home
RSS
June 8th, 2010
03:18 AM ET

The rabbi whose question ended Helen Thomas' career

From CNN Senior National Editor Dave Schechter:

Most Americans have never heard of Rabbi David Nesenoff, but they now know his work behind the camera. Nesenoff is an independent filmmaker who asked columnist Helen Thomas the question that brought an end to her decades-long career.

Nesenoff was at the White House on May 27 with a media credential, representing his website www.rabbilive.com, to cover an event marking Jewish Heritage Month. He was accompanied by his 17-year-old son Adam, who also was credentialed – representing his website www.shmoozepoint.com – and a friend of his son.

They had attended a White House news conference at which Thomas, known as the dean of the White House press corps, was one of the reporters to question President Obama. Afterwards, Nesenoff and his son asked various people at the White House – from a TV reporter to a Jewish boxer to visiting rabbis – to offer thoughts on Israel.

It was in the driveway outside the north entrance to the White House where Nesenoff saw Thomas. “Let’s meet her, let’s learn something” Nesenoff recalled telling the boys. “I didn’t remember that she had pro-Palestinian thoughts, anti-Semitic feelings,” he said.

What followed has been viewed online more than one million times on various sites, Nesenoff says.

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” Thomas told them. “Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Poland’s.”

That answer in and of itself might have caused a minor stir. Regular viewers of White House news conferences over the years have heard her ask questions that betrayed sympathy for the Palestinians, perhaps not surprising for a U.S.-born daughter of Christian immigrants from Lebanon. But Nesenoff followed up by asking where the Jews living in Israel should go.

“They could go home. Poland, Germany,” Thomas replied, “ . . . and America, and everywhere else.”

“I was hurt, I was shocked,” Nesenoff told me. He was less concerned about Thomas’ retirement. “There are bigger issues here,” he said, “of anti-Semitism tied into anti-Israel (sentiment).”

After Nesenoff posted the video online, Thomas apologized in a statement. “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians,” she said “They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."

It was not enough to quiet the uproar. Nesenoff is looking for something more personal. “She owes me an apology,” he says. “She owes my son an apology.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Israel • Judaism • Middle East • Politics

« Previous entry
soundoff (1,598 Responses)
  1. Eva

    What we need is free press. People should be able to say what they think without losing their jobs. If criticizing Israel makes someone lose her job, what is the difference between us and the Soviet Union or Communist China?

    June 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  2. Eva

    Interesting to read how the public's opinion differs from that of the politicians and the media. I think the media is supposed to be the voice of the people, not a means to brainwash them and tell them what to think.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  3. LoveAmerica

    Will Rabbi Nesenoff or his son apologize for the destruction of the Palestinian society and the cold murder of over one million innocent Palestinians and cleansing over 80% of the Palestinians from their land on the hands of Israel since its creation by force in 1948? Will the Rabbi apologize for starving the people of Gaza and then shower them with white phosphorus and the USA Congress and Administration looking on? Imagine what the Rabbi will say if the reverse of what Israel did to the Flotilla has happened? It is time to expose the lies of Israel and its sleepers in the main media, and stop its abuse of USA name and generosity. Helen should be congratulated to have the courage to speak of our frustrations.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
  4. Sophie

    The purpose of this story is to make everyone forget about what Israel did to the ships trying to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. The rabbi who asked Helen the question knew exactly what he was doing and what to expect for a response – and he and the rest of the press controlled by the Jewish lobby very swiftly and effectively killed the humanitarian aid story. Does anyone remember the ship and the people who died trying to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians? Does anyone remember that the Palestinians are trapped in a ghetto by the Israeli's? Ms. Thomas’ words are her honest opinion and what she said is true – the Israeli’s are occupying and stealing Palestinian land and homes. Why is there not more outrage against the loss of lives perpetrated by Israel and why is there so much outrage for speaking honestly? What Israel is doing is a sin – Israel is the problem – not Ms. Thomas.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
  5. jim

    Let the lesson of Thomas serve notice to all who would criticize anything Israel does. Better stay in line and not speak out.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
  6. craig

    didn't a kid get prosecuted for telling black people to leave Walmart... How is this different?

    June 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  7. Mauro

    I always liked Helen Thomas for her hard questioning of those in power but with the answer that got her in trouble she has now become my hero! They must have twisted her 89 years old arms to get her to apologize. But I wish she had not. I thought that at that point in her life she thought – what the heck, might as well ignore the political correctness and tell it like it is.
    But what else is new? She is only one of the long list of victims of Zionist revenge, from former Chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff Gen George Brown to Former Rep Cynthia Mc Kinney and thousand in between who were punished for either being sympathetic to the Palestinians or dared criticize Israel. Time to get rid of that yoke that Israel has on America!

    June 8, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  8. Sophie

    The purpose of this story is to make everyone forget about what Israel did to the ships trying to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. The rabbi who asked Helen the question knew exactly what he was doing and what to expect for a response – and he and the rest of the press controlled by the Jewish lobby very swiftly and effectively killed the humanitarian aid story. Does anyone remember the ship and the people who died trying to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians? Does anyone remember that the Palestinians are trapped in a ghetto by the Israeli's? Ms. Thomas’ words are her honest opinion and what she said is true – the Israeli’s are occupying and stealing Palestinian land and homes. What Israel is doing is a sin – Israel is the problem – not Ms. Thomas.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  9. dak

    so much for free speech... this is the second time my comments we excised... but yet some of this dredge has seemingly been posted... shame on you CNN... this is even after an hour of waiting....

    June 8, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  10. nunya57

    What is wrong with what she said?
    following logic then all american indians should be shipped to a different continent and given their own country as well as blacks, latinos, etc etc.
    Helen is completely logical. and this just further demonstrates the complete zionist thugism that pervades american politics.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
    • Arden

      It's not the American Indians who should be shipped out (if we are applying the analogy accurately), it's you. If you're not a Native American then you are living on occupied territory and need to go "home" to Russia, Denmark, England Lebanon or wherever your people came from.

      June 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
  11. Jan in Ohio

    I am simply sick and tired of listening to all the BS brought on by the news media. The US media only knows one thing and that is to feed the population with nonsense. The Jews may look like a small population, but they surely own most of the US and the rest of the world. They need to let the Palestinians be FREE and roam the world like themselves. No wonder the Jews were sent to the death camps during WWII. The Germans wanted them to be smaller and not live out their lives. God was created by them and their stupid belief. We are all temporary creatures on this planet earth

    June 8, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
    • oceans

      Wow, are you a time-traveler from 1930s Germany??

      June 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
    • Arden

      So what do you think of this all you other Anti-Israel folks? You like having this guys as an ally? And you wonder why some Jews might have a so-called "persecution complex." Thanks "Jan in Ohio" for totally making my point for me just by using your freedom of speech.

      June 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
    • Arty

      Jews are not good people. I have not met one that is a good person. They care about them and them only. They treat others like dirt, like they are better than them. I work with them on a daily basis and I've NEVER met one who didn't think someone owes them something. Israel is THE problem in the middle east and EVERYONE knows it

      June 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
    • Arden

      Another Awesome Ally for you Israel bashers! Nope no Anti-Semites here.... lol

      June 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
  12. Eva

    We live in a crazy world. Israel is allowed to commit genocide, kill peace activists, bomb refugee camps and everybody is blaming the victims. The aggressor is considered to be the good guy.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  13. Mike

    I agree with Helen and apparently CNN doesn't agree with me that a 2nd Holocaust is happening in Palestine!

    June 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  14. D Russell

    The Old Testament is on close inspection the story of a tribe ethnically cleansing a populated area then writing a book that says it was ok to do so. That makes them no better or worse than any tribe in their day – but we expect better today. Not all Jewish people are Zionists. Zionism is immoral and a political ideology and its exercise causes much hatred against all Jews unfortunately.

    "It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands."

    - Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
    • Arden

      You mean like:

      Leviticus 19:18 but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

      or

      Exodus 22:21-23 21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. 23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;

      Or

      Zechariah 7:10 10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

      or

      Isaiah 1:17 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

      Yep that wicked particularistic "Old Testament." Reading it must make people arrogant, selfish and want to oppress others...

      June 8, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • D Russell

      Arden – you are very good at cherry picking. Do you deny that the OT is not full of stories of the Israelites exterminating other peoples? Do not make the mistake of differenciating between writing directed toward Israelite to Israelite behaviour for general principles that extended to other nations/tribes. Christians mistranslated "thow shalt not murder" for "thow shalt not kill". Big difference. Police and soldiers kill – we do not call that murder. Read OT again.

      "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations...then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy." Deuteronomy 7:1-2, NIV. 1
      "...do not leave alive anything that breaths. Completely destroy them...as the Lord your God has commanded you..." Deuteronomy 20:16, NIV. 1

      June 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
  15. Stephen Whiteside

    How is it anti-Semitic, more like anti-Israel. Her solution isn't pragmatic nor correct in my view, but it isn't anti-Semitic. She sounds very frustrated. A reporter can have a personal point of view and still write relatively objective, that is what professional journalism is! They can have bad days just like anyone else. The fact someone can be here 90 years with a distinguished work record have a bad day by saying what she said, then have to retire speaks to our shame based culture and the bias towards Israel in the media.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  16. Eva

    Helen is right. The jews took away the land of the Palestinians. They are the aggressors, but keep whining about self defense.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  17. Jeff

    I would rathe see U.S. dollars going to a democracy (Israel) than to support Dictatorships or Oligarchies (all the Muslim countries). Israel is our only true friend and ally in the region. All other countries would turn on us in a heartbeat. Remember how they reacted after 9/11. Israel mourned with us!!!! They clearly understand the threat of terrorism.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
  18. Digital88

    Who created and placed a Jewish state right in the middle of Arab world? The British did it after WWII. To fight for her survival, Israel has to influence America's media and politics. So much so, that Arab hate us just as much. America is for the money, by the money and with the money. Jewish simply play this game better, or may be a little too well, that it backfires. Scared people into submissive, will never work in America.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
  19. ghostofgreed

    So, everyone believes you've seen an unedited video. A woman with a lengthy career as a respected journalist brought down in one day because major news organizations and the gov't simply believe what some amateur videographer put on the Internet? And why is it that she was brought down so rapidly when daily hatred is spewn from the mouths of Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and the like. There is one reason this was allowed to happen – she wasn't "done" at 85. She was still asking questions. And our current government does not like questions. That's why reporters aren't allowed anywhere near the BP oil spill. And why we don't see real footage from our numerous wars. Wake up, people, please wake up.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  20. PGSparky

    Though I have no probelm with people of a different race or religion( my problem with basically just with people). I find that this constant whining is getting on my nerves.Every group seems to have is core set of complainers whop are most vocal when the media puts a spotlight on a non issue.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
« Previous entry
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.