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Saturday, June 12, 2010

WHEN LIBERALS ATTACK: Lessons Learned From The Helen Thomas Scandal

Much has happened since Rabbi Nesenoff emailed me his video interview of Helen Thomas containing her now-famous declaration that Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and go back to their homes in Germany and Poland. Upon first watching the interview, I saw it a big story and was determined to make it go viral. The objective was not to go after the 89-year-old newswoman per se, as a teaching opportunity, showing that anti-Semitism still permeated through normal American society. That teaching moment didn’t really happen; instead I was the one who did the learning, and the lesson was all about how the media really worked.

The White House Press corps seemed very reluctant to touch the story. On one hand it was understandable as Thomas was a respected colleague. Most of them had worked with her for a very long time. On the other hand it was big news, and if the Rabbi’s interview subject was a senior member of the Administration those same reporters would have been all over the story.

When they got around to covering the story, media got the “facts” of the incident wrong. I am not talking about Rosie O’Donnell’s idiotic statement dismissing the anti-Semitism displayed by Thomas’ call for Israeli Jews to return to the scene of the concentration camps, or her ignorant belief that no Jews lived in the Holy Land before 1948. The traditional media’s biggest factual mistake was reporting that the controversy surrounded Thomas making an anti-Israel comment.

CBS for example, led their story with:
“Journalist Helen Thomas announced Monday she is retiring, ending her 50-year career as a White House correspondent in the wake of controversial comments she made about Israel.”
Newsweek said:
“… Helen Thomas, who turns 90 on Aug. 4, announced her sudden retirement Monday following a firestorm of controversy over some ill-chosen remarks about Israel, which found their way onto YouTube.”
This incident had nothing to do with Anti-Israel comments. If saying bad things about Israel was a firing offense  half of the Obama administration would be out of work. Helen Thomas got in trouble because her statement was anti-Semitic. To suggest anything different is both a distortion of the truth, and propaganda for the anti-Semites who believe that Jews control the media and American Foreign policy.

The Thomas affair reflected both the best and worst of new media. Had I tried to break the story in a traditional medium, Ms Thomas would still be sitting in her front row center seat. Only through the use of internet news outlets could a video like the Thomas interview go from a post on medium-sized blog to national broadcast media within eight hours. It was interesting to learn how, while they are apt to put the blogging community down, the mainstream media uses the internet media as a key source.

Unfortunately the Helen Thomas scandal also brought out the worst of the internet. Rabbi Nessenof has received over 25,000 nasty emails, but that is probably to be expected.

What wasn’t expected was the fact that liberal websites could not figure out a way to defend Ms Thomas’ actions, instead took the time to search the internet to find ways to attack the Rabbi personally as a way to de-legitimize Nesenoff’s video. The Huffington Post (which has its own history of Anti-Semitism) and Mediaite dug up a video of Nesenoff playing a “Hispanic-Priest-Weatherman,” doing a weather report along with a stereotyped “Rabbi.”

If the reporters had bothered to ask questions, they would have discovered the Video was a “Purim Shpeil”. Part of the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim is donning outlandish costumes and staging silly skits which are known as Purim Shpeils. These liberal sites’ great scandal about Rabbi Nesenoff was a silly play where he spoke with a Hispanic accent (and a few words of Yiddish). Ironically video makes much more fun of the Jewish character, which is portrayed as someone who is both negative and lazy, than the Hispanic one.

If those same internet reporters took the time to really investigate Rabbi Nesenoff they might have learned that he was founder of a Long Island Bias task force. The Rabbi was also an intervention consultant selected by the US Justice Department’s Civil rights office for largest discrimination consent decree in US history (against Denny Restaurants). He founded the Tolerance Rehabilitation for Youth in the Nassau County Family Courts (under NYS Supreme Court Judge Burton Joseph) for youth offenders convicted of bias and violent crimes. And he produced, wrote and directed an award winning film for the New York State Department of Youth, Moving Day. The film deals with with violence against Hispanics, Women and issues of the homeless. The entire list of his long service to teaching tolerance is too long to fit into this space.

All reporters make mistakes, a search of my site; The Lid would turn up more than I care to admit. But the Nesenoff stories published in these supposedly professional sites were not born out of a desire to find out the truth, they were created to destroy. There was a good thing arising from the Mediaite and Huffington stories, Rabbi Nesenoff received an honor that I would kill for. He was named as Keith Olbermann’s second worse person of the day. Since that prestigious award, I have continually reminded myself or the 11th Commandment; Thou shalt not covet thy friend’s recognition from a TV nut-Job.

Looking back on the past week it’s interesting to note both the Helen Thomas and the wacky weatherman videos can be tied to Purim.

Like many Jewish holidays, Purim’s theme is “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” The difference of this holiday’s story is there’s no overt, splitting of the sea-type miracle. We are taught to have faith that our victory came from God even though he was “hidden” during Purim. That’s one of the reasons we wear masks and costumes, to hide our faces the same way God did.

When Rabbi Nesenoff interviewed Helen Thomas at the White House, he got her to take off the mask and reveal her true face. The Rabbi was wearing a Purim mask in the weatherman video, unfortunately but many in the press (internet and traditional) didn’t bother to complete the necessary work as to get his mask off. After all, isn’t that the job of the press, to get through the masks so the true story can be revealed?


Unknown said...

Its amazing that in a day when people openly accept Homosexuality and Abortion as an accepted practice that there is still this much hate for Gods chosen people. Thats right, Gods chosen people. Remember that Jesus was a Jew and he was not just a Profit as some would have you believe. I think there are 2 major reasons why there is so much hate for the Jews. The Major reason is because of jealousy. The Palestinians are jealous of the Jews because they were chosen by God for the birth of the savior. Second is because of fear. Most people in that part of the world hate Israel because it is traditional. GrandPa hated them, Dad hated them, now they hate the Jews.Other than the occupation issue, most Palestinians don't even know why they hate. Remember the Jews defeated everything that came at them during the war and they are not afraid of a repeat. I have worked with the Jewish Military when I was active duty and am a big fan. They take no prisoners and shouldn't. Lastly, it wasn't the Jews who blew up the world trade center. Those of you who are American need to remember that.

Right Truth said...

Helen Thomas and what she believed was no secret to anyone, especially the White House press corps. But the video... the way she answered the question, the glee in her voice, knowing who she was talking to and at what even she was at ... was like ripping a bandage off a festering would and seeing the puss flow.

Right Truth

Steve Greenfield said...

My name is Steve Greenfield and I live in New Paltz, NY.

As Helen Thomas's remarks can be labeled controversial, ill-chosen, or anti-Semitic depending on the perspective(s) of any author and his or her intended audience, so can various tags be hung on the word "liberal." Most pro-Israel Jews in this country are active liberals in terms of the politics they practice in America, and proudly so. On the other side of the coin, many conservatives in America -- millions of mainstream ones like Pat Buchanan, and the WASP country club set, and millions more who lean towards a Klan, redneck, and even white supremacist ethos as manifesting themselves overtly through the Tea Party phenomenon -- are quite openly and aggressively anti-Semitic, yet we pro-Israel Jews never pressure the media to have them take even a single day off, let alone fire them.

Then there are Jews and goyim like me, generally called by the useless moniker "liberal" by those who can't be bothered with anything beyond simple bipolar categorizations in the political spectrum, who don't like "liberals" as much as conservatives don't like them, and should be called libertarian-informed social democrats -- interestingly, the exact form of government and societal structures that exist in Israel and which right-leaning Zionists deny to us at home as Americans. Strange paradox. Due to my political beliefs and practices within the United States, right-leaning Jews expect the right to label me as anti-Israel despite the fact that I've volunteered to risk death in Israel's defense as a reserve wartime firefighter, and just completed a two week training in Israel towards that end, while what they do doesn't extend much further than writing checks and sending angry letters to editors and blog posts that fall into the trap of calling your own best people "liberals" as if it were an epithet.

How are we supposed to go on like this? If you're writing in support of Israel, can't you at least, if nothing else but an intellectual exercise, try to establish a terminology that's germane to questions regarding Israel, and unravel yourself from the anti-intellectual Fox News liberal-conservative straitjacket? Aren't we Jews capable enough to develop our own terms for our own issues, particularly when the low-hanging existing terms tend to denigrate the great majority of American pro-Israel Jews? Come on. Make the effort. If I'm going to operate under incoming Hizbollah rockets, it's the least you can do with your discourse.

Thanks for your consideration on this matter. I will be reaching out to other Jewish commentators concerning the need to develop alternate categorization language in support of strengthening American Jewish unity at this dangerous time. A recruiting video for the Emergency Volunteer Project made in Israel (in English) in which I and my (non-Jewish) brethren are featured is here: Details about the EVP are here: and details about the founding New Paltz firefighting contingent and our training expedition are here:

Anonymous said...

Jews are alwasy trying to excuse their behaviour. they are always victims and never the oppressors - but no one buys this anymore.

Unknown said...

I want to donate to Rabbi Nesenoff. I have tried sending him an email with the subject donate as his website suggests but never received a reply.

Don't worry, I don't want to send hate mail.

I don't care if you publish this comment, I just want to know how to donate to him.

Unknown said...

Steve if you send me an email with your email address I will forward to Rabbi Nesenoff

Mary Ann Miller said...

Just want to thank Rabbi a THOUSAND TIMES OVER for what he has done. I was once a true, "bleeding heart liberal"... that finally grew up and understood what it meant for my father to storm Normandy while a Captain in the British Navy. In the last 10 years I have slowly been re-educating myself about all things Conservative. And the funny thing? I still have a heart! (Another tidbit most media discounts.) Many Conservatives are HORRIBLY worried about Israel right now and ALL JEWS as well. They are getting more and more brazen with their rhetoric. And imagine that if the bias was so hidden just about Israel and Jews... imagine the distortion and lies about everything else? It's just the gift that keeps on giving.

It would have been wonderful to give our first, black president resounding support. However, just one click on "black liberation theology" is enough to trigger cascades of concerns... as well as reviewing the characters, like Helen Thomas, he surrounds himself in.

The most amazing concern us Conservatives have is for all the other Jewish people who haven't "figured it out" yet. I have to wonder, and a great book idea, is to delve into how Jewish people got into this mire and are having such a problem "waking up." Conservatives KNOW history repeats itself.

Our family prays for your nation. We are Christian, but we are one in the same. My son just gave a talk about David and Goliath yesterday and we made sure we explained that the story is NOT just about "personal Goliaths" but National Goliaths as well.

Best of luck to you... God has touched you and now you have a great responsibility to your people.

God Bless You and Keep Yourself Safe...

timm84 said...

As an atheist, I like to look at religious problems from an outside view. My view is, we need to seriously re-evaluate how we teach history, because there is an awful lot of ignorant liberals. even if you use the bible as a historical reference of the author, Israel is for the Jewish people. I'm quite certain that before the 800 a.d. it was Jews, NOT PALESTINIANS, who resided there.

Greg said...

Here's one of the base-line problems that exist amoung those who want to be part of the "liberal" movement, but have no true home within it.

Your sentence above that reads: "The objective was not to go after the 89-year-old newswoman per se, as a teaching opportunity, showing that anti-Semitism still permeated through normal American society." shows a lack of understand of what "normal American society" is today.

The majority of Americans today are conservative and that is where you will find your friends. Israel has no better group of advocates than American conservative Christians (of which I am one). And I'm not talking about the lunatics like that group in Michigan that were arrested last month (or April?), who call themselves "christians" but are NOT.

I was beyond thrilled to hear that Rabbi Nesenoff is now re-evaluating because both socially and politically, we share far more views than you do with the liberal-progressives that are currently permeating our government, the media, academia, entertainment, etc.

The liberals of our country are beginning to show their true colors and are very ugly indeed.

My religious heritage was founded from Judiasm. I recently finished reading the Torah (for the second time), and am now in the book of Samuel. Our religions are, and will forever be linked and we will stand by Israel where Barack Obama would like to do to Israel what Helen Thomas finally said.

Thank you for your time and please know that you do have allies out here! It would be great if you saw fit to pass this on to Rabbi Nesenoff. God Bless You!

Unknown said...

I guess only an anti-Semite would point out that Arabs (including Helen Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent) are Semites, too.

Oops! Better polish my resume: I feel a job loss coming.

Trimelda said...

You are mistaken, my friend. The job of the media is to support the advertising status quo. Money runs the media now, not truth. So when the truth comes out and threatens ad dollars, then the media supports the 'truth" by putting a spin on it.

That's why the best way to get rid of Thomas was to expose her real self and let the fury of the people take its course. And people say that blogs and citizen journalism is "dangerous". They're right. It's dangerous to the sold out whores of the media.

Thank you Sammy and G-d bless you.

Trimelda C. McDaniels

Unknown said...

No Daryl It doesnt make you an anti-Semite just makes you stupid. Antisemitism refers specifically to prejudice against Jews alone and in general despite the fact that there are other speakers of Semitic languages (e.g. Arabs, Ethiopians, or Assyrians) and that not all Jews speak a Semitic language. the term was coined in the late 19th century in Germany as a more clinical-sounding term for Judenhass ("Jew-hatred") and that has been its normal use since then.

But feel free to live in your dream world

Unknown said...

What "dream world" might that be? And what world do you dream of?

Unknown said...

Jewishness is a state of mind so the uprooting is not possible and the final destination for "Jews" should be on the psychoanalyst's coach.

gerald said...

God Bless Israel. I am sorry for bho's comments and actions. I trust his actions can be undone after his ONE TERM in office. He does NOT speak for most Americans that I know. Keep the faith.