Helen Thomas is Going Home, and Jews Are Already There
Listening to the now infamous Helen Thomas interview, I either can be disgusted with her, or I can focus on and be revolted by the real issue here: the state of education, knowledge and bias in the world. Sad as it is, Ms. Thomas-a bright, worldly and cultured member of our elite press corps for over a half-century either does not know or does not care about what the truth really is. Sadder still is the fact that there are millions of people out there who agree with Thomas. In most cases, however, it is not because they ignore the truth but because they do not know it. Instead, they repeat the lies that are consistently told by the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel racists who have made it their mission to delegitimize Israel and degrade the Jewish people.
Thomas’ sentiments that Jews should go back home to Poland and to Germany reveal a deep-rooted animosity. That Jews should go back to the places where they were slaughtered en masse is a sure sign of extreme hatred. Yet, that is not the most troublesome part for me. Thomas, exposed as an intolerant bigot, advises Jews to go home-but the same opinion is rooted even among the people who openly support Israel. The Thomas affair brings to light just how well the anti-Israel lobby has succeeded in distorting the truth that even Israel’s friends repeat the propaganda that the Jews have no legitimate claims to a place in the Holy Land.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said as much when he criticized Thomas-and he is a strong supporter of Israel, her existence and right to defend herself. He recalled the Holocaust in his rebuke of the 90 year old columnist, speaking of how inappropriate it is to tell Jews to go back home. Appreciative as I am to hear him do that, he fails the Jewish history test too.
Then Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar chided Thomas on The View, and once again, reminded the viewers of the horrors that occurred at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Goldberg, in imploring for a peaceful solution to the Middle East, alluded to a time when Jews did not live there, but came to the region. She too failed the Jewish history test.
Here is the bottom line. It truly is set in stone: Jews never left what they and the Bible call the Land of Israel. From the day the Israelites under Joshua crossed over to the west bank of the Jordan River 3,200 years ago until today, Jews have lived in the Land of Israel. They lived there during the Babylonian exile; they lived there during Persian rule; they lived there under the Roman thumb; they lived there throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman empires; they lived there during the days of Mandatory Palestine.
In 1929, for example, 67 Jews were killed in Hebron and the rest of the Jewish population was forced to leave. These were not immigrants from Europe; they and their families had lived in Hebron for at least 800 years. That same year, 20 Jews were massacred in Safed-again a community in which there had been a continuous Jewish settlement for at least 800 years. (Earlier Jewish communities in both places were eradicated by Christian crusaders in the 12th century.)
Jews lived in Jerusalem and Jericho, Nablus and Nazareth, Beersheba and Beit Shean-and these are provable facts, not Zionist fairy tales.
Towards the end of the 19th Century and through the first half of the 20th, Jews indeed came to Israel from other areas of the Near East, Africa and Europe. Most either were expelled from their homes or were fleeing persecution. Persian Jews were expelled from Iran. Jews from Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Libya, and so many more, all fled to the one place they knew they were permitted to live freely. Jews from Russia and Germany fled pogroms, anti-Jewish riots and bloodshed. They left their material homes for their ancestral one because they were no longer allowed to live in the place they themselves were born and raised. So they joined up with the Jews who had always lived in “Palestine” to create a home for the Jews that truly was their home.
As an aside, we never see international calls for Jewish justice; no calls for return to or compensation from the lands they fled. It is always a one way street when it comes to Jews and Israel
Even Israel’s supporters forget the demographics of the Middle East, or they ignore it. They forget-or ignore-other truths, as well, such as that the Jewish Settlement in Palestine on Nov. 29, 1947, announced its acceptance of a United Nations resolution that called for the creation of two separate Palestinian states, one Jewish and one Arab; that the Jews were the only ones in the region to accept this; that seven Arab states immediately invaded the lands set aside for the Palestinian Arab state and occupied those lands for the next 19 years; that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, three years before the first Israelis in a generation set foot in the West Bank and Gaza, before any settlement was ever an issue; that Jordan, which illegally occupied the West Bank, denied the Jews access to their holy places from 1949 through 1967; that in the wake of the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Arab states and the PLO meeting in Khartoum adopted the infamous “three no’s”-no peace with Israel; no negotiations with Israel; no recognition of Israel; and so many other truths.
Israel and the Jewish establishment must bear most of the blame for these misperceptions. They have failed to do their jobs effectively. They have allowed anti-Semites old and new to kidnap the truth and subvert the dialogue. They have allowed the message to be obscured by false rhetoric. Helen Thomas is not the real problem, as someone with her views would not be inclined to report the truth anyway. The outwardly pro-Israel contingents of public figures, newsmakers, celebrities, advocates and such who defend Israel to the world every day are more worrisome. If even Israel’s friends do not know the truth, how can anyone expect a world, inclined to vilify Israel, to treat her justly?
The Mavi Marmara incident has marred Israel and given the anti-Semites new ammunition to fire, but it triggers an even bigger calling for Jews and for Israel right now – to find a way to change the dialogue about Israel and Jewish people as it comes to the Middle East. Israel’s supporters and historians need to do much better to present the truth and purge the spin meant to delegitimize her:
Jews have always been in Israel, and in many ways, 1948 just opened the gates for Jews to return.
Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR