If there were any lingering doubts about the Helen Thomas affair, and whether her now-infamous comment that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" was animated by anything less than a deep-seated anti-Semitism, her remarks to a December 3 workshop on anti-Arab bias in Dearborn, Michigan should put those doubts permanently to rest.
Not only did the disgraced longtime White House correspondent stand by and defend the comments that led to her abrupt resignation in June, but she went much further, claiming that "Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists."
She may be calling them "Zionists," but she is talking about Jews. Make no mistake: This is classic anti-Semitism.
Here's Thomas in her own words, as first reported by The Detroit Free Press:
"I can call a president of the United States anything in the book but I can't touch Israel, which has Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. No American would tolerate that - white-only roads. ... The Zionists have to understand that's their country, too. Palestinians were there long before any European Zionists."
On the subject of money in politics, Thomas made clear who she believes "owns" the American public opinion against the Arabs:
"We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There's no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is ... We're being pushed into a wrong direction in every way."
As you can see from her remarks, Thomas started off with the outrageous notion that there's no room for criticism of Israel in American policymaking (I guess she missed the Obama administration's criticism of Israeli settlement construction). Then, she took a sudden swerve down the road to a virulent, crude anti-Semitism.
Stereotypical notions of Jewish control of government, Wall Street and Hollywood have been around for more than a century. As I discuss in my most recent book, Jews & Money: The Story of A Stereotype, they are the major themes that have been used to fan the blames of anti-Semitism by some of the nation's most notorious bigots, from the 20th century radio firebrand Father Coughlin, to the likes of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and white supremacist David Duke.
These conspiratorial notions of Jewish control have their foundations in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the 19th century forgery from czarist Russia that supposedly outlined a diabolical Jewish plot to control the world. But they also have more recent incarnations, such as in the writings of Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who have claimed that the Jewish lobby wields undue influence over levers of power in Washington to the detriment of U.S. interests abroad.
Thomas claims that she is no anti-Semite. In a radio interview this week, she suggested that she was merely attempting to tell "the truth" about Israel and what she described as its "brutal aggression" against the Palestinian people. She claimed her remarks had been distorted as anti-Semitism by Israel's supporters, "for their own propaganda purposes."
But in this era of YouTube and viral messaging, it is getting harder for Thomas to hide her anti-Semitism behind a mask of Israel criticism. The entire speech from Dearborn has already found its way onto the Internet, and anyone who listens to it will see that her message went far beyond mere criticism of Israel into conspiratorial notions about Jewish control.
Some people would argue: Who cares? Thomas, 90, is a has-been who has lost much the credibility and standing she once had as a trailblazing journalist. And her anti-Semitic beliefs are largely irrelevant in a country where anti-Semitism is widely rejected by most Americans.
Yet, Thomas continues to have an audience and a megaphone for her beliefs. When she spoke in Dearborn she was greeted with a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience that included prominent Arab American leaders, and she has been honored by a number of respectable organizations, even following her June outburst.
Not surprisingly, her anti-Semitic comments have also been welcomed with open arms by white supremacists, who have seen them as a validation of their own hateful beliefs. Here's a sampling of comments found recently on white supremacist Web sites:
"Helen Thomas, veteran Washington journalist and political insider, has done it again - spoken the whole truth about Jewish supremacism's control of America." -- Ted Pike, anti-Semite and national director of the Oregon-based National Prayer Network.
"We should heed the words of Thomas and others. Any group who threatens the liberty of other people, Jew or not, is a danger to our country. In this case, what it shows is what the Jews will do when they have the power to do so. They silence dissent in the same way they have tried to do with the Holocaust." - comment posted by "Ron" on Stormfront, the largest white supremacist Web site.
"These Jews sure are vindictive little bastards aren't they? They want all her jounalistic [sic] awards rescinded because they told the truth! Surely even the sheeple are starting to see that organization Jewry has the U.S. by the throat and is in the process of killing off every freedom Americans take for granted - "York Melody" writing on Stormfront.
Fortunately, as I said before, most Americans do not accept these anti-Semitic beliefs, and there are consequences in society for public figures who openly espouse them. Thomas has already felt some of those repercussions, in losing her job and her reputation, and as some universities, including Thomas' alma mater, Wayne State University, have pulled the plug on honors in her name.