Helen Thomas Retires After Telling Israelis to 'Go Home'

The 89-year-old reporter cedes her spot in the briefing room

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Update, 12:36 p.m.: Hearst Newspapers has announced Helen Thomas's retirement.

A few days ago, the White House press corps' oldest member, Helen Thomas, said on camera that the Jews needed to "get the hell out of Palestine" and return to their countries of historical origin (she named Germany and Poland, as well as "America"). Many are calling for Thomas's White House press credentials to be revoked, or at least for her to lose her reserved front-row seat in the briefing room. Others want Hearst to fire the 89-year-old firestarter. Though Thomas has since apologized for the remarks, her speaking agency has cut ties and her commencement address at a D.C. high school was canceled, while the blogger pile-on continues. Here's a sample of the raging debate.

  • How My Parents Came to Israel  At The Jerusalem Post, Yoram Dori, an adviser to President Shimon Peres,  tells the story of his parents' flight to Palestine following the Nazis' rise to power, and of their families' fate in the countries Helen Thomas suggested the Jews move back to. His question: "In the 62 years of our existence, we have had seven wars, thousands of terror attacks, buses which have exploded in streets, firing into schools, mortars fired on kindergartens. Yet you wish to exile us back to the inferno, as if nothing happened 65 years ago in Europe, as if our hands have not been stretched out for peace since the establishment of the state?"
  • 'The Sky Is Blue. Water Is Wet. Helen Thomas Is a Nut'  James Joyner at Outside the Beltway joins both John Cole of Balloon Juice and Stacy McCain ("a rather rare alignment of the poles!" he notes) in arguing that it's "rather unsporting to continue piling on a crazy old woman for saying outrageous things." National Review's Jonah Goldberg agrees, at least, on Thomas's statement not being exactly a surprise: "Spare me Lanny Davis's wounded outrage.   Everyone knows she is a nasty piece of work and has been a nasty piece of work for decades."  Joyner also observes, though, that Thomas was not "calling for the Jews to be exterminated or even forcefully evacuated, merely that they 'go home.'" It's a stupid thing to say, he says, but "I've heard more than one American Jew express similar opinions." He wonders what it was about Thomas's remark, therefore, that was exceptional.
  • And Should She Be Fired for That?  Kathy Kattenburg at The Moderate Voice writes that though she felt personally "hurt" and "offended" by Thomas's words, it's ridiculous to interpret the comments, as some are doing, as an argument that the Jews should return to concentration camps. "It’s not even similar," declares Kattenburg. "Heck, it’s not even on the same planet. People have to be capable of making distinctions like these ... It's still difficult for me to understand the ferocity of the response to Thomas's comments," she continues, "I understand that a big part of it is the left-right polarization in this country. But the thing is, Helen Thomas is not an elected official. She’s not a media pundit. She is 89, for jeebus's sake."
  • What's Bad About These Remarks  The Guardian's Michael Tomasky tries his hand at explaining the uproar to his readers: "Now I know a lot of you are going to say well, she only said what's factually true about the land, but she didn't only say that. It's that Germany and Poland business. Without that, these remarks wouldn't have been nearly as controversial as they are."
  • Correction: There's Nothing Not Bad About These Remarks  "If the world lets Israel go under, a mere two or three generations after the Holocaust, we will have learned a sick, sick thing about the world," declares Jay Nordlinger at National Review. "With the hard-core anti-Israel crowd, the problem is not 'occupation,' not the addition of in-law suites in Jerusalem: The problem is Israel itself. The very right of that state to exist." He finds it inexcusable: "We have no problem with Thais in Thailand; we have no problem with Senegalese in Senegal; we have a problem with Jews in Israel--never mind the 1.5 million Arabs who live there, enjoying rights that are unknown to most Arabs elsewhere."
  • The Left-Right Double Standard  Jeff Dunetz at Big Journalism argues against firing Thomas for the simple reason that she is "merely a symptom of the problem, not the disease ... The mainstream media, which is politically correct about every other ethnic group, feature anti-Semites all of the time without barely a peep about their hatred." Jonah Goldberg phrases it slightly differently: "If there was a rightwinger who'd spouted so much bile, hate and ideological agenda-driven nonsense in the White House briefing room for half a century it would be...oh wait, no such person would have ever been allowed to become a Washington 'institution' in the first place." But Matt Duss at Think Progress and Salon's Gabriel Winant have a retort for those complaining of leftist bias, which Winant phrases this way: "conservatives are happily ignoring the fact that figures from their movement have made parallel comments, equally atrocious, about the Palestinians. And, unlike Thomas, they haven't even bothered to apologize."
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