I had a brief back-and-forth with Steve Safran at Lost Remote concerning Helen Thomas' comments about Jews in Palestine. Thomas, aged 89, expressed "deep regrets" for remarks posted on RabbiLIVE.com and resigned as Hearst Newspapers columnist, leaving the chair in the White House press room that she has occupied since she covered John F Kennedy.
"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," was the soundbite that all three network newscasts quoted to explain what got Thomas into trouble. Safran called Thomas' remarks "anti-Semitic." I call that particular comment anti-Zionist--she seemed to be referring to the Occupied Territories when she said "Palestine" but she may have been referring to the entire former British Mandate--but not, on its face, anti-Semitic. Where Thomas crossed the line was to assert that "home" for Jews is Poland and Germany and to suggest that they should move back there. That is not only inaccurate; it is shockingly insensitive; and does count as an anti-Semitic canard.
None of the three correspondents who covered the end of Thomas' storied career investigated whether personal anti-Zionism should be a disqualification for a job covering the White House. CBS' Sharyl Attkisson went no further than to note that "many say Thomas crossed the line from feisty to offensive with these remarks" but she did not specify which ones. ABC's Dan Harris referred merely to "a controversy" and harsh criticism; NBC's Andrea Mitchell noted nonspecifically that "a firestorm erupted."
Should a reporter who personally believes that the state of Israel illegitimately occupies Palestinian land be disqualified from covering the White House? Or is anti-Zionism acceptable and only anti-Semitism beyond the pale?
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