THE BLOG

Regarding Helen Thomas

Something to think about.

I find myself wondering if it's possible that the recent Helen Thomas scandal is based on a misunderstanding.

I, like most people I've heard address what happened, cringed when I saw the video of Ms. Thomas' response to the question, "any comments on Israel?"

Did her response expose a long-time anti-Semite now so aged and addled she can no longer hide her hatred? Or was it perhaps an over-the-top comment growing out of anger at what she saw as an unlawful Israeli military action that will go unpunished? Or, could it simply be that she felt her Lebanese ancestry demanded an indictment of the country that attacked the land of her forbears?

Whatever it was, I cringed and found myself wondering about this woman I had come to think of over the years as a tough, feisty newsperson always willing to put presidents on the spot by asking the difficult questions.

Today I read a commentary by former Congressman Paul Findley, who came to Thomas' defense, saying her comments were directed not at the citizens of Israel who live within the pre-1967 borders but rather the settlers who live in the occupied territory and whose growth is crushing the people of Palestine. On the other hand, MJ Rosenberg, a man whose editorials always strike me as sound, thoughtful and penetrating, was as damning of her words as have been most others, saying Thomas was not referring to the settlers, but was calling for "an end to Israel."

What struck me is that both men considered what I had not. I immediately went to being shocked and embarrassed at what I saw as a crass demonstration of anti-Israeli sentiment, perhaps anti-Semitism. However, though disagreeing about the fundamental point, both of the above-mentioned men at least considered the possibility that she was making reference to sending the settlers back to wherever they had come from (many from the U.S. and Eastern Europe), not calling for the dissolution of Israel.

Given that thought, I find myself wondering: Were Thomas' words an admission of anti-Israel or anti-Semitic bias or an angry condemnation of the settlers? If the former, they were another pathetic attack on a people historically, shamefully vilified. But if the latter, they were a perhaps inartfully stated assault on people and a policy long known to be illegal, violative of U.N. and U.S. policy and condemned by world opinion. If that, does she in fact deserve the mountain of condemnation that has been heaped on her?

I wonder. Both pieces follow.