out. Now that she’s resigned, the story will wither away. And with it will wither discussion of how antisemitism is not only pervasive in some liberal elite media circles, which is what Jeff ran down, but also how it manages to make itself respectable.
First a very thin silver lining, which is that Hamas is going to be grumpy:
Thomas:”Jews do not belong in Israel” – White house correspondent Helen Thomas told Jews to get out of Palestine. In an interview with her, Jewish man named as David, asked Helen for her comment on Israel, she responded by saying: “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.” Turning her attention to the Palestinians, she said, “Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land,” adding the Jews should “go home” to Poland and Germany.No doubt that Thomas Helen has told the truth that everybody in the world knows, but as American in a very important position , she was attacked by Zionists who went mad from the reality she mentioned in front of all people.
And it’s not like this fiasco doesn’t have an upshot when it comes to elite liberal antisemitism. But the point isn’t merely that many leading anti-Israel reporters and academics are driven by pathological anti-Jewish bigotry. That’s true, but we already knew that. The real significance is that this is another example of the nudge-wink game that they’re all allowed to play, where they channel their antisemitism into ostensibly respectable displays of anti-Israel journalism and scholarship.
Everyone knew that Thomas had a deep, borderline clinical obsession with Jews. But – until she had her meltdown – pointing that out was equivalent to “stifling legitimate criticism of Israel.” Not because anyone was fooled, but becasue everyone was required to pretend that they were fooled.
When Thomas was screeching at Gibbs about how the WH should have harshly and immediately condemned Israel last week, she was already an antisemite. When she was conveying to Tony Snow the Hezbollah view, she was already an antisemite. When she was grandstanding to Obama about Israel’s nuclear program, she was already an antisemite.
The only thing that’s changed is that now they have to admit it.
The same thing happened when foreign policy experts righteously insisted that Chas Freeman was being persecuted because of his “legitimate criticism of Israel,” until Freeman melted down on Iranian TV and started ranting about Jewish conspiracies. This game isn’t limited to the United States either. In Britain high-ranking diplomat Rowan Laxton was taken as a respected adviser on Middle East affairs. His scapegoating of Israel for Western/Muslim tensions was accepted as objective analysis. That was until he melted down at his gym during Lebanon II and started screaming about how “fucking Israelis, fucking Jews” should be “wiped off the face of the earth.”
But this is a rigged game. The breakdowns have to be so severe that the pathologies become undeniable, and that doesn’t always happen. I’ve seen tape of Mearsheimer physically shaking when talking about Jews. He clutched the podium until his knuckles turned white. But everyone treats him as a levelheaded and suave analyst of realpolitik, because he hasn’t melted down publicly. Yet.
But back to Thomas specifically. I understand the argument about how taboos are only taboos if you enforce them. I’ve made the same point in the context Ahmadinejad and Walt And Mearsheimer. It’s been obvious for at least a decade that anti-Israel partisand were using insincere “legitimate topics of debate” to mainstream antisemitism. But the premise behind all those examples is that a legitimate speaker – either someone invested with formal institutional authority like Ahmadinejad or someone with academic ethos like Walt or Mearsheimer – is doing the mainstreaming.
But Thomas had reached the point where she’s self-discrediting. In a very precise sense, then, she was anything but a taboo-stomping trailblazer.
She was also a liability to the anti-Israel camp, whereas now she’s just a martyr of the Israel Lobby. It’s a pity. She used to be a 24/7 reminder of what liberal elites tell each other behind closed doors. Her presence is a reminder of the nudge-wink game that people had been playing for years – and proof that it’s absurd.
Ultimately I guess I’m just uneasy with this rush to discredit a lone anti-Zionist for saying out loud what most anti-Zionists believe. Her pathological rage just made her temporarily more honest than the typical one-stater. Usually that topic gets smuggled into public discourse via tirades about the horrors of Israeli “apartheid” or whatever, because Israel is the problem in a region where tens of millions of Muslims live in areas that are legally off-limits to Jews. But there are undoubtedly thousands of liberal elites who believe that the creation of Israel was a historical mistake.
Some of them may even help run American Jewish organizations.
I get the sense that frustration over media prevarication – conditions in Gaza, circumstances of the flotilla raid, etc – created a desperate urge to do something. That combined with her offensive screed made her an attractive target for righteous indignation, stifling what ought to have been tactical considerations about whitewashing media antisemitism and sentimental concerns about piling on an 89 year old woman.
It seems too much like the drunk who looked for his keys under the lamp post, because that’s where the light was – and who now thinks he found them.
* Big Journalism
* Helen Thomas Should Not Be Fired — the Real Problem Lies Elsewhere [Dunetz / Big Journalism]
* Helen Thomas retires [Politico]
* Editor and Publisher Defends the Indefensible Helen Thomas [CAMERA]
* Helen Thomas to Gibbs: Why didn’t you immediately jump to conclusions about this “deliberate massacre” like I did? [Hot Air]
* Tony Snow Quips to Helen Thomas: ‘Thank You for the Hezbollah View’ [NewsBusters]
* Helen Thomas to Obama: Do you know of any country in the Middle East with nukes? [Hot Air]
* Former Ambassador To Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman To Be Appointed To Top Intelligence Post, Join Obama’s Anti-Israel Intel Team (Plus: He Blames US-Israel Ties For 9/11) [Mere Rhetoric]
* Freeman On Iranian TV: “I Shouldn’t Have Been Surprised” Obama Threw Me Under The Bus (Oh, And Israel Won’t Survive) [Mere Rhetoric]
* High-Ranking UK Diplomat Not As Good At Nudge-Wink Anti-Zionism As Other Foreign Policy Experts, Arrested For Anti-Semitic Incitement [Mere Rhetoric]
* Hezbollah Probably Lost the War, But They May Never Have Been In It To Win [Mere Rhetoric]
* More Democrats Repeat Anti-Semitic Canards, Embrace Particularly Anti-Semitic Sounding Parts Of Walt And Mearsheimer [Mere Rhetoric]
* Bankrupt in the marketplace of ideas? [Mere Rhetoric]
* Israel Publishes Gaza Travel Guidebook For Pro-Hamas Freedom Flotilla [Mere Rhetoric]
* Video: New Close-Ups Of Peaceful Gaza Flotilla Brutally Attacking IDF Commandos [Mere Rhetoric]