Friday, July 26, 2013

Op-Ed: Helen Thomas - The Ugly Truth

One doesn't speak ill of the dead, but perhaps there are exceptional circumstances.
By Rabbi David Nesenoff
Posted with the permission of the author.
While serving for decades as a pulpit rabbi, I had the opportunity to hear eulogies offered by family and friends. It is quite curious to see how we speak of the dead. And so it is in the case of Helen Thomas.
As the person who video interviewed Helen Thomas on the White House lawn in May 2010, the famous video that went viral, capturing Helen Thomas saying that the Jews should leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland, I watched with interest the memorializing of her passing. After all, three years ago, when she delivered her scathing words to me on the White House lawn on Jewish Heritage Day, she was thrown out of her job; the White House press corps banished her, the Nines Agency dropped their representation, her coauthor quit her and numerous speaking engagements were cancelled.
Soon after, the White House removed the plaque bearing her name from her front row seat in the briefing room; her name was removed from the tolerance award at her alma mater Wayne State University and her name was erased from the Society of Professional Journalists’ award as well. President Obama, himself, on camera, said that her words were “indefensible.”
Helen Thomas went on further to tell Playboy Magazine that the Zionists own “Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street.” Two congressmen, Republican Steve Chabot and Democrat Elliot Engel, even threatened to cancel all funding to the Palestinian Authority specifically because of its award to Helen Thomas.
Certainly one should be able to talk about Israel, disagree and offer various opinions on the White House lawn or any front lawn. But the classic dictionary definition of a bigot and racist is “Blacks go back to Africa” and “Jews go back to Germany.”
Helen Thomas managed 60 years of hiding behind her anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian veil until it was finally removed. And the naked anti-Jewish truth stood before us. Everyone saw it, knew it and threw her out.
But upon Helen Thomas’ death, TV show host Mika Brzezinski announced on MSNBC that Helen Thomas was her “role model.” CBS News decided to just change history and say that Helen Thomas said that the Jews should go back to “Europe.” CBS erased the word “Germany.”
President Obama lauded Helen Thomas as a “true pioneer,” ignoring her vile anti-Jewish words that had her thrown out of his house. Newspaper obituaries trivialized her bigotry, characterizing it as a small controversy stemming from her feistiness, and newscasters’ dimples’ grinned, “Oh that Helen, ha-ha.”
While every news source and the U.S. Justice Department scour information resources and beg, steal and borrow to find a nuance of a glimpse of evidence that George Zimmerman is a racist, Helen Thomas is on video blaring and blazing words that threw her out of polite society.
Yet upon her passing, the truth, facts, videos, quotes, and evidence of Helen Thomas being a blatant proud anti-Semite are all buried even before Helen is. Her original apology is sometimes included, but without mention of her continued post apology anti-Jewish words that have been documented. All the media are very quick to throw stones at Rolling Stone magazine’s cover of bombing suspect Tsarnaev, while they themselves air brush and glorify the life of a banished, video proven, anti-Semite Helen Thomas.
Whatever Helen Thomas may have accomplished for females in journalism and women’s rights, she erased by denying Jewish rights and human rights. And last I checked, women are part of humanity and they should be concerned about her denigrating words as well. She is the antithesis of a role model. If you are blessed to have the front row center seat, you should shine the light on the truth, the whole truth, and not take advantage and use it as a bully pulpit. And more recently she spouted disgusting lies about non-existent Israeli atrocities that I wouldn’t even dignify to repeat.
The world is a scary place and those informing us need to pay attention and report with truth. They can start by telling the truth about one of their own. Being a proven banished video documented anti-Semite should not be a small footnote in someone’s obituary. It is ultimately part and parcel of one’s legacy and it infected the world.
I found out the news that Helen Thomas died when I received an email from someone who wrote: “Happy now Kike?” He called me a “nasty filthy and smelly Jew …one of the ones Hitler missed.” I assume Helen Thomas was also his role model.
(David Nesenoff is a rabbi, film maker and author of David’s Harp. He is the publisher of and speaks worldwide on topics including anti-Semitism, Israel, media and the Middle East.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Points to Consider About the Resumption of Negotiations

There have been many articles published about the announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry that - after five years of refusal - the Palestinian Authority has supposedly agreed to resume final status negotiations with Israel. The following points are worth considering, whether or not any negotiations ever resume.

  • The articles are ambiguous and conflicting regarding whether either side made any "concessions" to get the talks restarted. However, the facts that the Palestinian Arabs have been resisting talks (the major result of which, if successful, would be the establishment of another state for them and the content of which would primarily be the extent of Israeli concessions) and the conditions they have been demanding (more on those among the other points) are very telling about the differences between the parties (Israel, for whom peace is the major goal, and the Palestinian Arabs, for whom peace is a bitter pill).
  • Mahmoud Abbas is the leader not only of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), but of the Fatah and PLO terror groups, both of which continue to call for the elimination of Israel in their charters. (Despite all the hoopla in 1996, the PLO charter was never actually changed.) His term as "president" of the Palestinian Authority actually ended in January, 2009, as he was elected to a four-year term on January 9, 2005.
  • Abbas has shown no interest in negotiating a peace agreement. He failed to even respond to an Israeli offer in 2008 to give him the equivalent of all the disputed territory, including parts of Jerusalem, and since then has refused to negotiate at all. (Technically, there was a three week period a few years ago during which he pretended to negotiate but announced even before he started that he'd end the negotiations after three weeks.)
  • Abbas has no ability to implement an agreement, even if he had the interest in negotiating one. He has no authority over Gaza and limited power even in the West Bank.
  • Regardless of whether Israel is making any concessions relating to the release of prisoners, the Arab demands for their release shows a lack of interest in peace. Those prisoners were not Boy Scouts; they are all terrorists, many of whom are mass murderers of innocent civilians. Someone who wanted to live in peace would also want them to remain where they belong - incarcerated; instead, the Palestinian Authority glorifies and honors those terrorists. (Much information about that glorification may be found on the Palestinian Media Watch website <>)
  • Every time Israel releases prisoners, some of them return to terrorism and try to murder innocent Israelis. The fact that Israel would even consider releasing prisoners just to get the Palestinian Arabs to the bargaining table is a testament to how much they desire peace; they have repeated released prisoners knowing it would lead to the death of Israelis in the hope - so far baseless - that it might bring the possibility of peace closer.
  • The seminal United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 calls for "secure and recognized boundaries," something the armistice lines in effect in 1967 could never be. The armistice agreements in 1949 also specifically stated those armistice lines were to have no political significance. Hence, any insistence on turning those armistice lines into borders constitutes and insistence on the violation of the armistice agreements and the Security Council resolution.
  • References to those armistice lines as "borders" is simply incorrect.
  • The areas that would have been allocated to an Arab state in Palestine had the Arabs joined the Zionists in accepting the United Nations Partition Plan did not include any parts of Jerusalem. During the period Jordan occupied portions of Jerusalem (1948-1967), Jews were barred from their holy sites in the Old City. Since then, there has been relatively free access for all, with the primary exception of Jews being barred from praying on the Temple Mount and largely prevented from even entering the Temple Mount since the late 1980s.
  • Some have suggested implementation in Jerusalem of the principle of giving the primarily Arab areas to the Arabs and the primarily Jewish areas to Israel. This would make Jerusalem ungovernable and a security nightmare. It would also probably be opposed by the Arabs living in Jerusalem, if they felt free to vote without fear of reprisal, since so many of them are afraid of coming under the fist of the Palestinian Authority. However, that principle would make sense in the disputed territories. Rather than "land swaps," which are in principle violations of the armistice agreements and the Security Council resolutions, if the Arabs really were interested in a peaceful resolution they would agree to the primarily Jewish areas of the disputed territories staying with Israel while they would get the primarily Arab areas and dividing up the remainder of the disputed territory in a manner that would make the border reasonable.
  • Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly insisted he would make no concessions on any of the core issues. ("I can't allow myself to make even one concession." September 7, 2010) He has also acknowledged that there would have been a peace agreement long ago had he been willing to be reasonable. ("If we showed flexibility on these issues the peace agreement would have been signed a long time ago." October 15, 2010)

– Alan Stein

Monday, July 15, 2013

Irresponsible Narratives and the Lives they Impact

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

I find it interesting how people determine narratives around issues, people, situations and circumstances. Everyone does it; many create their positions driven by highly motivated agendas. Others create their narratives based upon minimal information and still others assume the publicly shared position shared by a psychologically important person in their lives. Many people simply adopt the most convenient and non-threatening narrative available-you see even this allows one to believe he/she is being socially responsible. 

Ah, but there are flaws with each of these approaches and what goes wanting is the truth, authentic justice and courage of one’s own convictions. Multiply this by a population and one can better understand why a society and/or a culture collapse over time.

Let us examine the concept of narrative development. Common to all of the preceding descriptions are that words alone are used to create narratives. Furthermore, the selected words are derived from a person’s personal choice of the words available to each one of us-it is a conscious and deliberate choice, well at least for those who are “paying attention” and not simply “going along with the crowd”. Now, this gets us back to the idea of motivation does it not? By this I mean to suggest that one identifies the words available to describe any situation and chooses only those words that support one’s intentional narrative-has this not been your experience? If no, the remainder of this piece will not make any sense and you might be better off to stop reading now-no offense neither taken nor implied!

Let us only focus on narrative development and not co-op the discussion but confusing it with narrative promotion or narrative adoption.  These are two additional concepts to possibly be developed later.

The concept of narrative development is really quite simple. Identify the words available to describe any situation and then use only those that support your version of the story you will tell, i.e., narrative. We were taught this way back when, let us use elementary or junior high school as one scenario. Did you know anyone who began a “story” about the new oddball kid that was derogatory, mean-spirited and factually inaccurate? Later you found out that this “kid’ was a genius simply possessing social behaviors and physical mannerisms “different” from yours. Yet, the narrative persisted for many years even when it was known to those perpetuating the narrative that this “kid” was not the weirdo the narrative proclaimed. Yet, even with this truth known, the narrative persisted! 

Many tell me that this is “old news”, they know this and obviously practice it daily-all sides of situations do this, the logic that seems to be implied is then it is ok to do it also-still scratching my head each time I state this point.

You see what has become socially acceptable in today’s world is “anything or most anything” is permitted in narrative development particularly if one’s intentions are noble, fall on the side of those who are disadvantaged/oppressed and operate out of good feelings for those having less than you. Yes, if one has “good intentions” and appeals directly to the feelings of others when presenting one’s narrative than it is OK/permissible/right/correct/morally acceptable (pick a descriptor or make up one of your own) to with hold the known complete situation descriptors. Said any other way, it is possible to manipulate the narrative away from the truth, that even when the facts are presented, those who have consumed and assumed the narrative must discount the information. 

 Why?  Simple, self-preservation with regards to one’s publicly shared position. It takes a person of immense character, one who is willing to step back from an assumed narrative, seek complete information and ask what is my intention with regards to continued use of a tarnished position? Every step of the way it is useful to understand that we, as humans, have a choice to make with respect to the words we adopt, the words we believe and it is our free will that drives our selections and choices-including ignoring other details and facts that are indeed contrary to one’s existing narrative.

It is based upon this conclusion that I find it disconcerting what is going on in the USA today particularly within the circle of politics and social situations and circumstances. It is not that I am stunned by the “creative” narratives coming from all sides, I am not na├»ve nor unfamiliar with the political process. I am disappointed with people who accept the narratives as truth, as gospel, even in the face of credible information that clearly disputes and disrupts the narrative in play.

The recent classic case is the Zimmerman trial and outcome. You see, the moment I even dare mention this people have “hunkered down” in their staid positions. Let us examine the fall out after the verdict was presented. Through-out this entire ordeal the News Media offered their narrative-notice the choice in the words used and those same words appeared on FB, Twitter and other social media sites: “a police “wannabee”, racially profiled, vigilante, gun-toting, carrying skittles, unarmed teenager/child, wearing a hoodie, and so many more descriptors of the person killed by a gun carried by a man. Clearly one side attempted to create a narrative based upon the perceived emotional state of its constituency. The victim was presented as a young teen, even heard older child used, who was on his way to buy Skittles-well you know the story, I need not repeat it all. This description was used to tug at people’s heartstrings, as well as to demonize the shooter. Of course until late in the trial you did not hear about the other descriptors such as drug user, school suspension, truancy, alleged involvement in a minor robbery-nor did you hear about the shooter’s brush with the law. 

To this writer it seems that appealing to the most basic of human’s motivation system, his/her feelings and using it as not only the “hook” but the ongoing tool to control other peoples’ thoughts and beliefs has reached a pinnacle today. We all know about feelings, they can and do fluctuate across time. The power of feelings has been well documented. We have all been the recipient of decisions made and/or actions taken based solely on our “feelings state”. Did you ever opt for the hot fudge sundae (you felt compelled to eat one) only later in the evening to suffer gastric distress? Have you known someone who “needed to have” that car even though he/she could not afford it but rationalized the purchase because it satisfied a feeling? How about the high school student who felt like writing insulting and hurtful words about another person on Face book for all to read? Today we call this bullying but the writer was only operating on his/her feelings!

We all understand my point regarding feelings and their power in managing our own as well as other’s behavior. For one side to only use feeling statements to create what I call feelings based narratives is immature at best, certainly it can be hurtful, incorrect, and misleading beyond the pale at worst. 

It does not speak well of where our society and/or culture is today in America when political groups, leaders and individuals who know better are part of an ongoing strategy to only create feelings-based narratives for purposes of intentionally distorting the facts about any one, any situation, circumstance or event. Furthermore, I am more than disappointed with people I know who otherwise operate their lives with integrity find themselves echoing this narrative form. It is especially disheartening when I know that they know better but choose to sustain their social status by refusing to critical think. This my friends is how a society crumbles.