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. BMaryland

    Older people sometimes say the most surprising things. I guess if she has lived her life in a way that is different than this sound bite, we ought to cut her some slack. Over the years she has been someone I've enjoyed watching drill different people with the questions I wanted answered. One unfortunate statement made later in life shouldn't ruin her life's work. We've all said dumb things at one time or another.

    June 6, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  2. Desmond in Canada

    While I would never wish our Jewish sisters and brothers ill, there is absolutely no doubt of the fundamental truth of Helen Thomas' assertion: Palestine has been occupied territory since 1948 (or is it 1946?) when it suited the British, the USA and their European allies to manipulate the UN to displace Palestinians with the state of Israel. Finally, a person of integrity not afraid to blurt out the truth! JUSTICE MUST BE DONE. Note, I am not Jewish, nor Arab, just a human being

    June 6, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  3. Benjamin

    It seems to be a grave mistake to conflate the state of Israel with the jewish identity. To criticize Israel is NOT to criticize the jewish ethnicity. It is NOT anti-semitism, and anyone who claims that Israel is tantamount to the entire jewish people is a person who pretends to speak for everyone. What arrogance! Each person can think for his or herself, andbleieve it or not, not every jew, ethnically or religiously, likes the idea of the state of Israel. To make anti-semitic accusations is to distract from the point. Non-sequiturs help no one but the person who brings it forth.

    June 6, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  4. Opus X

    She should absolutely be fired. Now.

    June 6, 2010 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  5. Lord HAHA

    The zionists are out for Helen's scalp. But let's face the sad reality that about a billion people agree with her. Why should she be fired for stating her opinion? No one is being forced to agree with her!

    June 6, 2010 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  6. landandair

    I am not neccesarily seeing this the same a number of people are.
    I am trying to see why her statemen is considered bigoted or anti-semitic.. After all, I thought it was known that the current Jews in Israel came from places like Poland and Germany and are not the original inhabitants of the area they occupy called Israel. I just saying.....

    June 6, 2010 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  7. KW

    Is this really suprising? Her parents were Orthodox Christians from Lebanon.
    I'm certain that she has rather strong feelings about a bunch of American and British politicians deciding arbitrarily that part of her parents homeland should be taken away and given to the decendents of people who had left 1,900 years earlier following an ill-conceived rebellian against Rome (A rebellion that- according to Suetonius- they started as a result of a scurrious interpretation of a pagan prophesy from the Oracle of Delphi,no less!- talk about hypocrisy!).

    I myself, am personally rather confused as to why a bunch a Arabs who had been living there for over a thousand years are the ones who get screwed over as a result of Germans behaving like monsters in WWII.
    I've personally never seen the logic to that...its like Germany gets to point at some unwitting random stranger and say "that fellow will pay my debts for me!" without that random stranger having a say in the matter.

    June 6, 2010 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  8. MisterPL

    "... blacks should leave America and go back to Africa?" I wasn't aware that blacks were having as troubling a time surviving in America as Jews are in Palestine. Seems like apples and oranges to me. Truth is many of us no longer have one "home." If I had to go back to my homeland, I'd have to choose among three continents. (Then again, I'm a product of a melting pot.)

    But hey, if Helen says it, I guess we have to take her so seriously as to be offended, right? And if we're not offended, we're anti-Semitic bigots, too, huh?

    I wonder; Do all Jews hate the United States (or Poland or Germany) so much that the notion of moving there is considered reprehensible? Are these countries really so much worse than Palestine?

    June 6, 2010 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  9. Christ

    Why blacks to Africa? They came here in chains. What of every whiteman and woman ,Helen Thomas included, getting the "h" of America and leaving it for the Indians?

    June 6, 2010 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  10. floridatwosome

    Helen should suffer no consequences for speaking her mind when asked for her opinion. I believe that it is still our right to express our opinion without fear of retribution. I, for one, stand with Helen. What gives Israel the right to treat Palestinians with such hatred. After all, the Palaestinians did not give their land to the Israelis. It was taken from them. The Jewish people of Israel should look into their own souls before pointing fingers at other people of the world

    June 6, 2010 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  11. pale bjue dot

    Over due to retire.

    June 6, 2010 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  12. shouki

    What do you expect from an old, decrepit hag who lost her mind?

    June 6, 2010 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  13. Nate

    Public speakers are always so guarded in what they say that it is usually impossible to get a clear understanding of what they trully think. I think this anti-Semietic, bigotted woman has made her true heart evident and clear. She has never been unbiased and objective in her reporting, only talented and eloquent in her writting ability to hide the fact that she is a trully opinionated hateful person. But she has the constitutional right to express herself no matter how repugnate her true feelings are. Unfortunately she has swayed and influenced so many people over the years with her ability to write.

    June 6, 2010 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  14. Thoroughbred

    And this is inappropriate in what manner?

    June 6, 2010 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  15. The Truth, Please...I Just Want The Truth

    Once again, the TRUE intentions of the Pro-Palestine movement are shown for what they really are:

    The destruction of the nation of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state called "Palestine"...not just in Gaza and the West Bank, but in present-day Israel as well.

    It's too late to retract your words now, Ms. Thomas...you've let the cat out of the bag.

    June 6, 2010 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  16. **sami**

    We are Jewish by blood,not by zionist politics. Helen is right –
    Israel needs to get the hell out of Palestine.

    June 6, 2010 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  17. JOE B

    It is utterly disgraceful that a woman that has those feelings towards the Jews was able to command a privileged seat in the front row of the White House press briefing room.

    Hopefully, she has seen her last day in the White House Press Briefing Room.

    June 6, 2010 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  18. sfeadmin

    Helen Thomas doesn't owe anyone an apology. Her characterization of the Israelis as occupiers was accurate and sincere. Denial of the truth does not make it less true. So shoot the messenger for telling the truth, but don't expect the message to die along with the messenger.

    Murder is murder. Those victims were murdered execution style, with clean gunshots to the head. One would be hard pressed to find a forensic expert who would determine those shots could have been fired in self defense... it is not plausible.

    The majority of Israeli citizens are not indigenous to the region, and most lack any empathy, understanding or respect for their indigenous neighbors. The problem lies with the arrogance of the Israeli people.
    Until they learn to play nice and play fair, they will continue to be the scourge of the Middle East.

    June 6, 2010 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  19. Richard Marks

    The poor woman is 100% RIGHT! So-called "Jews" in Israel should just go back to Europe or wherever and leave the Semites who were there first alone. Israel – the state of Israel is the SCURGE of this world!

    June 6, 2010 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  20. Sean

    So she is slammed for telling the truth. I'm not an anti-Semite, but this story clearly shows how much influence Jewish people have over the news media (I know, I know, stereotyping, but absolutely true). It's off-the-chart ridiculous that a respected woman like Helen Thomas can't be honest about this issue without nearly losing her bacon. What exactly does she need to be sorry for? They are occupying land that is not theirs.

    June 6, 2010 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  21. Charly (Florida)

    I think Helen Thomas is entitled to her opinion. Part of the Palestinian territory is currently occupied by Israel. I feel she can biased the same way other journalists are biased toward Israel. The analogy with blacks is very twisted. Blacks were brought to the USA to work as slaves to build this nation, hence they entitled to this land. Israel seized Palestinian lands after a war, that is stealing. The worst thing is that they have the blessing of the USA. Helen has the right to free speech we have been advocating.

    June 6, 2010 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  22. joan newman

    I thought there was freedom of speech. Helen Thomas had every right to say anything she wanted to. I don't have to believe her but that is my judgement. I would like to know who had the right to say there was no freedon of speech.

    June 6, 2010 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  23. jerry james

    the government better start getting used to the general populous leaning towards being anti-israel.
    Whatever happened to the American spirit? When innocent people are being mistreated horribly, Americans steped in to help. Heck for months we brought all kinds of food and clothing and fuel into Germany, even though there was a blockade, and our enemies. Israel is starving and mistreating and killing innocent women and children in Gaza. Yet we stand. Doing nothing, well, actually we (America) allow it.
    I have never had any feelings one way or another towards Israel or any other country for that matter. But the more I read, the more that changes. Egypt has a dictatorship. Yet we side with them as well?? None of this makes sense in the order in which the government handles anything anymore. Its time to elect a common, non rich, uneductated person, with more common sense. Leave the books at home.

    June 6, 2010 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  24. Give me a break!

    There are no doubt that a lot of people would side with Helen Thomas – people who are not in any way *bigoted*, but rather very tired of the endless insistence that the Jews in Israel can do whatever they wish at whatever cost to the Palestinians. The ongoing battles must end!

    The world has had to tiptoe about when dealing with the Israelis for too long. The same is true of the African-Americans. The Holocaust is over – slavery is over. Re-set the game.

    In the end, bigotry is in the eye of the beholder.

    June 6, 2010 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  25. Aztrazolo

    I, myself, am Jewish. Reading these comments, while I certainly don't agree with her opinion, the fact of the matter is I find them only to be contrary to my own beliefs on Israeli/mid-east tensions, and not bigotted. Comparing her statements as one saying blacks should go back to Africa is not a valid comparison as Africa proper's status has never been in question.

    June 6, 2010 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
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