One doesn't speak ill of the dead, but perhaps there are exceptional circumstances.
By Rabbi David Nesenoff
While serving for decades as a pulpit rabbi, I had the opportunity to hear eulogies offered by family and friends. It is quite curious to see how we speak of the dead. And so it is in the case of Helen Thomas.
As the person who video interviewed Helen Thomas on the White House lawn in May 2010, the famous video that went viral, capturing Helen Thomas saying that the Jews should leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland, I watched with interest the memorializing of her passing. After all, three years ago, when she delivered her scathing words to me on the White House lawn on Jewish Heritage Day, she was thrown out of her job; the White House press corps banished her, the Nines Agency dropped their representation, her coauthor quit her and numerous speaking engagements were cancelled.
Soon after, the White House removed the plaque bearing her name from her front row seat in the briefing room; her name was removed from the tolerance award at her alma mater Wayne State University and her name was erased from the Society of Professional Journalists’ award as well. President Obama, himself, on camera, said that her words were “indefensible.”
Helen Thomas went on further to tell Playboy Magazine that the Zionists own “Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street.” Two congressmen, Republican Steve Chabot and Democrat Elliot Engel, even threatened to cancel all funding to the Palestinian Authority specifically because of its award to Helen Thomas.
Certainly one should be able to talk about Israel, disagree and offer various opinions on the White House lawn or any front lawn. But the classic dictionary definition of a bigot and racist is “Blacks go back to Africa” and “Jews go back to Germany.”
Helen Thomas managed 60 years of hiding behind her anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian veil until it was finally removed. And the naked anti-Jewish truth stood before us. Everyone saw it, knew it and threw her out.
But upon Helen Thomas’ death, TV show host Mika Brzezinski announced on MSNBC that Helen Thomas was her “role model.” CBS News decided to just change history and say that Helen Thomas said that the Jews should go back to “Europe.” CBS erased the word “Germany.”
President Obama lauded Helen Thomas as a “true pioneer,” ignoring her vile anti-Jewish words that had her thrown out of his house. Newspaper obituaries trivialized her bigotry, characterizing it as a small controversy stemming from her feistiness, and newscasters’ dimples’ grinned, “Oh that Helen, ha-ha.”
While every news source and the U.S. Justice Department scour information resources and beg, steal and borrow to find a nuance of a glimpse of evidence that George Zimmerman is a racist, Helen Thomas is on video blaring and blazing words that threw her out of polite society.
Yet upon her passing, the truth, facts, videos, quotes, and evidence of Helen Thomas being a blatant proud anti-Semite are all buried even before Helen is. Her original apology is sometimes included, but without mention of her continued post apology anti-Jewish words that have been documented. All the media are very quick to throw stones at Rolling Stone magazine’s cover of bombing suspect Tsarnaev, while they themselves air brush and glorify the life of a banished, video proven, anti-Semite Helen Thomas.
Whatever Helen Thomas may have accomplished for females in journalism and women’s rights, she erased by denying Jewish rights and human rights. And last I checked, women are part of humanity and they should be concerned about her denigrating words as well. She is the antithesis of a role model. If you are blessed to have the front row center seat, you should shine the light on the truth, the whole truth, and not take advantage and use it as a bully pulpit. And more recently she spouted disgusting lies about non-existent Israeli atrocities that I wouldn’t even dignify to repeat.
The world is a scary place and those informing us need to pay attention and report with truth. They can start by telling the truth about one of their own. Being a proven banished video documented anti-Semite should not be a small footnote in someone’s obituary. It is ultimately part and parcel of one’s legacy and it infected the world.
I found out the news that Helen Thomas died when I received an email from someone who wrote: “Happy now Kike?” He called me a “nasty filthy and smelly Jew …one of the ones Hitler missed.” I assume Helen Thomas was also his role model.
(David Nesenoff is a rabbi, film maker and author of David’s Harp. He is the publisher of RabbiLIVE.com and speaks worldwide on topics including anti-Semitism, Israel, media and the Middle East.)