James Taranto and the Intellectually and Morally Inept Media


James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal continues to berate Helen Thomas, one of the few reporters in the White House briefing room to ever show any moral or intellectual integrity, for her comments that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine”.

Taranto boasts that “We’ve” — presumably meaning the folks at the Wall Street Journal — “been calling Thomas ‘American journalism’s crazy old aunt in the attic’ for years”, and suggests that their characterization of the woman is more accurate than the Society of Professional Journalists’, which explains what the Helen Thomas award is:

The Award is named after longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, a living icon of journalism for her dogged pursuit of the truth in a career that has spanned almost 60 years.

Taranto obviously prefers journalists who choose not to ask real questions of White House officials. Not surprising, since he chooses to operate within the standard framework, which I’ll return to.

To paint Thomas as an anti-Semite for her “heinous views”, he cites David F. Nesenoff, who was the rabbi who interviewed Thomas when she made the statement:

[Thomas] didn’t say that the blockade was unjust, or that aid was not getting to Gaza, or that there was a massacre on the high seas, or that East Jerusalem is occupied, or that the settlements are immoral . . . and get out and go back to West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat. No. This was not the two-state solution. This was get the hell out and go back to the places of the final solution, Poland and Germany. The Jew has no connection with the land of Israel.

That comes from an op-ed in the Washington Post, in which Nesenoff wrote:

Then I asked: “Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everybody today.” Like saying a password to enter a new, secret place. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she replied, and “go home” to Poland and Germany.

Nesenoff explains his characterization (the one cited by Taranto) as being necessary because “a strict transcription misses the accuracy of the audiovisual”. In other words, he’s embellishing on what Thomas actually said.

“And why?” would Thomas make such a remark, he asks, answering:

Because, as Thomas went on to explain to me, “I’m from Arab descent.” That’s it? That’s all you got?

But if we never mind the suggestion that a strict transcript is not enough to understand what she actually said and look to it for insight, we can see that Thomas did not say she was “from Arab descent” as an explanation for why she holds that view, and that Nesenoff is being disingenuous (transcript follows, video above):

Nessenoff: Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everybody today. Any comments on Israel?

Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

N: Ooh. Any better comments than that?

T: Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. It’s not German and it’s not Poland.

N: So where should they go? What should they do?

T: They’d go home.

N: Where’s home?

T: Poland. Germany…

N: So you’re saying Jews go back to Poland and to Germany?

T: And America and everywhere else. Why push people out of there who have lived there for centuries. See?

N: Now, are you familiar with the history in that region, and what took place?

T: Very much. I’m of Arab background.

As any honest observer will note, Helen did not say she was of “Arab background” in answer to a question about why she believed Jews should leave Palestine, but to explain her interest in and knowledge of the history of the region.

Moreover, in his op-ed, Nesenoff employs a literary device to equate Thomas’ statement with the Holocaust, saying that Thomas believes they should return to “the places of the final solution”. But Thomas did not suggest Jews should return to “the places of the final solution”, but to today’s Germany and Poland — which is not the Nazi Germany or Nazi-occupied Poland of the 30s and 40s.

Her remark has no bearing on the Holocaust, but Nesenoff employs the device in order to paint her as an anti-Semite.

Nesenoff also neglects to point out in his op-ed that Thomas, while rightly observing that many Jews in Palestine came from Germany and Poland, also said they should return to wherever else they might have come from, from “America and everywhere else.”

The reason for that omission is obvious — it has no propaganda value to mention it, as “America and everywhere else” cannot be described as “the places of the final solution”.

Nesenoff continues with his disingenuous tirade against Thomas by explaining his “ooh” response:

My “oooh” was the sound of the shofar ram’s horn calling a loud primal tikeya, the extended ancient whole note from my very core. My existence was being erased. Every room in every Holiday Inn in America has, next to the bed, in the drawer, a Bible, beside the yellow pages and the breakfast menu. Christianity believes in the Jewish ancestry. Islam believes in the prophets Moses and Jesus. Can we just rip away the history of Jews in Israel like a Band-Aid, one quick motion across the centuries? Oooh.

Ooh. Thomas didn’t say that Jews indigenous to Palestine should leave, but referred only to Jews who immigrated there from Europe and elsewhere, forcing Arab Palestinians from their homes. 700,000 Arabs were forced from their homes or fled out of fear of further massacres such as occurred at Deir Yassin during the war that followed the Zionist’s unilateral declaration of the existence of the state of Israel.

At the time, Jews legally owned only about 7% of the land of Palestine, most of the rest of which was owned by Arabs. The Zionist declaration effectively said to the Arabs: “This is our land now.” That was why the neighboring Arab states launched a war on the Zionist forces, to protect the rights of the indigenous population and prevent them from being so unjustly disenfranchised. Ooh.

Thomas was decrying this extreme act of injustice, and further injustices such as the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the June 1967 war, in which Israel once again expelled many Palestinians from their homes — a practice which continues to this day, as Arab houses are demolished to make way for illegal Jewish settlements. Ooh.

What in God’s holy name (Yahweh) do Thomas’ remarks have to do with Nesenoff’s “existence”, and how do her comments “erase” him from being? What do they have to do with “Jewish ancestry” and Christianity’s belief in it? What do they have to do with Islam’s belief in the prophets Moses and Jesus (Yeshua)?

Answer: Absolutely nothing. Ooh.

Nesenoff’s purpose in these remarks is to whitewash the history of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionists and the grave injustices committed against Palestinians since, at the hands of Jews who are not indigenous, who immigrated to Palestine to steal Arab land. He would instead have his readers believe that Jews had some kind of “right” to do commit such crimes because of the ancient historical connection to the land 2,000 years ago. Ooh.

Returning to Taranto, he next attacks Foreign Policy Journal contributor Paul Craig Roberts, for his article “Helen Thomas: In Appreciation“, in which he wrote:

The propagandists for the Israel Lobby, who occupy the Wall Street Journal editorial page while pretending to be journalists, are determined to remove Helen Thomas from the annals of journalism.

Roberts, who is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal (as well as former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan administration, among other distinguished positions) continued with the observation that:

Helen excepted, American journalists are cowards. With the concentrated ownership of the corporate media today, no independently-minded journalist can have a career in print or TV media. You defend the Washington/Tel Aviv line, or you are out of work….

Helen Thomas’ opinion that Israelis should stop stealing the villages, homes, and lands of Palestinians, while confining Palestinians to the equivalent of the Warsaw Ghetto, is equated by Taranto to the advocacy of “ethnic cleansing” by Helen.

Of course, it is the Israelis who are doing the ethnic cleansing. Many Jews have documented Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, such as Uri Avnery, a former member of the Israeli terrorist organization, Irgun, Ilan Pappe, Israel’s most distinguished historian and author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, and the Israeli peace group, ICHAD, who have been my house guests. The Israeli newspaper, Haaratz, is far more critical of Israeli policy than Helen Thomas, and so is MIT professor Noam Chomsky, the distinguished British journalist and film maker John Pilger, and the distinguished scholar, Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors.

But Taranto prefers an 89-year old adversary.

Indeed, it would be lovely to see Taranto take on the actual facts about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, rather than attack Thomas for simply decrying that same ethnic cleansing of the Arabs by the Jews. But Roberts is right: Taranto is a moral and intellectual coward, so we can expect him to continue to obfuscate the real issue in favor of propagating an manufactured scandal.

Taranto takes a swipe at Foreign Policy Journal, also:

You can read Roberts’s piece in full at Foreign Policy Journal, whatever that is.

I’ll tell you what that is. Foreign Policy Journal is a source for world news, political commentary, and opinion analysis from outside the standard framework — unlike the Wall Street Journal, which prefers the usual dishonest propagandist accounts of history and international affairs.

While Taranto and the rest of the mainstream media were touting the official line on Iraq and “weapons of mass destruction”, I was observing that the government was lying, that there was no credible evidence Iraq still possessed WMD, or that it had ties to Al Qaeda — something any journalist with an ounce of intellectual and moral integrity could see, just by barely scratching the surface of the Bush administration’s patently false claims.

But Taranto, like so many others in the mainstream media, preferred not to be journalists worthy of the name, leaving it for bloggers and independent researchers like myself to tell people the truth.

This wasn’t Taranto’s first slam against me. After the June 2009 Iranian presidential election, I was writing that there was no evidence Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the vote, and that the claims to the contrary were part of a propaganda campaign.

Taranto named me as being among a list “Lefties for Ahmadinejad” for saying so. “It seems that some people really do believe ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’–even when the enemy is a theocratic, Holocaust-denying thug”, he wrote.

For the record, I’m conservative. It’s also asinine to say that because I wrote that Ahmadinejad didn’t steal the election, I therefore favor him. Classic projection. Bottom line: I was right on Iraq and Iran, and Taranto was wrong.

As two of the few who also got it right on Iran’s election and it’s aftermath, Flynt and Hilary Mann Leverett, recently wrote in Foreign Policy, most mainstream journalists got it wrong, because “willfully bad journalism and analysis, motivated in at least some cases by writers’ personal political agendas.” They continue:

In fact, it was possible to get the story right, and some did so. (At the risk of seeming immodest, we count ourselves among them.) It was also entirely possible for those who got the story so wrong to have gotten it right — but, to do so, they would have had to care more about reality and analytic truth than their personally preferred political outcomes or having a “sexier” story to sell.

From literally the morning after the election, the vast majority of Western journalists and U.S.-based Iran “experts” rushed to judgment that the outcome had to have been the result of fraud. These journalists and commentators largely succeeded in turning the notion of a fraudulent election in Iran into a “social fact” in the United States — just as journalists like Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times, and “experts” like Kenneth Pollack, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, helped turn myths about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction into “social facts” before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But there has never been a shred of hard evidence offered to back up the assertion of electoral fraud.

The Leveretts point readers to two definitive studies of the claims of fraud. The first is a response to the Chatham House report claiming fraud by Reza Esfandiari and Yousef Bozorgmehr. I first became aware of this report when Esfandiari contacted me to share it with me personally after having taken note my own work on the subject.

The second is “Did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Steal the 2009 Iran Election?” by Eric A. Brill. Again, I first became aware of this report when Brill contacted me prior to publication inquiring whether I had any further insight. I replied that I thought it was very comprehensive and that he’d pretty much addressed every critical aspect.

I strongly encourage readers who still believe the mainstream media’s propaganda on a “stolen” election to read both of those essays, both excellent, as the Leveretts point out.

Returning to Taranto and his attacks on Helen Thomas, here’s a relevant fact: Arabs are also Semitic people. So I leave a question to readers:

Who is really anti-Semitic? Helen Thomas, for expressing her view that Jews should return the land to the Arabs that they ethnically cleansed and stole? Or James Taranto, for expressing his view to the contrary?

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