Anti-semitism flap sinks Helen Thomas
White House scribe: Israel should get ‘the hell out of Palestine’
WASHINGTON – Helen Thomas, the doddering dowager dean of the White House Press Corps who made her name as an opinionated bulldog was done in by her own cantankerousness yesterday, after opining that Israelis should get “the hell out of Palestine.”
Thomas, on the verge of her 90th birthday, was considered a pioneer for women in journalism, but had turned into a punchline for presidents and late-night talk show hosts. She retired abruptly yesterday as a Hearst columnist under a cloud of anti-Semitism.
The flap was fueled by Rabbilive.com Rabbi David Nesenoff, who runs the Web site, and had approached Thomas after a Jewish Heritage Day event at the White House on May 27. He asked whether she had any comments on Israel. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she replied. “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, it’s not Poland.”
Asked where Jews should go, she answered, “They should go home … Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.”
“Indefensible,” the White House Correspondents Association said. “Offensive and reprehensible,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. On her Web site yesterday, Thomas said, “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians . . . They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”
Thomas began covering the White House for UPI in 1960, and became the first female White House bureau chief for a wire service in 1974. She joined Hearst in 2000, remaining a front-row presence, persistent to the point of badgering.
A daughter of Lebanese immigrants, she didn’t hide her pro-Arab views. She asked President Obama two weeks ago: “Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are you continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘If we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.’ ”
Thomas was due to speak at the June 14 graduation of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., but Principal Alan Goodwin uninvited her Sunday, saying, “Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness.”
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