June 6th, 2010
07:54 PM ET
11 years ago

Helen Thomas under fire for saying Jews in Israel should go back to Germany, Poland

Washington (CNN) – Lanny Davis joined Ari Fleischer Sunday in calling for Hearst Corporation to take quick action against legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas for recently saying that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and that the Jewish people should go home to “Poland, Germany … and America and everywhere else.”

Thomas was also dropped by her agent Nine Speakers, Inc. Sunday, CNN has learned, and Craig Crawford, who coauthored “Listen Up, Mr. President” with Thomas, said in a blog post that he “will no longer be working with Helen on our book projects.”

Thomas has apologized for her comments that she made to Rabbilive.com about Israel.

Specifically, she was asked, “Any comments on Israel?”

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she responded.

The interviewer then asked “Any better comments on Israel?” To which Thomas said, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not German’s. It’s not Poland’s.”

Thomas was then asked where the Jews in Israel should go and what they should do? Thomas responded, “They should go home” which the White House reporter identified as “Poland, Germany . . . and America and everywhere else.”

Thomas is considered the “dean” of the White House press corps after decades covering the presidency. The syndicated columnist for Hearst Corporation’s newspapers holds a privileged seat in the front row of the White House press briefing room where she regularly fires sharp questions on the major issues of the day at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

In the apology posted on her website Friday, Thomas said she “deeply” regretted her comments. “They do not reflect my heart-felt 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.”

But her apology was not enough for Davis, who served as special counsel to former President Bill Clinton.

“Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot,” said Davis. “This is not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.”

Davis added, “If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials - much less a privileged honorary seat?”

Previously Fleischer, who served as press secretary for former President George W. Bush, said Thomas should be fired because of her remarks. And in a statement provided to CNN Sunday he reiterated that demand.

“Helen's statement calling for the religious cleansing of Israel is reprehensible,” Fleischer said. “If this isn't bigotry, what is? What she said is as bad as someone saying all blacks should leave America and go back to Africa.

“Hearst Newspapers should do the right thing and let Helen go,” Fleischer added in the statement.

Update, 8:33 p.m.: The Anti-Defamation League has provided CNN with a written statement regarding Thomas' remark and apology. "Helen Thomas’s statement of regret does not go far enough. Her remarks were outrageous, offensive and inappropriate," ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman said in the statement. Foxman added, "Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history. We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."

Filed under: Helen Thomas • Israel • Middle East • Popular Posts
soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. P Alfonso

    I have never agreed on much of anything with Helen Thomas but this is the first time that I do in regard to giving the Palestinians back their land.
    Anything that was not granted to Israel in 1947 is occupied territory and should be returned without conditions.

    June 6, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  2. chris in blaine, wa

    Helen Thomas, for all my life has been a beacon of journalistic integrity and truth.

    This is a case of misconstruing the comments of Helen Thomas.

    Yes, when you invade a country and take someone's land against their will: it's wrong.

    Israel constantly dilates the amount of land the Palestinians have to live on.

    For many Israeli people that land is the only they know, but how fair is it to take from the Palestinians and control their borders through force of arms?

    This is just not right and it's effects are spreading far outside the Palestinian borders. Leave Palestine to the Palestinians.

    I salute you Helen.

    June 6, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  3. Jeanne Gould

    I don't think that Ms. Thomas really is an anti-semite. In this age, Israel is clearly an aggressive nation as opposed to a defensive one. It seems to truly oppose any peaceful solutions to the Middle East conflict.

    June 6, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

    Oh only the right can have that while they spout their racist bigotry.

    Ms. Thomas is correct in her assertion however that since 1947 the middle east has been a hotbed. I wonder why.

    June 6, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  5. waheid

    ... And I'm still waiting for the Israelis to apologize for maliciously and deliberately launching an unprovked attack on the USS Liberty, which killed 17 sailors and government employees.

    And the Turks are still waiting for an apology for the recent piratical attack on the passenger ship in international waters.

    The Israelis are extremely sensitive to any criticism, but when they act like thugs, there are no apologies forthcoming.

    June 6, 2010 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  6. Vince

    I don't think Isareli people can go back to Germany or Poland, because most Israeli's were born in Israel, and occupation was a long time ago. So, this comment is flippant, and not very well thought out. But why is it anti-semitic? People keep throwing this word around, and I don't know what it means anymore. I am sure she is not suggesting that all jews living in the Middle East should be removed. There are many jews living in every middle eastern country, and their presence is not controversial at all. The issue is the state of Israel, and the legitamacy of its immigrant population, since they are living on occupied lands. Her solution is silly, but it is not racist, assuming that is what antisemitic means. Or, are we reduced to calling every statement that criticizes Isarel "antisemitic"?

    June 6, 2010 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  7. Sarah

    Since when has it been anti-semetic to say that Israel, the U.S., and the U.N. kicked over 3 million Arabas and Palestinians from their homes and the land that they cultivated? This is all CEARLY shown by historical records, at least two U.N. resolutions have been broken by Israel with regards to Palestinians and the land that was there. It is not anti-semetic and it is not bigotry to say that Israel has committed some serious crimes against a certain group of people, all because the Lacoot Party believes the land they occupy is destined to be theirs by Gods command. Hammas, Hezebollah, and the other terrorist organizations aren't making it any better, but to most Arabs in the region, Israel is an occupier and a terrorist state. Once Israel acknowledges the sins of it's past and the terrorist groups that continue the assault on Israeli civilians and the long going peace process are snuffed out, then we can really get down to work on Mid-East pace. Until those two things happen however, we will continue to see fighting amongst these two cultures. The U.S. needs to get on board with the fact that Israel is absolutely, 100% as much at fault as Palestinians and Arabs are for the mess that has been occuring for over 60 years...and even longer than that.

    June 6, 2010 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  8. Adolf Hitler

    That's my girl!

    June 6, 2010 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  9. Phillip

    Just goes to show – you can't criticize Zion. If Thomas had said disparaging remarks about a Muslim country, no one would have batted an eyelash.

    June 6, 2010 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  10. Nat J

    Wow. If she actually said that, and it appears she not only did, but was also given several opportunities to temper and/or qualify her remarks, she should be given the axe. There is no defense for such baldly anti-semitic remarks. Having respected what I imagined to be her journalistic integrity for decades, I am saddened that she has turned out to be an out-and-out fraud. Shame on you, Ms, Thomas.

    June 6, 2010 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  11. Not Republican

    Fleischer lies, constantly, just as he did for Bush and Cheney for many years.

    When Thomas says the settlers occupying Palastinian land should move to America, how can that be undertood to be anti-Semitic? Anybody who interprets it that way is either unbelievably stupid or in Fleischer's case, pure scum!

    Thomas NEVER called for the religious cleansing of Israel, but now that is being printed here and elsewhere and many Jewish people will read it and think she did say it.

    Fleischer shows that even a Jewish person can be a Nazi. He should be cast away once and for all.

    Thomas was saying – the Israel needs to stop occupying Palestine and oppressing it's people and I'm sure the attacks will dissapate.

    June 6, 2010 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  12. msa

    No body can speak truth any more in this country

    June 6, 2010 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  13. Angie in Denver

    Face the facts, Israel are behaving like thugs and folks think the only Christian thing to do is to turn a blind eye. Helen said what many are thinking but in this era of 24/7 news, you have to sugar coat topics like this.

    June 6, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  14. David c.

    The start of dementia, perhaps?

    June 6, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  15. John Dockum

    I don't think her comment was that bad. It's a valid opinion based upon the actual history of how the modern State of Israel was created and the troubles it has caused in the middle east. These are classic difficulties associated with Western Colonialism. She didn't say Jews should die.

    June 6, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  16. Helene Boudreau

    Profoundly inflammatory remarks uttered by a professional whose job it is to know exactly when, and when not to hold her tongue; what was in her heart made it to the surface and she didn't muzzle those words. This wasn't a mere slip of the tongue- she had time to think over the questions the interviewer was coming back with. For shame!

    P.S I'm neither Jewish, nor Israeli nor American.

    June 6, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  17. Matt

    She is absolutely correct. The problem here is you have a third party (Palestineans) being forced to allow their lands to be inhabited by a displaced people. They should carve a little chunk of Germany, Poland and toss is a little bit of Russia (they killed a ton of Jews) and call it little Israel and call it a day.

    June 6, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  18. Neil

    Kudos to Ms. Thomas for saying what should be said and not what the current PC culture prescribes she can say. Probably the biggest impact of Hitler's Nazi Germany (and I am not minimizing the 6 million lives that were wiped out – some entire genealogical lines thus disappearing from the face of the earth) was to create the climate for the 'creation' of Israel, thus displacing the Palestinians and engendering the biggest cesspool of hatred that is threatening to tear the world apart today.

    June 6, 2010 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  19. evoc

    Geez...a person can't say anything, anymore. Helen is by no means an anti-semite. She is just reached the point in her life where she is free to speak common sense. As for the 'go back to Poland' comment, that was off the cuff tomfoolery, not meant to be taken seriously.

    June 6, 2010 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  20. geoff dunbar

    Helen was right about the Israelis and Palestine. Our ciuntry's over the top support of Israel is what places the USA in the crosshairs of all the other countries in the region. Why is there never outrage from the Israelis or those of Jewish faith around the world when genocide occurs today arounf the world. Where was the Jewsish outrage when over ten million Cambodians were murdered, or the genocide in the Balkans or Rwanda? Why is Israel such a third rail? Here is a solution: no more aid to Israel and let them fend for themselves and when the State of Israel commits genocide, let's see where that will lead. Why do the Palestinian's not have a right to their own homeland? What's good for the goose should also apply to the gander

    June 6, 2010 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  21. Henry Swierk

    How would she feel is someone would tell her to go back to Lebanon?

    June 6, 2010 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  22. S Callahan

    I'm sad that a long term reporter such as Ms. Thomas can not be partial in her reporting....but she certainly is not alone. Reproters used to hold the highest ethics...what has happen???

    June 6, 2010 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  23. george weston

    Could her Lebanese background have anything to do with this ? And if her answer to problems is to "go back somewhere", has she considered retiring to the Lebanon ?

    June 6, 2010 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. Suval

    I think Helen has a rather unorthodox opinion but it is also a commonly held global opinion.Today , many people worldwide dislike Israel because they are NOT good neighbors.They are agressive and totally backed, right or wrong,by the US government. To many this equates with being a bully. The Palestinians are abused and mistreated. Like them or not, what is happening is unfair and wrong. Helen just expressed her views. It wasn't hate speech and the reactionaries should not be allowed to make a big a big deal over a remark that has some validity. All the people screaming that Helen called for the racial cleansing of Israel should ask themselves what the people of Israel are doing to the Palestinians and any non Jewish people who oppose them. Everytime anyone says one word against Israel ,their people and their supporters overreact . Their needs to be some middle ground and people are entitled to their views .Maybe more people should begin speaking up in this country.

    June 6, 2010 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  25. Corbijn

    I don't share the view this comment suggested. She is a reporter and has been a good one for quite some time. I think all the backlash was rather harsh. As a reported she is supposed to address issues that sometimes can be uncomfortable, that's her job. If you look at her past she is no stranger to raising issues that others will not. A good deal of the world is angry with Israel right now, mostly because of the ship raid justified or not. It's during these times that people do question certain aspects to Israel and it's population. Is it anti-semitic to raise the topic? Some of the most racist people I've met are Jewish especially if they are from Israel. Is saying this anti-semitic? If one country occupies another, it causes outrage. Especially to the the people of that occupied country. Just because it's Israel doesn't justify it or make it racist because the topic is raised.

    June 6, 2010 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12