The Corner

Spirited Israeli Government Policy Discussion

There are some very bizarre reactions to the “retirement” of Helen Thomas, including that of Charles Krauthammer:

I believe generally speaking in the First Amendment [in the sense that] you say what you believe and then you stay where you are and defend it and not be excluded [or fired].

What’s the First Amendment got to do with it? Helen Thomas remains free to advocate Jewish deportations to Poland all she wants. All that’s happened is that Hearst Newspapers has decided they’d rather not publish her. But there’s nothing to stop her shopping her views elsewhere. Katrina vanden Heuvel seems receptive to a pitch.

Overseas, they’re even more confused. Roy Greenslade of The Guardian:

She was also dumped by her speaking agency, which issued a statement: “In light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East…”

So, in the land of the free, where freedom of speech is guaranteed under the constitution, a person who expresses what are deemed to be controversial views is effectively gagged. Has Ms Nine never heard of Voltaire?

Voltaire? The guy who said, “I disagree with what you say, but I’ll be happy to sign you to an exclusive lifetime contract with my speakers’ agency”?

“Free speech” doesn’t mean speech has no consequences – for in that case why say anything at all? What it means is that the government does not determine those consequences. Had Maclean’s magazine been found guilty at our trial in Vancouver of publishing “Islamophobic” content, the statutory penalty under British Columbia law would have made it illegal for them to publish anything by me on Islam, Europe, demography and related subjects ever again. I would have been the subject, in effect, of a lifetime publication ban in Canada – and that ban, under the relevant section of the BC “human rights” code, is deemed to have the force of a Supreme Court decision. In other words, unlike Hearst or the Nine Speakers Agency, Maclean’s would not be free to choose for itself whether it wished to continue its association with a particular writer. In Canada, that decision is made by the state. That’s what the First Amendment prevents.

But Greenslade doesn’t leave it at that:

It is one of those rare occasions in which one can see clearly how people in America who are willing to express anti-establishment opinions are demonised, marginalised and finally excluded from public debate.

Did I say “people”? I mean, of course, those who are identified as liberals.

So ethnic cleansing of Jews is a “liberal” position? Albeit an “anti-establishment” one? What’s interesting is that, after spending so many years huffily insisting they’re not anti-Semitic but merely “anti-Zionist”, the British left is now happy to put an explicit call for “the Jews” to be returned to the land of Auschwitz under the category of “criticism of Israel”:

Apparently, say the BBC and The Guardian she has quit over “anti-Israel comments”.


What did it for Helen Thomas was not her “anti-Israel comments”. After all, no one ever has to resign for what they say about Israel. No, what did it for Helen Thomas was that her comments made express reference to “The Jews” and therefore could be pointedly and properly categorised as anti-Semitic…

But here’s the irony: it’s those very same Leftist institutions – the BBC, The Guardian and suchlike – who most vehemently stress that being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Semitic and yet it is they who are the quickest to forget that distinction when it suits them.

Helen Thomas is a vile old Jew-hater. The great thing about the land of the First Amendment is that she’s free to be one. What’s odder is why so many people feel it necessary to obscure the nature of what she said, or to pass off her fate as yet another of the many obstacles “anti-establishment” “liberals” face in America. Helen Thomas had a privileged seat at the White House for decades. At his six (count ’em) press conferences, President Obama has taken questions from her on three occasions. She is the establishment – or was, for half a century. And that ought to be a source of shame:

All of my grandparents were born there.

They were lucky enough to get out of Poland and into Canada, but everyone who stayed in Poland ended up in ovens, or burned alive in a barn in southeastern Poland – I assume you have heard of Jedwabne… The Poles didn’t like the sound of the screams, so they played music outside the barn to drown out the sounds…

My grandmother, she used to get letters from her father, the Rabbi, once she had arrived in Canada. They were from a little town near the eastern border with Russia…

Guess what, Helen? The letters just stopped coming all of the sudden.

“Anti-Israel comments”? The BBC and The Guardian are metaphorically playing mood music outside the barn.

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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