On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram,saying,
To your descendants I have given the land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and teh Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Juebusite. (Gen. 15: 18-21, NAS)
Legendary correspondent Helen Thomas experienced an embarrassing exchange (video below; transcript from Daily Kos) on May 27 with a Rabbi David F. Nessenoff pertaining to the Middle East:
Q: Any comments on Israel?
HT: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not German, it's not Polish.
Q: So where should they go, what should they do?
HT: Go home.
Q: Where is the home?
HT: Poland. Germany.
Q: So you're saying Jews go back to Poland, Germany?
HT: And America and everywhere else.
Ms. Thomas has apologized on her website. Nevertheless, former Bush 43 Press Secretary Ari Fleischer charged in an e-mail:
She should lose her job over this. As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.
She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.
Fleischer is half-right. Probably if the an analogous statement had been made about blacks or hispanics, the speaker would have been fired. And that too would have been wrong, given the importance of free expression. Yet, with more significance these days attached to speech than to behavior- and insufficient consideration given to an individual's body of work- Thomas probably would have been fired if she had said something equally offensive to certain other demographic groups.
Fleischer would have been more accurate and honest if he instead had said simply: Thomas has gotten it wrong. One does not have to deny that Arab Palestinians have some claim on the historic land of Palestine to acknowledge that Jews have been there an awfully long time, also. That would be on and (involuntarily) off since before the time of Jesus Christ, not merely since 1948. Yes, the Jews of Israel should go home- an awfully short trip, inasmuch as they're already there. (And Jews would be no more at home in Poland and Germany as in many Arab countries, from which many were made refugees.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stuck the right balance when on May 12 he explained at a special parliamentary session
It is not my intention to detract from the bond other peoples have with Jerusalem. However, I am challenging the attempts to detract from, distort or erase our unique bond with Jerusalem.
Netanyahu remarked additionally that Jerusalem "was mentioned 142 times in the New Testament, and not once in the Koran, although a later interpretation of the Islamic text, centuries after Mohammed, included one mention." The chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority- the moderate wing of the Palestinian movement, no less- called the comments "distasteful." Not inaccurate, of course, but "distasteful."
An inconvenient truth, that historical record. It cannot be used to justify any and all actions by the State of Israel. But if the left understandably took to deriding then-President Reagan for declaring "facts are stupid things," the least we can do is to acknowledge facts, whereupon policy may be adjusted in consideration of present circumstances.
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