On Helen Thomas

Like Josh Marshall, I feel obliged rather than eager to address White House correspondent Helen Thomas' retirement following comments in which she said Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else." She later apologized for the comments.

Her comments were, suffice it to say, profoundly disappointing to me—and the brevity of that response should not be mistaken as indifference. It is, frankly, not easy to write in a measured way about people one has admired when they behave in ways unbecoming one's expectations.

On the content of her statement, I will simply note that there principled arguments against occupation of disputed territories: I've heard them made by progressive American Jews, among them a friend who survived the Holocaust, rescued as a child with his mother and brother from a camp in France with forged papers, after which they escaped to the US. But telling Israeli Jews to "go home" to countries from which they (or their families) fled under the threat of extermination isn't one of those principled arguments—and not just (or chiefly) because Israel is not exclusively populated by Jews of European extraction. My aforementioned friend does not consider France his home, for reasons which should be evident, and the many Israelis who share his history do not consider, for the same reasons, their countries of birth "home," either.

This is not an issue of whether Israel can be criticized, or an issue of some sort of ideological litmus test: It's just flatly indefensible, and hostile, to exhort Israeli Jews to take up residence in countries that participated in a genocide against their Jewish populations. Thomas obviously isn't ignorant about that history, but she nonetheless disregarded it to deliver a smug and careless retort—on a subject about which flippancy, is, to put it politely, neither advisable nor kind.

There are other things that could be written here, points being made in other spaces about double-standards and hypocrites, and questions being raised about whether the reaction to Thomas' comments would quite be the same if she weren't old, or female, or Lebanese, or the toughest nut in the White House Press Corps—but lingering on these things beyond this cursory mention would feel to me like an attempt to mitigate or obfuscate her comments and what was wrong about them, which I've no yen to do.

Helen Thomas never had any tolerance for bullshit or excuses, so I'm just going to leave it there.

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