Helen Thomas addresses Israel-Palestine conflict at Loyola

By Marco Grittani

Helen Thomas, former White House correspondent, visited Loyola University Chicago Thursday night to reminisce about  her journalistic experiences, as well as share her controversial thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) invited Thomas to speak in participation of Palestine Awareness Week, despite disagreement from Hillel, an organization for Jewish students and faculty at Loyola, as described in an earlier Loyola Student Dispatch post.

Thomas, 90, was the lone female White House correspondent in the ’50s and worked for the United Press International for nearly 60 years.

In 2010, Thomas resigned from Hearst Newspapers after making anti-Semitic comments to David Nesenoff, a rabbi with a blog.  In the brief interview, Thomas said Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go “home” to “Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.”

Thomas’ speech Thursday night began with a recounting of her experiences with every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. She made it clear that presidents’ motives have greatly changed over the years.

“John F. Kennedy was my favorite president for his vision,” Thomas said. “He believed in public service, and that’s something our nation needs.”

Kennedy was the only president who received support from Thomas. She harped particularly on President Obama and his claim to being a liberal. Thomas said she assumed he’d be a liberal because he is black, but said she was wrong.

“The American people deserve better than Barack Obama,” Thomas said.

Despite Thomas’ claims regarding Obama, some Loyola students disagreed with her.

Marie Tierney, 20, a political science and international studies major, found Thomas was too critical of Obama.

“The situation is more complex than Thomas expressed,” Tierney said. “She clearly has a bias, which I thought came across a little too strong.”

Luis Federico, 20, a political science major,  found Thomas to be a role model for aspiring journalists.

“It seems people are too afraid to speak their minds,” Federico said. “Her story should be seen an example for future journalists who need to become comfortable with asking the tough questions and speaking their mind.”

Once Thomas finished her speech, she opened the floor up to a question and answer session with audience at which point the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was brought up.

When asked what she thinks about the controversy, Thomas made her point-of-view very clear.

“The Israelis are bulldozing homes, killing children and tearing up families,” Thomas said. “They absolutely no right to do these terrible things and need to go home.”

In terms of the United States’ response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Thomas believes we’re holding back for selfish reasons.

“Obama is not doing anything about the situation because of politics,” Thomas said. “He wants his job back and knows the country would not be happy with him spending millions of dollars to help [the conflict].”

Thomas then ended her speech by addressing the comment that led to her resignation from Hearst Newspapers.

“Americans can say whatever they want about our government,” Thomas said. “But once you say something about conflict in a foreign country, you lose your job and are called an Anti-Semite.”


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