Helen Thomas is a tragic figure in American politics. She spent years in the White House press corps, reporting doggedly on ten times more stories than most journalists could hope to cover in their career. However, her comments about sending Jews ‘home’ to Europe brought her illustrious career to a tragic end. As a Jew with strong ties to Israel, her comments will forever tarnish her legacy that I once saw with the greatest respect. While I still believe she was a great journalist, she is no longer the paragon I once thought she was.
Now, a career like hers deserves to be honored, and when I read that she was going to be honored at multiple events on Politico I was somewhat pleased (although like all things regarding her, I was conflicted). However, when I read that the two organizations honoring her were the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Council on American Islamic Relations my reaction was ‘your not helping’
The two big stories of the past month, Park 51 and the burn the Koran Day were driven by a rising level of Islamiphobia in America. Both of these issues were absurd, why should anyone care if anyone someone builds an Islamic community center 2 blocks from Ground Zero, and only a crazy person would give air time to an even crazier person talking about how he was going to burn a holy book. However, the fact is, relations are strained between (insert religious/ethnic group)-Americans and Muslim-Americans. There is a lot of crazy paranoia that moderate Muslims are actually crypto-Islamofascists just waiting to institute Sharia law.
Now this brings us back to Helen Thomas. Having two moderate groups honor someone who’s most known (in the mainstream publics eyes) was to recently say some very extreme things about Israel’s Jewish population will confirm many people’s misguided suspicions that even moderate Muslim/Arab groups are only moderate for show.
Of course you could easily argue that optics are not everything, and that if groups changed how they at to appease the crazies, they would be letting the crazies win. You would be right, to a point. Park 51 is an example of where the crazies should not be appeased, because it requires a Glenn Beck level of paranoia to find anything actually nefarious with it. In fact, the person involved with the project who has the closest ties to extremists, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, is also the second largest stake holder in Fox News’ parent company, News Corporation. However, with regards to Helen Thomas, you have a very recent very public scandal involving her making what many (including myself) considered to be extremely anti-Semitic remarks. That will not help improve relations, not one bit.