Monday, July 23, 2018

My Dinner With Helen Thomas

Credit: Gillean Smith 10-2010
Helen and I enjoy dinner in Washington, D.C. - October 2010
watch the video

The first lady of journalism finds her own words twisted and taken out of context to the point of ending her career. But is there more to the story? History tells all.

Say what you like about Helen Thomas but don't lose sight of what she gave women across the country and Americans as a whole, as far as representing us during every Presidential press conference. She never stopped asking the tough questions. Never.

It was 1970, a time when men worked and the majority of women stayed at home. But you would have never known it following Helen Thomas. In fact, I'm pretty sure she didn't get that memo or wire, in those days. Following the death of my father, then Dean of the White House Press Corps, Merriman Smith, Helen Thomas stepped in as Dean of the White House Press Corps representing U.P.I. (United Press International).

Until recently and for more than 40 years, Helen never missed a Presidential beat.
With the recent incident that happened just before this summer, Helen took a break from public life until just two weeks ago when I visited Washington, D.C. to have dinner with Helen and some other very generous bidders who won Dinner With Helen Thomas with all proceeds going to a very worth charity.

As time permitted during our time that evening, we took a few minutes here and there to talk about life, how she was doing and just what she planned to do next. A woman with much to say, and a vast amount of information only Helen could share, Helen gave all at the dinner table more reason than ever to encourage her to share some of the most amazing stories that no one has ever been told about the numerous presidential administrations she served under as Dean of the White House Press Corps.

We spent a fair amount of time listening to her recount the days she spent traveling with then President Richard Nixon to China. Oh the stories she shared. None of us had any idea of what actually took place during that trip - at least not from the eyes of the woman walking alongside the President of the United States.

To understand Helen Thomas you must be willing to accept the following as 100% true:
Helen Thomas is pro humanity and anti-war, anti-killing or anything that can put people in harm's way. She does not, nor will she ever accept war as an answer to anything but a waste of human life.

Now, take into account the comments that caused Helen Thomas, who some consider the first lady of journalism, to end her career.

Helen Thomas: The Truth Backed By History
On May 27, 2010 as Helen made her way into the White House, someone representing asked Helen if she had any comments about Israel. Her comments were as follows:

Helen Thomas: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.
Remember these people are occupied and it's their land..not German. It's not Poland."

And why would Helen suggest Israelis get out of Palestine? To answer this, you have to know your history.

What History Tells Us:
How long has Palestine been a country?
The British wrestled Palestine away from the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and occupied Palestine up until 1947. In 1947, the UN partitioned the land into Arab and Jewish states. The Arabs did not accept the partition and war broke out. The Jews won a decisive victory, expanded their state and created several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees.

Interviewer comment: "So where should they go? What should they do?"

Helen Thomas: "Go home."

Interviewer: "And where is their home?"

Helen Thomas: "Poland and Germany and America and everywhere else."

In the video clip that hit the Internet, the next line in the video shows the following text:
"Six million Jews were killed at Germany and Poland. Does Helen know that Jews have lived in Israel way before the Holocaust?"

The interviewer and the editor of this clip connected Helen's comment that Israelis should go home to Poland and Germany to the fact that six million Jews were killed in those same countries during the Holocaust. This was to suggest that Helen was anti-Semitic, wanting Israelis to go back to the same places that their ancestors faced unspeakable atrocities.

What History Tells Us:
How many Palestinian refugees still exist?
Today the number of Palestinian total approximately 4.7 million persons, of which 3.4 million are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The largest concentration of Palestine refugees is in Jordan, representing more than 40% of those refugees registered with UNRWA, and the refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, represent 38% of UNRWA’s registration, Lebanon and Syria each host about 10% of the registered refugees and the remainder live in neighboring countries, including Egypt, while others have migrated to Europe, the United States, Canada and South America.

Helen, knowing how many Palestinians are still refugees suggested that Israelis consider going back to their homes today in 2010, when no such atrocities exist and they can live in peace and enjoy their own quality of life. Never did Helen suggest going back in time but back home. Her passion, her stance and what she most values is the sanctity of human life of all human life, no matter race, ethnicity, or anything else. To Helen, every life is worth protecting and cherishing.

And for these comments taken out of context and misunderstood, The Society of Professional Journalists is considering whether or not to retain Helen Thomas' name for its Lifetime Achievement Award.

About the Writer

BusinessLife is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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6 comments on My Dinner With Helen Thomas

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By Libdrone on October 12, 2010 at 01:39 am

wow. I have long been a huge Helen Thomas fan (I loved reading her columns when she wrote in the newspaper every day) and your meeting with her sounds truly remarkable. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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By BusinessLife on October 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

@Librone - Thanks for your comment. Reading her column, you must know you can't keep an educated and sharp mind away too long from writing. I trust she will providing us all with her insight and understanding of this crazy thing we know as politics. :)

@Bill - Took your advice on the photo with Helen. Everytime I have the opportunity to sit down for a chat, I learn so much. Would that we all could sit down with Helen to open to what she has seen and heard firsthand!

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By Ariel on October 12, 2010 at 10:31 am

I'm not sure I get your point. Are you saying you agree with Helen and that Israelis should go back "home" in Germany and Poland?

The whole point of Israel is that we jews did not have a home country, and that because of this we could not flee anywhere when the holocaust happened. Asking Israelis to go back to Germany and Poland not only doesn't make any sense, but it is also incredibly insensitive.

You can stick whatever label you want on Helen Thomas, "pro-humanity", "anti-war", or what have you, the fact is that she messed up when she said that. Was it a lapse of judgement on her end? Or did she really believe what she said? That's another story, but I'm having a really hard time understanding how you can defend her saying this.

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By BusinessLife on October 12, 2010 at 11:35 am

@Ariel - First, thank you for your comment. Writing this article took a long time. Because I know Helen personally, does not mean I have always agreed with everything she has said. For me, I spent a good deal of time doing my homework - researching history, mostly.

When Helen suggested that Israelis "go home," she was referring to today, 2010 and not going home to the time of the Holocaust. There is an interview with her in which she mentioned how cruel and horrific the Nazis were towards the Jews during the Holocaust. Helen has and continues to be disgusted with anything that has to do with loss of life unnecessarily.

For Helen, it has never been about anything more than preserving human life and not kicking people out of their homes as millions of Palestinians were and still are -living as refugees today.

Helen does not judge a person by his/her race or ethnicity but by his/her words and actions.

If you follow the history, Palestine was a country in its own right. In 1947, the U.N. partitioned the Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. What right did the U.N. have to decide to give away Palestinian land to anyone at all?

But the U.N. partitioned the land anyway, without any Arab consent. Never agreeing to this, Arabs became refugees never the less and are still refugees today.

When the Holocaust happened, people had to flee various countries just because they were Jews. Their homes were taken. So many millions were killed in some of the most unspeakable forms of torture. No one, including Helen denies this senseless cruelty among humanity that occurred.

Today, in 2010, Helen is saying that Jews are safe and have the right to go to their homes in Germany, Poland and America.

The disconnect is to misunderstand Helen's point that today Jewish families do not face such senseless percecution in the countries they once called home. They don't have to be living in the same fear that their homeland in Germany, Poland and in America will not be as safe as it can be in these days and times.

Helen is trying to point out that the Holocaust will always be a horrific and disgusting time in our world's history. But today, Israelis have the ability to go back to Germany, Poland and wherever they were forced out before. They can now live wonderful lives as they richly deserve.

At the same time, Helen is reminding us not to forget the millions of Palestinians who continue to be refugees today. Palestinians have not been able to return to their homes, their country which was taken away by the U.N. in 1947.

I hope I have been detailed enough for you to understand that Helen's comments were not at all connected with the Holocaust. This was done by someone who took Helen's statements, edited and added text that left a viewer to think Helen's words were connected to the Holocaust.

This is not true.

But because there is freedom to say what you want, misconstruing Helen's comments into a nice video clip caused Helen to be seen as anti-Semitic and caused her to lose her career.

Let me know if you have additional questions.

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By Ariel on October 17, 2010 at 01:11 pm

Your point that Jews are now safe to return to what you call their "homes" in Germany, Poland, or America is flawed.

While being a Jew in Europe today is in no way comparable to being one in the 30's or 40's, it is still very far from being easy. Antisemitism is still rampant in Europe. If you're not convinced, please have a look at this article that was published today (in 2010) in the Jersualem Post:

I lived in Paris for most of my life and often had to hide the fact that I was Jewish.

Jews have been persecuted for centuries, and while it definitely goes in waves, and we may be in a lull, I'm not teaching you anything by telling you that History has a tendency to repeat itself. Should that ever be the case, Jews now have a place to run to, a "home" country. This is the whole point of Israel.

Palestinians are equally entitled to a decent life, and this is why the great majority of Israelis are for a two-state solution. Saying Israelis stole Palestinians their country is ignoring hundreds of years of History. You can choose to ignore it and reduce this very complex conflict to a simplistic game of "who stole it last", but in that case, are you sure the US is your home and nobody else's? What if I asked you to go back to your "home" country? Where would that be?

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By BusinessLife on October 19, 2010 at 07:23 am

@Ariel, according to history, Palestine was its own country in 1917, when the British took Palestine from the Turks. The United Kingdom walked away when, in 1948 the U.N. decided to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. I'm not sure what right the United Nations had to divide a country without allowing the people of Palestine be heard as they did not want this to happen.

ONE: So, to be fair, the Palestinians lost their homes and millions are still refugees today, living with no homes at all. No one should forget about this but this does not seem to make the news nor is there an outcry that seems to make it through the international news sources to have something change and to have some way to give back the homes once belonging to Palestinians.

TWO: The shameful and disgusting acts against mankind, just because certain people (men, women and children) were of Jewish faith and were forced out of their homes and killed in the most horrific ways at concentration camps was and is unacceptable. There is nothing that can make what happened during the Holocaust acceptable and no one should forget.

Prejudice against anyone based on race, sex, ethnicity or anything else is often based on fear and causes nothing but negative outcomes no matter the race, sex or ethnicity.

That Helen Thomas was speaking ill of Israelis regarding that atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust is simply false.

Helen is 91 and is completely aware of all who have suffered based on their supposed 'differences' from others regarding race, sex, ethnicity, etc.

Helen's point was not to diminish what happened during World War II to Jewish families who did nothing wrong but live their lives based on their belief that they had the right to do.

Helen wanted to remind people that millions of Palestinians have no homes.

I am not sure that racism will come to an end in my lifetime, although I wish it would. But just as Israelis, African-Americans, American Indians deserve to be treated and respected as all other humans, the point Helen was making was not to forget the millions of Palestinians who are living in refugee camps, still to this day. We each must stand up against prejudice. Helen was reminding people that Palestinians seem to be a forgotten group of men, women and children, who have no place to call home and that for Palestinian refugees, this has lasted more than 60 years.

To think that because you, Ariel are Jewish and this causes people in Europe to consider you less of a human, is more than sad, it's sick and only seems to indicate that learning to appreciate one another as each of us is, will continue to be a struggle, to say the least for some time ahead of us. For what prejudice happens towards you, your family and Jewish men, women and children as well as prejudice towards anyone, I only wish I had a real solution. I see you as a man who is a talented asset to the Broo. What your heritage and faith are have not been issues with me when reading any information you have.

Again, I think the point is to say this: Just like the Jews, Palestinians and many others have been persecuted. Helen wanted to point out that Palestinians seem to be a forgotten group of people with no place to call home for more than 60 years.

This does not diminish the prejudice against any other race, religion, sex, etc.

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