Politics

Jews speak out against American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee decision to honor Helen Thomas

Prominent Jewish voices are speaking out against the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s (ADC) decision to honor former White House reporter and harsh critic of Israel, Helen Thomas, with their Mehdi Courage in Journalism award.

Thomas came under fire earlier this year when she told Rabbi David Nesenof, the founder of Rabbilive.com, at a Jewish heritage event at the White House that Jews need to “get the hell out of Palestine.” As to where they should go, Thomas said “Poland, Germany . . and America, and everywhere else.” Amid vast condemnation, including from The White House, Thomas resigned and apologized for her comment — though she recently defended her comments in a radio interview with Ohio radio station, WMRN-AM, in mid-October.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Daily Caller he was disappointed that a group purporting to condemn discrimination and bigotry would honor an individual whom many see as an anti-Semite –and do so in the name of another perceived anti-Semite, Dr. Mohammad T. Mehdi.

“It is very sad. Certainly she doesn’t deserve courage in journalism, she may deserve courage in bigotry, and what is even sadder is that it is named after an anti-Semite and a bigot, Mohammad Mehdi,” Foxman said. “It is ironically sad that one bigot receives an award in memory of another bigot.”

Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, echoed Foxman’s sentiments.

“For an Arab organization that claims to be against discrimination and racism, which honors someone who repeatedly made racist statements — such as demanding that all Jews leave the Jewish state — proves that the ADC simply is themselves anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and not anti-discrimination,” he said. “And further proof of this is that this award is named after somebody who is really a vicious hater of Israel who many times called for Israel not to exist.”

Foxman said that while he did not believe the ADC had a history of rampant anti-Semitism, Medhi and the award recipient certainly did.

“She made her mark as a women’s [liberation figure] — there is no question that she deserves recognition for that — but unfortunately she was affected with bigotry and anti-Semitism,” Foxman said. “In a way, I think they are doing it in spite. How come they didn’t recognize her five years ago? She was just as ‘great a journalist’ as she is now. So it’s very in your face — which makes it even sadder.”

John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine, was equally disgusted.

“It’s the perfect merger of speaker and organization, in that its choice and her acceptance reveal the perniciousness of both parties,” Podhoretz wrote in an e-mailed comment to TheDC.

Rabbi Nesenof told The DC that it was only reasonable to assume that the ADC agreed with Thomas’ sentiments.

“I think that, just like Hizballah and Hamas agreed with her, and Ahmadinejad agreed with her, here is yet another organization that agrees with her,” he said.

Nesenof said that Thomas’ words were the epitome of racism.

“Make no bones about it, she did not say that Jews should leave East Jerusalem and go to Tel Aviv. She said they should leave an entire region…and go back home, go back home, to Poland and Germany, wherever they came from,” Nesenof said. “And that is the paradigm of racism and insensitivity: to send them back to a place where they were exterminated before….and recently she came out and affirmed that she believes everything she said.”

Klein speculated that decision to give honors like the Mehdi award only hurts the relationship between Arabs and Jews.

While the ADC did not immediately respond to requests for comment, the group earlier acknowledged Thomas’ misstep and apology in a press release distributed in June.

“The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) thanks Ms. Thomas for her legendary service, and acknowledges Ms. Thomas’ apology. ADC believes that Ms. Thomas should be judged on her ‘50-plus years of probing journalism, and not on a 30-second sound bite,’ as stated by Mr. Zool Zulkowitz, who represents American Jews defending Ms. Thomas. Mr. Zulkowitz further said that, ‘We are clear what Helen Thomas meant to say, which is that Israel should cease its occupation of Palestine…’ And, as Mr. Paul Jay wrote: ‘Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism…Helen Thomas’ isn’t,” the statement read.