Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Helen Thomas Reality Check

For those who have been living under a rock for the last 24 hours: Helen Thomas, long-time White House correspondent, has retired in the wake of controversy over her statements about Israel.  When a rabbi interviewed her at a White House event celebrating American Jewish Heritage Month, Thomas said to tell Israel "to get the hell out of Palestine" and they should "go home" to "Poland.  Germany.  And America.  And everywhere else."  You can see the whole thing on YouTube.

I confess, I've always had a certain admiration for Helen Thomas as a ground-breaking female journalist.  I didn't follow her closely enough to be aware of some of the things that are starting to come out in the wake of this controversy, but I admired her as a strong, capable woman in a powerful position at a time when women were still expected to be barefoot and pregnant.  It saddens me deeply to see this.

But there is an aspect of this story that hasn't gotten much press coverage, and it's an aspect that many people, in their discussions of Israel, seem to miss.  Most Israelis are not from Poland.  Or Germany.  Or America.  Or anywhere else.  According to a 2010 report from the Israeli equivalent of the census bureau, 70% of Israeli Jews are "sabras," native-born Israelis or born in the British Palestinian Mandate before Israel was formed.  Most of those are second-generation sabras: their parents were also born in Israel; only their grandparents were born anywhere else.  So you see, they are already home, the only home they've known.  They could no more return "home" to Germany or Poland or America than Helen Thomas herself could return "home" to Lebanon, where her parents were born.

(Unfortunately, I've had to turn off comments on this blog due to extensive blog-spam by Chinese porn mongers. When you have to delete advertisements for pornography on a regular basis from the comments to a post about Holocaust Memorial Day, it's time to turn off the comments.  I apologize for the inconvenience.)

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