Honoring Helen Thomas
By JAMES ABOUREZK | November 22, 2010
These remarks were delivered at a tribute for Helen Thomas, Thursday, November 18, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington DC D.C., sponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
I’m very proud to be asked to speak at a tribute to one of the great journalists in the history of this country – Helen Thomas. I say she is a great journalist because she was never cuddled up in the lap of the President – any president – when she was doing her job. She is someone my old friend, I.F. Stone, would be very proud of if he were still alive.
To say that she made a long succession of Presidents uncomfortable with her sharp questioning would be an understatement. Even Barack Obama, who has been advertised as a tolerant man, had to join in the denunciations of Helen. He, along with the others in the press corps, acted very much like children in a school yard. When one of the children falls down, the rest start kicking.
Helen was not necessarily done in by her statement about Israel. What she said is what I’ve been saying for years – the Zionists should get the hell out of Palestine.
Where they go when they leave there is not my concern, just as it is not the Zionists’ concern where the Palestinians went when they were driven out of Palestine. She was done in because she embarrassed the group of lap dogs who call themselves White House reporters. She has been doing what each and every one of them wishes they had the temerity to do – find out what the government is doing to us on a day by day basis.
She has consistently posed serious questions to each administration in turn – questions that affect the financial and emotional and security health of our country. She refused to go along with the game played by the national press – that is, to be very, very polite to the President during his press conferences so that they may stay in the good graces of the government they are supposed to be reporting on.
I’m especially proud because now ADC has been called anti-semitic by the Director of the Bnai Brith Defamation League, Abe Foxman. You remember Dr Johnson’s saying, that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel? Well, anti-semitism has become the last gasp of the worn-out old Zionists who, instead of trying to make America a better place in which to live, make their living snarling at anyone who might criticize what Israel is doing to the Palestinians and to the Lebanese, and to the Syrians.
I once called Alan Dershowitz a snake on Al Manar television. Al Manar is Hezbollah’s news channel in Lebanon. When he found out what I had said, he wrote a column in the Jerusalem post, calling me an anti-Semite. My response has been – to him and to anyone else – that an anti-Semite is synonymous with disliking Jews, and that I do not dislike Jews, I only dislike Alan Dershowitz, and Abe Foxman, and Bibi Netanyahu.
I also know now that I should have apologized to the snakes.
As for Abe Foxman, he is the head of the B’Nai Brith, whose stated mission is to promote tolerance and to fight against racism. He demonstrated that tolerance when he came out bleating that he was opposed to a mosque being built near the World Trade Center site. And he has made a living equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, which, so far as tolerance goes, promotes only hatred and racism.
The truth is, that Israel has very little to do with Judaism, but it has a lot to do with fascism.
For the Zionist supporters of Israel, it’s OK for Israel to kill on the average of at least one Palestinian a day during its illegal occupation;.
It’s OK for Israel to use the million and a half people in Gaza as living targets in a shooting gallery.
It’s OK to bomb Syria and Lebanon any time such an attack is needed to bolster the military credentials of Israel=s politicians.
It’s OK to invade Lebanon whenever they feel like it. In my memory, Israel’s military has killed at least 30,000 civilians in their Lebanon invasions. But lately, with Hezbollah standing up to them, it=s happening on fewer and fewer occasions, and fewer and fewer Lebanese are being slaughtered by Israel.
It’s OK to destroy the olive groves of Palestinian farmers. It’s OK to move them off their land to make room for Jewish settlements.
It’s OK for Israel to send agents to spy on the United States, and it’s OK for the Obama Administration to dismiss charges against those of Israel’s spies who have been caught red-handed.
It’s OK for Israel to commit an act of criminal piracy on the high seas by boarding a ship full of people and food and medicine on their way to help stem the starvation brought on by Israel’s policy in Gaza, and to outright murder 9 people, including an American citizen out on the high seas. Have you heard much lately about the American boy who was assassinated by the Israeli military on board one of those aid ships? Have you wondered why you haven’t heard anything about it from those great American journalists who so bravely ganged up on Helen Thomas?
It’s OK to do all of those things I’ve listed, but it’s not OK to send money and food to Palestinian refugees to help them survive.
And it’s not OK for Helen Thomas to tell Israel to get the hell out of Palestine.
And it’s not OK for anyone else to say that Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine is wrong and against the law, and that American taxpayers’ money is being used to help Israel commit these crimes against humanity. That kind of criticism brings down calls of “anti-Semitism” from the likes of Foxman and Dershowitz.
As an American citizen, I am deeply worried, among other things, about the direction our government has taken and is taking with respect to its financing of Israel’s crimes. There is no one left in the press corps to ask such questions now that they’ve drummed Helen out of journalism.
Helen’s fatal, and final, sin was, during a discussion of Iran’s nuclear program during a press conference, to ask President Obama if anyone else in the Middle East -beside Iran – has nuclear weapons. Of course, he didn’t answer the question, which probably explains why he joined the chorus of denouncers to drum Helen Thomas out of the White House press room. He simply didn’t want the question coming up again at a future press conference.
But you can easily see the service Helen performed by asking that question. As the Zionists and the Israelis are working very hard to get our country into a war with Iran, there remains almost no voice in the press or in the Congress to call a halt to this madness.
That is why we are all paying tribute to Helen tonight, and I hope, for a long time after this night. We pay tribute to all soldiers who act with bravery, and tonight, we add Helen Thomas to that company. She deserves our thanks, and she deserves the thanks of our nation.
James Abourezk is a former U.S. Senator, who practices law in Sioux Falls. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.