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She Spoke Truth to Power

by Dave Stratman

June 8, 2010


Israel is the “third rail” of American politics which public figures dare not touch except to praise it. Helen Thomas, the fearless and respected dean of White House correspondents, last week grasped the third rail with both hands. As one person put it, "Helen Thomas would have gotten in less trouble if she had shot 9 people in the head on a humanitarian ship."  

You’ve probably seen the YouTube video(
by now. RabbiLive asks, “Any comments about Israel?” Thomas  responds, “They should get the hell out of Palestine.” Then she adds, “Remember, these people [the Palestinians] are occupied. It’s their land. It’s not German, not Poland.” Then the rabbi asks, “So where should they go?” “They should go back to Poland and Germany, and America, and everywhere else.”

A few days later the video went viral on the Internet. Right-wingers and Zionist Jews have long targeted Thomas for her anti-war and anti-Israel views. Former George Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer appeared on Fox News calling for Thomas’s resignation. Fleischer, apparently aiming to set a new standard for Zionist hypocrisy, said in a horrified tone, “She is advocating religious cleansing.”  

The Jewish State, of course, is based on religious and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land. Israeli law requires everyone in Israel 16 years or older to carry an ID card specifying his religion. Israel is criss-crossed by “Jews-only” highways, where non-Jews are not permitted to travel. Those few Palestinian villages surviving in Israel are walled-off from the rest of Israel, in many cases separating Palestinians from their farms and families. Palestinian refugees and their descendants (a total of about 4.5 million people) are not permitted by Israel to return to Israel/Palestine. Palestine is, as Helen Thomas had the courage to say, “an occupied land.”  

Thomas made her remarks on May 27, at a White House Jewish Heritage Celebration. Four days later Israeli commandoes attacked a flotilla and murdered nine peace activists bringing humanitarian aid to break the three-year Israeli siege of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinian men, women, and children are barely surviving in an open-air concentration camp. At a White House briefing last week Helen Thomas described the Israeli attack as a “deliberate massacre, an international crime.” (NYT, 6/7/10) 

There is a bit of relatively unknown history necessary to put Thomas’s remarks in context. 

After World War II a great many Jews in Displaced Persons camps wanted to emigrate to America. The U.S. Congress, working with Zionist leaders, blocked legislation that would have permitted them to enter the U.S. John Spritzler writes that “American Zionist organizations... worried that fewer European Jews would resettle in Israel if the possibility existed of getting to the United States. One Zionist, Rabbi Klaussner, who was in charge of "Displaced persons," presented a report before the Jewish American Conference on May 2 1948:

"I am convinced people must be forced to go to Palestine....We must, instead of providing 'displaced persons' with comfort, create the greatest possible discomfort for them." [Alfred H. Lilienthal in "What Price Israel," cited in John Spritzler, “Elites Foment Strife to Control the People” (   

Zionist pressure on foreign leaders to prevent Jews from emigrating to the countries of their choice did not stop with the early years of Israel. Spritzler continues, “Later, when Jews were seeking to flee anti-semitism in the former Soviet Union, the Israeli reporter, Bo'az Evron, in the April 4 1991 Yediot Aharonot, exposed how Zionist leaders were prodding nations to deny entry to Jewish refugees. He wrote: ‘Zionism is interested in seeing to it that the Jews suffer, so that they will leave their homes and come to Israel. This is why each glimmer of anti-Semitism fills the hearts of Zionists with relief.’” 

Jews are still arriving in Israel to take over land stolen from Palestinians. Israel is by its own definition “a state of all the Jews.” This means that any Jew anywhere in the world, from Russia or New Jersey or Brooklyn, has the right to emigrate to Israel, receive generous aid from the Israeli government, and occupy Palestinian land and even perhaps a former Palestinian’s home, while the former Palestinian owners are forbidden to return.  

There are many truths about Israel and Palestine that are kept from the American people simply because these truths fly in the face of most Americans’ sense of justice and fair play and would undermine support for the Jewish State. When Helen Thomas drew attention to the fact that Palestine is an occupied country–occupied by the Jews who drove out the people who lived there and stole their land–she is simply telling a truth that Americans are generally not permitted to hear. When she suggested that Israeli Jews should go back home to Poland or Germany or America, she was not far from reflecting the desires of many Israeli Jews, who are in Israel because the Zionist leaders connived with leaders of other countries to allow Jews to go to Israel and Israel only.  

Are there Jews who would choose to remain in Israel, given the choice? Surely there must be. Should the Jewish citizens of Israel be allowed to remain on lands and in homes and villages stolen from Palestinians which Palestinians are forbidden to return to? Certainly not. Justice demands that some compromise be reached that permits Palestinians to return home and Jews who wish to remain in Palestine to stay, but only if they are willing to live on an equal footing with Palestinians, in a state where religious and ethnic cleansing no longer exist. 

Though her remarks may not have been exactly as she may have put them had she had a few moments to edit them, Helen Thomas spoke more truth about Israel in these off-the-cuff remarks than most Americans have ever heard from any other American reporter or political leader. She ended her career on a high note, which is why she is now under attack.

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