On Abe Foxman and the Helen Thomas Affair

  Paleface who speaks with forked tongue


A case of the pot maligning the kettle

Upon hearing of Helen Thomas’ forced retirement after a distinguished career spanning 67 years in journalism, a half century of which was spent as a White house correspondent, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League openly rejoiced.  “…she’s a bigot and should no longer maintain a role as a journalist,” he declared. “There was a permissiveness about the questions she asked. Nobody ever challenged her. She always colored the news — she was always bigoted about Israel. This is better late than never, but it should have happened earlier.”   Although Mr. Foxman likes to present himself as the voice of the Jewish community, the fact is that many thoughtful Jews disagree with his narrow nationalist perspective.

Typical of those Jews who oppose his views is the writer of a letter on the Washington post website on June 7, 2010, regarding the fate of Helen Thomas.

Helen Thomas was forced to retire after making anti-Zionist comments in an interview where she never even uttered the word “Jew” or “Jewish” in that interview.  Only people who are ignorant equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.  Even Nathan Birnbaum, the man credited with coining the word Zionism turned against it in his later years. Together with my grandfather Henri B. van Leeuwen, an Orthodox Jew, they published a newspaper in the Netherlands the late 1930’s called ‘Der Ruf’ which argued like Helen Thomas that European Jews had no right to move to Palestine and displace the Palestinian people who had been there for many generations.  This week I demonstrated with hundreds of other Jews in Los Angeles to protest Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Does that make us all anti-Semitic?  I love and support Helen Thomas. She is my hero and absolutely right! “

Mr. Foxman, who is far from a paragon of objectivity on the question, offered this evaluation of Ms. Thomas’ career and how she acquired the famous “reserved seat” on the front row at White House Press Conferences: “”She got that seat because she was an icon, a trailblazer not because she was brilliant or an objective reporter. I’m glad she’s gone, period. It will be better for everyone not to have a bigoted journalist sitting at press conferences asking the first question.”  Here Foxman is arguing that anyone who expresses an opinion he disagrees with should be silenced: which means he preaches what he practices.

Just ask Jewish scholars and intellectuals who disagree with him like the theologian and prolific author Mark Ellis, or historian and son of holocaust survivor Norm Finklestein, or Marxist historian Lenni Brenner.  And the late Village Voice writer Robert I. Freedman – a brilliant investigative journalist – detailed the machinations of the ADL to silence and destroy the careers of writers and scholars with whom Foxman had disagreements.  It is well worth looking up his articles and reading them, Mr. Freedman died a very young man – in his early forties I think – and he often told me that he was being threatened by shadowy figures who warned him to quit the work he was doing.  Although Mr. Freidman is gone, his wife is very much alive and can testify to the truth of what I am saying.

We also have the disturbing case of Time Magazine columnist Joe Klien, one of the smartest voices at the center of the American political spectrum. A solid reporter and philosophical pragmatist Klien gave a candid critique of the right-wing neo-conservative movement, whose intelligentsia is largely Jewish and strongly pro-Israel, in a 2008 article.  Among other things he said : “a great many Jewish neoconservatives—people like (Sen.) Joe Lieberman and the crowd at Commentary—plumped for this war (in Iraq), and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties.”  He also said that they were prepared to risk “U.S. lives and money … to make the world safe for Israel.”

The fact that Joe Klien is Jewish didn’t insulate him from the charge of anti-Semitism by the Neo-Cons, and Foxman jumped into the imbroglio the day after the magazine hit the stands.  His critique is instructive, and demonstrates the extent to which he is willing to demonize anyone who holds ideas different from his rigid and self-righteous view of the world.  Dredging up the long history of Jewish oppression in Europe, Abe accuses Klien of promoting “age-old anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government.” Instead of engaging Klien in debate Foxman turned to character assassination.

Although Klein’s argument is demonstrably true, the attack on him became so intense he felt a need to speak out about it and defend his motives while reaffirming his Jewishness.

There is a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who unsuccessfully tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Saddam Hussein in the 1990s,” he writes “ and then successfully helped provide the intellectual rationale for George Bush to do it in 2003… Happily, these people represent a very small sliver of the Jewish population in this country…I remain proud of my Jewish heritage, a strong supporter of Israel…But I am not willing to grant these ideologues the anonymity they seek…I believe there are a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who are pushing for war with Iran because they believe it is in America’s long-term interests and because they believe Israel’s existence is at stake. They are wrong and recent history tells us they are dangerous. They are also bullies and I’m not going to be intimidated by them.”  

Furthermore, Mr. Foxman’s concerns about bigotry in Ms. Thomas’ case must be regarded as selective outrage given his actions in the past.  For instance, Mr. Foxman had no problem serving as chief apologist for Israel’s shameful policy of cooperation with the Apartheid regime in South Africa –  a racist clique who had been pro-Nazi during World War II – whose official ideology bore such a striking resemblance to Nazism their disagreements were distinctions without a difference.

And it is a matter of record that the ADL under his leadership spied on Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress for South Africa’s fascist Bureau of State Security, an agency with the blood of untold black people on its hands.  Furthermore, an article in the Jewish Daily Forward by Lenoard Fine recounts a meeting of Jewish groups in which Mr. Foxman was confronted by a Rabbi who asked him how he could work with the Reverend John Hagee, a pro-Israel Protestant evangelist, when Hagee had said such bigoted things about Catholics – calling the Catholic Church “The whore of Babylon” for instance – and Abe’s answer was “that’s not a Jewish issue.”  It does not require much imagination to conjure images of the hysterical reponse it would provoke in Mr. Foxman should a Catholic leader say: “I’m tired of hearing about the Nazi’s, it’s not a Catholic issue!”

Abe’s indifference to bigotry against non-Jews also explains why he is passionately criticized  by Jews whose moral concerns  extend beyond the narrow nationalist interests of the Jewish community – of which there are many. Some of them find Mr. Foxman’s morality and his politics abhorrent, just go to the website “Jewcy” and look up the critiques by Jewish writers regarding Mr. Foxman’s reluctance to call the Armenian holocaust “genocide” and his opposition to the US Congress passing legislation recognizing the historical fact that the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians.

Hence while Mr. Foxman fulminates about Iranian President Mahmoud Armidinijad’s skepticism about the German genocide against Jews, he has nothing to say about the entire Turkish nation denying the Armenian holocaust. Since Turkey was the strongest supporter of Israel in the Muslim world – a situation that’s rapidly changing after the recent slaughter of nine of it’s unarmed citizens on a humanitarian mission to Gaza by Israeli commandos – could Foxman’s long time denial of the Armenian holocaust result from the same reasoning that led him into the arms of Big John Hagee?

Hence Abe’s selective morality is motivated by unabashed nationalist objectives; he is more than willing to embrace the most despicable bigots and even fudge the issue of genocide if it serves his interests!  Thus it is altogether fitting and proper to conclude that when it comes to moral principles Mr. Foxman’s allegiance is dictated by expedience.  Although the ADL leader has succeeded in making NOI leader Minister Louis Farrakhan a moral pariah who should be excluded from the public debate, Mr. Farrakhan’s transgressions regarding Jews have been purely rhetorical; he has committed no offenses comparable to the ADL’s collaboration with the fascist South African government, or Foxman’s apologies for Israel’s military cooperation with that murderous anti-black regime.

To say that Foxman has no moral superiority to Minister Farrakhan is to state the obvious!  And the fact that he has been able to make it appear so is a tribute to his vast propaganda machine.  The latest instance of Abe’s moral duplicity can be seen in his silence about the fact that the Rabbi who reported on Ms. Thomas’s statements can been seen on an internet video exposed by Keith Olberman on June 9, 2010 performing a racist skit ridiculing Hispanic people. I await Mr. Foxman’s public denunciation of the Rabbi – or will he decide this is also not of “Jewish interests.”

The Bigoted Rabbi


A Consummate Hypocrite!

 If Mr. Foxman is willing to debate these issues I can easily arrange it live on WBAI radio in New York, and put the entire thing online for the world to hear. But I seriously doubt that he will accept such an invitation, because he knows that the facts I have set forth here are indisputable, and besides, forthright debate with his critics is not really Abe’s style.  Political action and character assassination directed at silencing them is more his kind of thing.  That’s why he shamelessly rejoices at the destruction of Ms. Thomas’ career because she expressed an opinion that he finds offensive.  Whatever happened to protecting unpopular speech, which is the essence of our democracy?

Ms. Thomas is of Lebanese background, and her feelings about the horrid plight of the Palestinians under Israeli domination obviously represent the same type of nationalist sentiment for her kith and kin as Mr. Foxman feels for his.  And it is undeniable that her view is widely held among millions of Muslims around the world.  And let me say that from a Pan-African perspective – which is the black counterpart to Zionism, and even springs from the same intellectual roots in 19th century German universities where pan-Germanic ideas were ubiquitous – Ms. Thomas’ transgressions have been far less odious than Ms. Foxman’s.

Silencing the voice of Ms. Thomas – A journalist who paved the way for women in big time journalism and was so good at her craft that the Association of Professional Journalists, who is far better qualified to evaluate her career than Mr. Foxman, named a major prize in her honor – will not make the explosive Israeli Palestinian problems go away nor make us safer from terrorist attacks.  But it will give added credibility to those argue that the US media is controlled by Zionists – whether armed white christian fascist who routinely refer to the federal government as the ZOG i.e. “Zionist Occupied Government,” or the Islamic Jihadists who are dedicated to our destruction.  And it will also deprive the American people of a relentless watchdog willing to speak truth to power and keep those who rule us in check.  Whether Mr. Foxman understands this or not: That is precisely the role the framers of the US Constitution envisioned for the press!

 Helen Thomas: Venerable journalist


           All women journalist owe a debt to her


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York 

June 10, 2010


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