Ida Audeh’s Piece On Gaza, Helen Thomas And All That
(Note: This piece appeared in the Sunday, June 13, 2010 edition of the Boulder Daily Camera. It is by Ida Audeh, a Palestinian who grew up in the West Bank, under occupation and now lives in Boulder)
Boulder Daily Camera
Why should a seasoned journalist`s statements about Israel — a foreign country — be a litmus test of her ability to continue in their profession, who decides what an “acceptable” view is, and since when was a requirement placed on journalists to conform with what some consider to be acceptable?
The incident itself is not terribly significant: On May 27, Rabbi David Nesenoff invited Thomas (among others) to express comments about Israel on the occasion of a White House for a Jewish heritage celebration. Thomas replied that it should “get the hell out of Palestine” and that Israelis could return to Germany, Poland, or the United States.
My reading of her response is that she was referring to the 22 percent of Mandate Palestine that was occupied in 1967 and that is discussed half-heartedly as the site of a Palestinian state. About half a million Israeli settlers live there illegally. (The presence of foreign citizens in an illegally occupied territory is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.) They are armed and live in Jewish-only colonies, some of which are connected to Israeli cities by Jewish-only roads. Israeli refusal to dismantle the settlements is widely considered to be a major obstacle to peace. Thomas`s suggestion that they return to their countries of origin is eccentric, but her suggestion that they leave the occupied territories is not.
Thomas`s comments were not publicized until after Israel`s May 31 attack on a Turkish ship, one of a six-vessel flotilla delivering aid to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, and the murder of nine unarmed human rights activists. Only then did Thomas`s remarks become newsworthy and intolerable.
The attack against her appears to have been orchestrated by former Bush administration spokesperson Ari Fleischer. Lanny Davis, counsel to the White House in the Clinton administration, weighed in with full-throated denunciation. Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman said her initial apology “does not go far enough.” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen used a column to self-righteously lecture Thomas on the fate of Jews in Germany and Poland.
Here are a few facts that these opinion shapers (and apologists for Israel) do not want you to think about.
Israel`s tight grip on the Gaza Strip preceded by many years the election of Hamas to the Legislative Council. The blockade it has imposed on Gaza, described as hermetical and medieval, is a form of collective punishment on 1.5 million civilians, which makes it a criminal act. (This in turn makes President Obama`s remarks about its “unsustainability” incredibly foolish.) The Gaza flotilla involved more than 600 activists from more than 40 countries and included members of parliament, writers, filmmakers, and a Nobel peace laureate. Nine Turkish men were gunned down, taking a total of 30 bullets. According to an organizer I contacted on June 8, five activists remain in critical condition.
This act of Israeli piracy and lawlessness in international waters comes on the heels of Israel`s January assassination of a Hamas political figure in Dubai, using stolen foreign passports for the assassination team. It comes about 18 months after Israel`s devastating assault on the Gaza Strip, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority of them civilians. The Goldstone report concluded that there was evidence that Israel had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
California representative Brad Sherman has called for the prosecution of Americans on board the flotilla. The “crime” seems to be their failure to respect Israel`s right to rule not only Gaza`s food supply, airspace, and land access but also international waters.
Over a career that spanned nearly 60 years, Thomas stood out; amid a press corps that has often served as government agency mouthpieces, she asked the questions that thinking citizens in a democracy have a right and a need to know. Her forced exit, orchestrated by small men, is yet another sorry example of the way in which support for Israel has been allowed to distort public discussion of foreign policy issues in this country.
Ida Audeh, an editor who lives in Boulder, is a Palestinian who grew up in the occupied West Bank.
Several others on the same subject – quite good