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I Will Miss Helen Thomas

Okay, so I’m about to wade into some dangerous waters here, especially since I’m not exactly an expert on Israeli/Palestinian issues, but hey, maybe my six readers will go easy on me.

Helen Thomas said a terrible thing. Telling the Israelis to get the hell out of Palestine is, no other way to describe it, terrible. Unless you also want to add other synonyms for bad. I’m not going to defend what she said, so please don’t mistake what follows as a defense or even an excuse.

I do, however, wonder if what she said lacked the nuance of what she meant. By Palestine she may have meant the Palestinian occupied territories and not the entire country that some people–especially people who don’t support Israel’s right to exist–still refer to as Palestine.

And when telling the Israelis to go back where they came from, “like Poland or Germany or America,” Helen may not have meant those who went to Israel to escape the Holocaust. It’s the “or America” that made me wonder if she wasn’t actually talking about present-day settlers. There is a basic tenet of Zionism called Aliyah, which has to do with Jewish immigration to Israel and their right to do so. It’s quite a controversial concept because Palestinians don’t currently have the “right of return” and because the expanded Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory actually break international law.

So maybe this is what Helen meant by what she said. Maybe. Who knows? But what we do know is that what she actually said was pretty terrible.

The most unfortunate part of Helen’s resignation (in response to the fallout from her comments) is that the White House Press Corps will lack her seriousness. For 50 years, Helen’s been there to ask difficult questions of Presidents and Presidents’ Press Secretaries. Hearing her go toe-to-toe with Ari Fleischer, Scott McClelland, Dana Perino, and Robert Gibbs, not to mention George W. Bush and Barack Obama, feels like a dying art. No one else in that Press Corps has her relentlessness. It’s like the others are all too obsessed with being the next anchor for their networks or something. Or maybe they have short attention spans. Or maybe they didn’t learn the skills to be good journalists. Or maybe they’re just not that smart or prepared. Or maybe they’ve forgotten that their role is to hold the government accountable on behalf of the people when the government fails to act on behalf of the people.

Helen knew her role, and she took it seriously. She took it seriously for a very long time. Who will take her place?

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