Palestinians honor columnist Helen Thomas

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JERUSALEM (AP) — The top Palestinian envoy to the U.S. recently hosted longtime American journalist Helen Thomas at his Washington residence and honored her for taking a tough stand against Israeli occupation, a senior Palestinian official said Tuesday.

Thomas’ observation that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” forced her into retirement in 2010 and was denounced by the White House and her press corps colleagues.

Palestinians “are occupied and it’s their land,” she said at the time. Asked where Jews should go, she replied, “Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.”

For many Palestinians, Thomas’ May 2010 comments were seen as a call for Israel to end its decades-old military occupation of lands Palestinians seek for a state.

Others believed her words went far beyond that, taking offense at what they saw as a call for destruction of Israel.

Palestinians appreciated her position, and Maen Erekat, the Palestinian envoy to Washington, recently hosted Thomas at a dinner at his residence, the official said.

“She meant to stand against (Israel’s) occupation and he wanted to honor her,” said the Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the issue’s sensitivity.

Israeli daily Haaretz said the dinner took place Sunday. The official said Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi presented Thomas with an award, though he did not specify what kind of award it was.

Neither Erekat nor Ashrawi responded to requests for comment. Thomas also could not immediately be reached for comment.