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Posted at 2:49 PM ET, 06/ 7/2010

Who cares what Helen Thomas thinks?

By Peter Galuska

Walt Whitman HIgh School in Bethesda was right to cancel a speech by longtime journalist Helen Thomas after her over-the-top remarks about Israel, saying that the Jews should go back to Germany and Poland.

But one wonders why anyone really cares what Thomas, 89, says these days. Her distinguished reporting career with dying United Press International came to an end a decade ago, and her final retirement was announced today.

To be sure, Thomas was a pioneer. When she started in journalism more than half a century ago, female reporters were considered frivolous or oddities. This type of sexism endured for years. When I was a summer intern at a Southern metropolitan paper around 1973, the newspaper had recently been sued for paying all male reporters on an "A" scale and all females on a lesser "B" scale.

Thomas was a pioneer as the first female president of the National Press Club and the first woman to go with Richard Nixon on his groundbreaking trip to the People's Republic of China.

But she also was the first female "dean" of White House correspondents, and that could be a big part of the problem. This may go down badly for a D.C. audience, but being part of the White House pack means tightly controlled access and lots of manipulation by whatever administration is in charge. There are lots of hidebound rules and traditions that have more to do with promoting stenography than aggressive journalism.

I never was a White House correspondent, but I did work with them during summits between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and later between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. White House correspondents were the ultimate generalists but didn't seem to get much below the surface. They seemed like pigeons in a cage.

Coming from this world, Thomas probably doesn't know all that much about Israel, Palestine or the Middle East despite her decades in the business. I doubt she speaks any of the languages or has studied the region in depth.

And being the "dean" seems oh-so-1950s. That moniker is is just as irrelevant as Helen Thomas has unfortunately become.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuska  | June 7, 2010; 2:49 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, Maryland, Montgomery County, media  
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Her family is from Lebanon, you know. Of course, that doesn't guarantee that she knows the region or any local languages, but it certainly makes it slightly more plausible than for the average White House reporter.

Posted by: daiconradmi | June 7, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Galuszka: I think she likely has thought quite a bit about the Middle East over the years, especially given her Christian Greek Orthodox roots in Lebanon. I've spent time in Lebanon as well, and one thing that really gets under my nerves about Israel is how a formerly multi-religious territory comes to be dominated by one religion which we in the United States get behind time after time. People from the other religions are displaced to other lands and it's as if they don't count. She was certainly over the top, as you say, but she was far from ignorant.

Posted by: daharbin | June 7, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

"... Thomas probably doesn't know all that much about Israel, Palestine or the Middle East..."

Horse manure! The United Nations made a terrific blunder when they decided to "give" that land to a people whose only claim to it is that their ancestors lived there more than 2,000 years ago. And they've been involved in ethnic cleansing ever since. I'm an American and as such I don't support any kind of oppression. The world has been more than patient with the Israelis because of the guilt they felt over the failure to save the Jews from the Nazis, but that guilt is rapidly fading.

Posted by: Hope1844 | June 7, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

"I've spent time in Lebanon as well, and one thing that really gets under my nerves about Israel is how a formerly multi-religious territory comes to be dominated by one religion which we in the United States get behind time after time.

Posted by: daharbin | June 7, 2010 5:25 PM"

You do realize that your comment makes much more sense as a critique of Islam, than of Judaism? Of all the criticisms one can level against Israel, accusing it of destroying religious diversity in the Middle East has to rank pretty low. How are those Christian communities in Antioch, Alexandria and Ephesus coming along?

Posted by: simpleton1 | June 7, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

This incident is interesting in that, for once, an Israel hater has suggested what the endgame for the dissolution of the Jewish state might be. Most people when they decry or support a policy, even the so-called pros, don't think their way through to what the practicalities of implementing it might be — or keep mum on the subject. At least Helen Thomas offers a picture of a Palestine where a policy has been seen through to a conclusion.

So we may wonder about how it will take place. We may hate the pictures of the rough conditions of Gaza at present and rightly — but are we prepared for scenes of the expulsion of Jews from the Holy Land? After a few videos of Jewish mothers and children being driven into Palestinian transports, or worse, how will the sensitive among us feel then?

Pursuing Ms. Thomas’ policy, let us consider further. After moving the few Israelis who have ever lived in Europe back to their family homes (after presumably displacing the German and Polish squatters, or should I say, their grandchildren), where do the descendants of German and Polish Jews go who know no home in Europe, and who likely do not speak the language of their “homeland”? And where do we put the Jews whose families are indigenous to the land, for there are more than a few? Or how about the Jews who have arrived from other Middle Eastern countries from which they have been expelled or “encouraged to move on”? Will we force these Muslim countries to take them back? What of the children and grandchildren who may have one parent of native extraction, and one of European? Shall we create a test for European Jewishness to guide our expulsion policy?

Let’s say that some Jews of some kind are allowed to own property and live in a newly minted Islamic state of Palestine. Will we expect that they will not be molested? How about their holy places? Perhaps we should not care. Perhaps the treatment of Jews would be no one’s business but the Palestinians living on their own land.

I suggest to you that anyone’s policy on Palestine should revolve around imagining an outcome. If you can then live with the likely outcome, then support the policy. Many of us are tired of dangerous policies that depend on demonizing one side and making angels of the other. There is plenty of blame to go around. Depend on it, a reasonable outcome will involve a lot of grating compromise, much unfairness and widespread unhappiness.

Posted by: maxpost | June 7, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

forget the content of the remarks, Thomas is a buffoon and a dinosaur who should have retired gracefully 20 years ago.
Like the geezers occupying the US Senate she is a classic example of why we need age limits for all working americans.

Posted by: bomeb80q | June 7, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm getting sick of Israel. Period. I was all for them, but Sacred Cows can still do wrong. Why are we sending our soldiers over to the middle east to kill and be killed? Because of one little country that has pushed everybody else to the limit. Disgraceful. Living in this country is akin to sitting in on the Mad Hatter's tea party. I do not support pushing people around (bullies) because you once got pushed around. And, who in their right mind would? Let's see how long this blurb is allowed to stay posted. I noticed another Support Helen Thomas site was pulled down already on Yahoo! Boy, we're screwed.

Posted by: ccordet | June 7, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

"You do realize that your comment makes much more sense as a critique of Islam, than of Judaism?"
simpleton1: The comment was not about Judaism but about the GOVERNMENT of Israel. They are NOT one and the same. When people figure this out, perhaps there can be a peace agreement. I seriously doubt that if you plucked the average American Jew off the streets and took them to see how the Israeli government operates they would fully support the government's actions. Does this make them anti semitic? In fact all hard core Zionists are by definition anti smites.
Notice the word ARAB is listed. Therefore, if a Zionist hates Arabs, he is an anti smite.

Posted by: Standardman76 | June 8, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Whether or not she knows about the region, her comments were simply disrespectful and made her seem ignorant, which is what discredited her IMO. Everyone has the right to their opinion but going around shouting at ethnic or religious groups that they should "get the hell out" of the only country most of them consider home, especially when you are an outsider to that particular issue, is not only downright ignorant but belies a deeply disturbing belief that terrorism is justified.

Posted by: jpay10 | June 8, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The real question is why should Americans care what dual-nationality "American" Jews think? Another valid question is why are American Jews more concerned about protecting Israeli Imperialism, and not America and our Constitutional right to freedom of speech and thought? What does it say when Jews tolerate (and encourage) protesters who demand the USA get out of Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other country -- but freak out when an American journalist says Israel should get out of Palestine? Israel is not more special than other countries are. No sane person really believes Jews are “God's Chosen People” more than the rest of humanity. Using WWII to justify Israeli terrorism doesn't fly any more. In fact, Time is vindicating Hitler's futile attempt to defend his country against Jewish exploitation, as Jewish cruelty, deceit and greed are being exposed internationally, thanks in part to the Internet. The truth is getting out, no matter how many WWII movies Jews crank out propagandizing the masses.

America, and the world, would all be better off if Jews left Palestine. Jewish families will experience discomfort as they leave the Palestinian territories they have occupied and relocate to other countries. This is a small price to pay for the permanent, lifetime suffering they have inflicted on millions of Palestinians. Unfortunately, getting the Jews out of Palestine will just spread social unrest and unhappiness because Jews exploit the natives and foment unrest everywhere they go. Jewish exploitation of Gentiles is a Jewish tradition and the reason nations have historically resorted, in exasperation, to driving Jews out of their country. It's high time Jews abandoned their narcissistic, racist primitive religion and joined the world, instead of holding themselves apart as superior to the rest of humanity.

Posted by: Pollynkorect | June 8, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Of course the Jews have a right to live in Israel but so do the Palestinians. The US should butt out of Israel's business - If Israel wants to pursue a South Africa-like policy against the Palestinians they should do so but WITHOUT US taxpayer support.

Posted by: Jim31 | June 8, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Very few actually care what she thinks but Republicans saw an opening to cry about her comments b/c they feel that it hurts Democrats

In reality, very few Independents will blame Democrats for her comments

The more right-wingers cry about this, the bigger babies they come off as

Posted by: Bious | June 8, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Not care that Israel is imposing apartheid on the Palestinians? Or dare we say it, creating Palestinian concentration camps?

As Israel's biggest supporter, American must make Israel stop its insanely cruel policies simply by pulling the plug on its support.

Posted by: michele3d | June 8, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

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