Excusing Antisemitism


By now most of you will probably be familiar with the name Helen Thomas, a now former White House correspondent.

Filmed in an interview with Rabbi Nessenoff, she stated that Jews in Israel should go back “home” to Poland and Germany.

The moral depravity in such a statement is quite astonishing when one considers that for almost all Israelis (unless your name is Gilad Atzmon) “home” is well in Israel, their country of birth. To suggest that Jews go back to Poland and Germany, places they were forced to leave belies the indifference of Thomas to the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. More importantly as pointed out by Zamalek it  “not only perpetuates the propaganda myth that Israeli Jews are colonisers from Europe, but ignores the Arab and Muslim antisemitism that drove a million Jews out of the Miiddle East to seek refuge in Israel and the West.”

Ultimately though, the import of what Thomas is saying comes down to this: Jews are not entitled to a homeland of their own and that they should be denied their basic right to self-determination as enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Under the EUMC working definition of antisemitism, such sentiment is antisemitc.

While the nature of such bigotry should be obvious, you can always rely on the Guardian trusted to find a way of whitewashing and excusing anti-Jewish hate speech. In his blog post, Helen Thomas went over the top, but why is she gagged in the land of the free?,  Roy Greenslade expressed dismay at how Thomas’ speaking agency, Nine Speakers, dropped Thomas as a result of her comments.

“So, in the land of the free, where freedom of speech is guaranteed under the constitution, a person who expresses what are deemed to be controversial views is effectively gagged. Has Ms Nine never heard of Voltaire?”

So in Roy Greenslade’s myopic world anti-Jewish hate speech is promoted to the status of “controversial views”. And the disassociation by Thomas’ agent is portrayed as an act of “gagging” as if Thomas has some sort of constitutionally protected right to defame the Jewish people free from any consequence.

If it were Muslims being told to go back home to Pakistan can you imagine Roy Greenslade writing that such views are “controversial” or that the person expressing such views was being “gagged”? Hardly. So why the double standard when it comes to Jews?

It should therefore come as no surprise that Greenslade’s bigotry was amplified below the line in the comment thread.

The first two comments of the thread garnered almost 500 recommendations with this:

And from there we move to a comment that excuses the perpetrator by blaming the victim.

Then we have a selection of pure bigoted hate and ignorance:


As well as a selection of Jewish conspiracy theory straight out of the Protocols:

In reflecting upon the entire affair Joshuapundit best sums it up with this:

“They basically agree with Hamas – they like the idea of a judenrein Middle East, and are happy to embrace segregation and apartheid – provided it’s limited to Jews.”

95 comments on “Excusing Antisemitism

  1. Helen Thomas’ antisemitism and Erdogan’s provocations have a common denominator. Obama’s political pirouettes toward the Muslim world emboldened Israel’s foes to go on the offensive. What was voiced in private conversations before became ok to repeat in public under Obama. In other words, those bottom feeders smelled blood in the water. Nothing in politics takes place in a vacuum.

  2. “CIF has become the blog of choice for Britain’s anti-semites”

    Andy Gill,

    7 in 10 are third worlders. Genuine Brits are in a minority among CIF posters.

  3. Kick ass Obama,the only ass that he kicks is Israel’s,but he bows to every other ass.

    Obama has it in for Israel.

    Did you plug that hole Daddy,no sweetie he hasn’t.

  4. modernityblog

    I didn’t have access to the web for days and in all of that time I didn’t miss pretzelberg’s quibbling, whining and general inability to understand the meaning of basic sentences in English.

    Absolutely pathetic. You are a waste of space with your incessant hatred.

  5. modernityblog

    But if such language is used against Jews, then the quibbling starts

    The same people who have a crystal-clear interpretation of Thomas’ comment would probably interpret that as a clear accusation of anti-Semitism.

    And that in turn would make you a bit of a prat, would it not …

  6. pretzelberg,

    No, it is an observation of a wider phenomena within Western society.

    You couldn’t understand why her comments were racist, you had to quibble, but IF **another** ethnicity had been the subject of that comment and told to “go home”, then you would immediately have seen the racism.

    Surely, that point is obvious, even to you?

    Do you wish me to explain that again, and again?

  7. Pretzel:
    I think that your mistake here is that you are focusing too much on the nuances of what she said rather than looking at the global picture, which is: why would a non-Jew say to a Jew anywhere in the world – “go back to Poland” ? It’s not really an I/P issue and as I said in a comment on the Greenslade blog yesterday, it’s only a small step for some of the commenters on CiF to say to British Jews – go back to Poland !

  8. Peter:
    “Obama doesnt support Bibi but does more than that, he either enables or supports some of our enemies, not Bibi’s emenies but Israel’s.
    I don’t expect him to support the government but expect him to support Israel. He supports none of them.”

    I can only repeat that if Bibi actually had a policy then we could truly judge Obama’s support of lack of support of this policy. Obama’s bottom line is that he has to protect America’s interests and it is Bibi’s job to ensure that Israeli policy are in America’s interest. BUT THERE IS NO POLICY !

    Here is an interesting article that appeared in the NY Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/weekinreview/06cooper.html?ref=global-home

  9. MindTheCrap

    I think that your mistake here is that you are focusing too much on the nuances of what she said rather than looking at the global picture, which is: why would a non-Jew say to a Jew anywhere in the world – “go back to Poland”

    In fact over at the other place I have been focussing on exactly that, i.e. the fact that she said it to any Jew at all.

    And as I thought I made clear here as well – that is IMO the principal issue here. Nowhere, of course, have I been defending and/or apologising for Thomas.
    But you – unlike some of the nutters above – knew that.

  10. pretzelberg

    says the poster who has yet to answer my reply.

    I genuinely missed you asking me to reply and cannot work out which of your replies you want me to address. Let me know and I’ll do my best.

  11. Pretzel:
    I think you confused the issue by stating “Sorry, but for all the offensiveness of what she said I do not see her anywhere implying such a thing [Jews are not entitled to a homeland of their own]”.
    Well, I suppose they could always go back to Poland, throw out the Poles and create a Jewish homeland :-)

  12. PTH:
    “Not settlers, not the WB Jews not anybody but Israel’s Jews…”

    But wait, which Jews?
    Liberal, Reformists, Ultra Orthodox, Secular… :)

    Who cares!
    She’s out!
    Probably thought she was being filmed for a Neturey Karta stand up show…

  13. @ MindTheCrap

    For all we know she might well indeed be thinking that Jews are not entitled to a homeland of their own – but I am far from convinced that this is absolutely definitely the case.

  14. @ sababa

    You link to a story about an anti-Semitic nutjob.

    May I ask why exactly your link was “for pretzel” … ? ;-)

  15. Comments regarding Helen Thomas and freedom of speech violations simply highlight many posters lack of understanding as to freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights(Constitution)…. the responses to these ill informed post’s by other’s throughout many of the threads go ignored by posters tauting this line of reasoning —-…..the mentality of the freedom of speech violation crowd is like that of an adolescent getting fired from his first job after telling his supervisor he is a jerk and not understanding why? A natural recoil response from many a poster has been Helen Thomas, go back to Lebanon! Although a trite comment, it does make sense in a twisted way from an American perspective…..The frustration from the left remains that the majority of American People support Israel, and they can’t accept it…..and that’s just too bad….

  16. For all we know she might well indeed be thinking that Jews are not entitled to a homeland of their own – but I am far from convinced that this is absolutely definitely the case.

    ??????????????????????????

    Answeing the question : What about Israel (not the occupied territories!) – she said that these people should go back home Germany, Poland etc.

    You wrote on this site some days ago that you are a native English speaker so you must be thinking that the lady can’t express herself well in this language.
    The only other option that she considers Germany and Poland the home of the Israeli Arabs…

  17. Oh-ho, pretzel, compliments: you’re making progress! Since you can’t see that Helen Thomas was talking about Israeli Jews, not West Bank settlers, it was by no means to be taken for granted that you would be able to realize that this guy wasn’t really upset about juice.
    There is really no discussion to be had about what Helen Thomas meant: the “go back to Germany and Poland” is a well-established mantra used exclusively by a very specific group of people. It’s not particularly flattering to you that you’re trying to obfuscate here, and you’re sorely mistaken if you think you demonstrate some sort of sophisticated ability to see nuances — though failing to call bigotry bigotry when it stares you in the face is of course fashionable in some circles, at least when Jews are the target of this bigotry.

  18. The problem is not one of language, but one of literalism.

    Pretzelberg like many limited thinkers tend to see the world in a fairly rigid fashion and unless those statements contain an unequivocal meaning, he and others can’t use common sense to understand the underlying point.

    There is no insight into language, the subtleties, the implied comments, etc

    Thus he and others will quibble and quibble, that is their way as literalists.

  19. Pretzel, you just keep on and on, don’t you?

    People don’t only speak to communicate, do they? They also expect a shared reality with their audience about what they are saying.

    Thomas left the rest of us in no doubt what she actually meant as well as actually said.

    Now, once again, just because you don’t believe the evidence of your own ears, you really cannot expect those of us who heard exactly what she said and knew exactly what she meant to agree that you may have a point!

  20. Jane Schlitz “……..the mentality of the freedom of speech violation crowd is like that of an adolescent getting fired from his first job after telling his supervisor he is a jerk and not understanding why? …”

    Quite so. And it’s a very immature mentality, too, isn’t it, the bearers of which are incapable of taking the role of the other and oblivious to the fact that they are offensive or that freedom of expression should be universal.

  21. sababa

    ” Helen Thomas was talking about Israeli Jews, not West Bank settlers,”

    She said” get the hell out of Palestine”. Clearly she meant Palestine…the hint being that she said the word Palestine.

    Then it telescopes out…”she meant all Israelis …all Jews …shes anti Semitic etc etc etc. Much ado about absolutely nothing

  22. HairShirt

    .

    “Thomas left the rest of us in no doubt what she actually meant as well as actually said.”

    As well as what she didnt say. We all know exactly what that would have meant . And the way in which it wasnt said…that more than anything…is what we would have definitely known ..had she said it…which is what she did not do.

  23. Berchmans, if Helen Thomas meant the West Bank, then she would have told those Jews to go back to Israel rather than a return to the worst place in the history of the Jewish people – which of course was a deliberately malicious comment, and the intention behind that comment makes it loaded with bigotry and hate. And this is from a woman who was already an adult when Poland’s 3million Jews were being murdered at a truly staggering rate. Consider this: At the beginning of 1942 90 per cent of Poland’s Jews were still alive. By the middle of 1943, over 90 per cent of them were dead. Now imagine just for a moment the absolute terror and cruelty associated with each one of those deaths and you may start to understand the offense that has been caused.

    Sababa, you are spot on about Pretzl with this one.

  24. sababa

    it was by no means to be taken for granted that you would be able to realize that this guy wasn’t really upset about juice.

    Don’t be silly. Of course it was.

    modernityblog

    Pretzelberg like many limited thinkers tend to see the world in a fairly rigid fashion and unless those statements contain an unequivocal meaning, he and others can’t use common sense to understand the underlying point. There is no insight into language, the subtleties, the implied comments, etc

    God you do talk shite, don’t you? This is about me not agreeing with you – and you subsequently resorting to ad hominems instead of debate.

    HairShirt

    Thomas left the rest of us in no doubt what she actually meant as well as actually said.

    OK. Fair enough. I do not share the majority opinion here in this case.

    Now, once again, just because you don’t believe the evidence of your own ears, you really cannot expect those of us who heard exactly what she said and knew exactly what she meant to agree that you may have a point!

    That’s a poor argument that I could throw right back your way.

    Over at CiF, of course, I am likewise in a tiny minority on most I/P threads.

  25. @ Jonny Moses

    Anyone who’s seen – and digested – my comments both here and at CiF over time would know that it would be absolutely laughable to doubt whether I could identify the anti-Semitism of the “juice man”.

    Perhaps sababa was joking. You’re clearly not, however. Shame for you.

    @ everyone

    Can’t we just agree that it was a massively offensive comment by Thomas? On the Kennedy thread CiF I myself suspected her of anti-Semitism when said comment is compounded with the additional “deliberate massacre” quote.

    I’m not as blind as a) some people here might genuinely believe and b) others dishonestly claim.

  26. Pretzelberg:
    Why do you get into an argument with these “nutters”? It is totally pointless and unproductive (like on CiF). They have accused me of worse.

  27. This is the perennial problem, the ambiguity of language.

    In a given situation what does someone really mean?

    Do they hide their words behind euphemisms?

    Do they leave the question open, so they’ve got some wiggle room (a common tactic of politicians and political activists), or are they unequivocal?

    Are their statements peppered with deliberate ambiguities ?

    Do they lack the ability to communicate, which in turn might explain a sloppy usage of language ?

    There are many possible answers, but most people familiar with the activities and mentality of bigots, the prejudice and racists will realise how often they use the flexibility of language to convey an implied meaning without necessarily openly stating their racism in an abrupt fashion.

    In America there is that lovely expression, the dog whistle, that too is use to say something without doing it too conspicuously.

    By the same token, most people competent with English and with basic reasoning skills will have seen the racism in Ms. Thomas’s comments in a tick.

    Others won’t, no matter how long you spend explaining it.

  28. Pretzel, it wasn’t the juice bit I was agreeing with, but this:

    “there is really no discussion to be had about what Helen Thomas meant: the “go back to Germany and Poland” is a well-established mantra used exclusively by a very specific group of people. It’s not particularly flattering to you that you’re trying to obfuscate here, and you’re sorely mistaken if you think you demonstrate some sort of sophisticated ability to see nuances — ”

    I’m not ashamed to agree with this, but I am aware of your track record when it comes to condemning Holocaust apologisers, minimisers, deniers and would-be re-enactors, which is what makes your defence of Helen Thomas disappointing.

  29. The problem Thomas has caused in the Guardian was that many of its readers agree with her position:

    Israel is illegitimate and is occupying Palestine (including Tel Aviv) and has stolen that land from the “indigenous people”, the Palestinians.

    This is the groupthink. Unfortunately few are aware that Palestinians are not indigenous to the Levant and that most Israelis do not descend from German and Polish holocaust refugees. In fact they descend from Jews who lived in the Middle East and who were expelled and abused before, during and after WWII.

    Of course the Guardian or the BBC will call this an anti-Israel comment.

    If someone would have said, lets build crematoria in a destroyed Israel, they would call that also an “anti_Israel ” statement.

  30. Hezbollah salutes Helen Thomas.

    Hezbollah, the Guardian and it’s noxious posters,Iran,North Korea,and Obama,all support this antediluvian relic.

  31. Mitnaged,
    I don’t agree with you. These posters understand full well the position of the other side, they don’t agree and wish to shut it down. What better way than to say Helen Thomas constitutional rights have been violated….they’re just sooooo concerned about defending American liberties…..(Big buzzwords in the US)

    Cif posters support Helen Thomas’ position, most Americans do not, she was an American journalist….there were consequences for running her mouth….too bad CIF.

  32. armaros

    “Israel is illegitimate and is occupying Palestine (including Tel Aviv) ”

    Nonsense. I know of no one who supports this view.

    You have added Tel Aviv for extra added “anti Semitism plus” . You should not have to make things up to argue.

  33. Modernity

    “There are many possible answers, but most people familiar with the activities and mentality of bigots, the prejudice and racists will realise how often they use the flexibility of language to convey an implied meaning without necessarily openly stating racism in an abrupt fashion.”

    An excellent description of Pretzel.

    Smtx, Ilan

    Don’t be naive; Pretzel’s “anti-Semitism of indifference” in immovable and as dagerous as the “anti-Semitism of malice.” And, frankly, I simply find creepy his insistence upon defending every instance of anti-Semitism presented on CW.

    He does so, here:

    Habeeb: “They are certainly pro-Israeli. I think you have to ask yourself who controls the media.”

    Glemvalley: “This is not neccesarily an anti-Semitic remark … it is stating the media is (sic) controlled by certain interests that prefer to give the Israeli view of events.”

    pretzelberg: (May 26, 2010 at 10:16 am)
    But on reflection I’d say it’s unwise to assume that this was “a blatant example of antisemitsm”. … The poster glemvalley might have a point.

    Of course, we know that by “certain interests” Pretzel’s new-found friend Glemvalley means …. Jooooz.

    Or here, on the current thread, Preztel feels compelled to deny the monstrous implications of Thomas’ explosion of Joo-hatred:

    June 9, 2010 at 2:47 am
    pretzelberg

    “Ultimately though, the import of what Thomas is saying comes down to this: Jews are not entitled to a homeland of their own”

    Sorry, but for all the offensiveness of what she said I do not see her anywhere implying such a thing.

    There is no difference between this Pretzel piece of zevel, and the “anti-Semites of indifference” in Lanzmann’s Shoah who either ignored the death camp next door, or even placidly did their railroad or other job which kept the death machinery running. It’s a central European tradition.

    Now, for those who think Pretzel is just harmlessly splitting hairs, let me split another hair: If tomorrow I pray for Pretzel to develop terminal cancer, it doesn’t really mean I wish him ill, no more than Pretzel or Glemvaley wish Jews ill. Because, of course, I cannot control nature, and Pretzel’s cancer would not be my fault but nature’s.

    But it’s only pedantry, isn’t it?

  34. As I have always said, scratch an “anti-Zionist” and you will always and inevitably find an anti-Semite. And the apologists for Thomas and her racism just keep digging the hole she started deeper and deeper.

    I disagree with Joshuapundit when he says, ““They basically agree with Hamas – they like the idea of a judenrein Middle East, and are happy to embrace segregation and apartheid – provided it’s limited to Jews.””

    I think they like the idea of a judenrein Middle East, alright, but I think they don’t want segregation or apartheid – I think they want us dead, and not just Israelis. There isn’t one of these bigots who wouldn’t like to see us all dead.

    These people think that since we committed the crime of surviving the last Holocaust, that we deserve another one. They will tell you that they have nothing against Jews as people, or Judaism as a religion, and then they turn around and proclaim that Jews control the media, or the Jewish Lobby runs the government, or, well, you know the drill. The problem, ultimately, is not Israel, it is that they simply hate Jews, blame us collectively for all of the world’s ills, and not one of them would weep if we disappeared into the showers again, in fact, they might use cattle prods to get us to move into them faster.

  35. “Israel is illegitimate and is occupying Palestine (including Tel Aviv) ”

    Nonsense. I know of no one who supports this view.

    A new proof of the conventional wisdom that human stupidity has only lower limit.

    Berchmans you should read sometimes the articles and posts written by your “reasonable and gentle” friends and published by the Guardian plus please take a look at the charters of your fascist allies Hamas and Hezb’allah. I especially suggest you to study the Electronic Intifada website and Bunglawala’s collected works.

  36. @ Jonny Moses

    Thanks but with all respect I find it unfair to say I am “defending” Thomas.

    @ zkharya

    Hezbollah hails Thomas for her “courageous, bold, honest and free opinion”. Shocking but sadly not surprising.
    Here I think of all those CiF idiots who insist that Hezbollah are just an innocent resistance movement.

    Anyway, I see Toko the troll continues to publish lies about me, i.e. my “insistence upon defending every instance of anti-Semitism presented on CW”.
    What utter tosh. I do wonder who the idiots are who recommend their hate-fuelled posts.

  37. Pretzelberg:
    Tokeyo le Pooko has said worse things about me. I think this site needs moderation if it wants to maintain reasonable standards. I said to Linda Grant that the level at CiF is exactly the level that the people running CiF want; the same logic applies to CiFWatch.

  38. “Sorry, but for all the offensiveness of what she said I do not see her anywhere implying such a thing.”

    pretzelberg, if that isn’t defending her, then what is it?

  39. Jane Schlitz, I was talking of psychological understanding of the mind of the other, not the gut reaction of the barely formed personalities BTL at CiF and who occasionally post here and, of course, those who speak up for the likes of the Wicked Witch of the White House.

    This gut reaction is knee jerk and you can tell by the way it’s phrased, but the full range of emotional understanding is not there.

  40. “…OK. Fair enough. I do not share the majority opinion here in this case…”

    Bravo, Pretzelberg, that’s an advance.

    The next step is to realise that this does not make them wrong! In psychological terms reality is defined by consensus of the majority and in this case, that reality is backed up by evidence.

    Now, if only you had said the sentence above, in exactly the way you wrote it, in the first place….

  41. “…In fact over at the other place I have been focussing on exactly that, i.e. “…the fact that she said it to any Jew at all. …”

    Pretzelberg I wonder whether you could just clear something up for me:

    On CiF, by referring to the fact that she said that to “any Jew at all” you imply that you at least question the wisdom of Thomas’ statement. Is that so?

    We can assume from that statement that you believed (in your CiF persona) that she was being deliberately offensive to Jews by making that statement to a Jew. That means that you believed then, on CiF that she was being antisemitic, otherwise the fact that the interviewer was a Jew would not have entered your head, much less would you have written about saying that to any Jew at all.

    That being the case how come you are arguing now on CiFWatch, that you don’t believe Thomas’ remark was antisemitic? Are you in fact now arguing (here on CiFWatch), that you would after all feel comfortable if she said that to any Jew at all?

    If that is the case, then are you pretending on CiF and telling the truth on CiFWatch?

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