Human society has come a long way in the last hundred years, but every once in a while somebody comes out and demonstrates just how far we have yet to go. Few things are more illustrative of this fact than the remaining vestiges of antisemitism that exist out there in the world. It is most obvious in the Muslim world, spearheaded by holocaust deniers like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and bolstered by groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, al-Qaeda, and others sworn to the destruction of Israel.
On May 27, 2010, columnist Helen Thomas—who had written for United Press International for 57 years and Hearst Newspapers for another 10—was interviewed by Rabbi David Nesenoff and was asked what she thought of Israel. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she said. When prodded further, she elaborated that the Jews should “go home” to “Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else.” I did not call any attention to Thomas’s comments at the time, in large part because she is very old and I do not assume antisemitism is the source of all opposition to Israel (even if it appears so on its face). It is possible, at least for somebody ignorant of history and international law, to ‘oppose’ Israel as a state without harboring any ill will toward her predominantly Jewish population.
But in a new interview with Playboy magazine, she elaborated on her remarks . . . and has left no doubt that she is an antisemite of the worst order:
I knew exactly what I was doing—I was going for broke. I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up. I finally wanted to speak the truth. . . .
[The Jews are] using their power, and they have power in every direction. Power over the White House, power over Congress. . . . Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control. . . . It isn’t the 2 percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. [To the interviewer] You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?
These are not the dodderings of a senile old woman, they are the statements of a hardened antisemite who has finally tired of hiding her true opinions about the Jewish people. If we were to replace the word ‘Congress’ with ‘Reichstag,’ and the words ‘White House’ with ‘Chancellor,’ this sounds like something out of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kamph. I know this because I’ve read it. The whole idea that diabolical Jews control the world in shadowy, secret organizations that are destroying society and finance is a quintessentially Nazi idea. People bandy-about the Hitler comparison in absurd situations these days, but here is one of those rare examples where a public figure really deserves it. From this irrational starting point, it is not much further to Nuremberg laws . . . and from there to a slippery slope of restrictions of civil liberties, concentration camps, and finally gas chambers.
Thomas is Lebanese Arab by ethnicity and Greek Orthodox Christian by creed. It is a true shame that she hails from one of the most moderate and diverse nations in the middle-east, and is of a religion that places peace and love at the center of its doctrines (and, for that matter, sprang from Judaism), and yet she harbors such inexplicable hatred for the Jewish people. Yes, we have come a long way. As long as there are people like Thomas, especially as long as they command parts of the public spotlight, we still have a long way to go.