RIP Helen Thomas

Journalist Helen Thomas died today. She was a remarkable pioneer for women in journalism, but she was also a vital voice of dissent and a relentless practitioner of aggressive, fearless reporting. She had the courage to ask tough questions, and she did not accept political doublespeak.

She did not — as so many do these days — simply write down the talking points of both sides of a political divide, and tell the reader: “Now you figure it out.” Instead, she pursued the truth and reported it as best she could.

I found this biography from ABC to be fairly decent, and I especially like this paragraph:

She was persistent to the point of badgering. One White House press secretary described her questioning as “torture” — and he was one of her fans.

Everyone knows why she retired, and without getting into the specifics of Israel and Palestine, I will simply say that I found her comments simplistic and foolish — roughly akin to the anti-immigrant nonsense we hear in the US all the time. At the same time, I will say that her comments reflect a deep frustration that many people around the world share, owing to the harsh brutality inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli government. (Which of course does not excuse or justify Palestinian terrorism, etc etc.)

I will also point to Gandhi’s comments on Israel and Palestine, which was a bit more nuanced than Ms. Thomas’, but not entirely opposite:

And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it in the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs.

Finally, however, I wish to stress once more that we resist the temptation to make a person’s least agreeable moment the totality of that person’s identity. However you might feel about that last public episode, we owe Ms. Thomas a significant debt of gratitude for her indefatigable work in the name of democracy, justice, and peace.

EDIT: I totally forgot about her awesome video with Colbert! Thanks, Reddit.

Comments are closed.