NEW YORK – The New York rabbi who filmed veteran American journalist Helen Thomas telling Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” has received more than 25,000 pieces of hate mail.
Rabbi David Nesenoff, who interviewed Thomas during the White House Jewish Heritage Celebration on May 27, told The Jerusalem Post he has received a “plethora of disgusting, vile” e-mails and personal death threats.
“E-mails have been coming in every second,” said Nesenoff, whose video clip prompted the resignation of Thomas, the former doyenne of the Washington press corps who covered the White House for more than six decades.
“Who can blame them when Helen Thomas herself, with Jewish honorees walking the [White House] grounds, said what she said,” he added. Her anti-Israel conviction “must be more mainstream than what we calculated.”
On his website, RabbiLIVE.com, Nesenoff has posted several profanity-laced messages. “Helen Thomas was right,” read one e-mail. “You Jews need to get the hell out of occupied Palestine! Palestine never belonged to you Jews and never will! Yes, I’m anti-Jewish, so what?”
Nesenoff and his teenage son interviewed Thomas on May 27 at the White House, asking her whether she had any comments on Israel.
“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” the 89-year-old press legend said. “Any better comments?” Nesenoff can be heard asking on the tape.
Thomas, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, replied: “Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. Jews should go home to Poland, Germany and the United States,” she said.
Nesenoff, a little-known rabbi whose video interview thrust him into the spotlight, said the clip of Thomas, a vocal critic of Israel in the past, “was not an ambush.” He approached several others in attendance to ask the same question.
But as soon as she opened her mouth, Nesenoff said his mind began racing and he began to lose his composure at the verbal assault.
“I keep saying shock. Shock is like a baseball loss. This was to the very core of my DNA as a Jew,” he said.
The rabbi posted the video on June 3, and it quickly went viral, garnering more than a million views within days. Hate mail flowed, as did calls for Thomas to resign from B’nai B’rith International, the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations.
On June 4, Thomas apologized, issuing a statement expressing “deep regret” for her comments. “They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance,” she said.
But over the weekend, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called her
remarks “offensive and reprehensible.” The White House Correspondents
Association issued a statement calling her remarks “indefensible.”
On June 7, Thomas resigned from Hearst Corp.
In an interview on the Today Show
that aired after
her resignation, US President Barack Obama said: “It’s a shame because
Helen is somebody who has been through I don’t know how many
presidents, who was a real institution in Washington, but I think she
made the right decision.”
For Nesenoff, who contacted the authorities after receiving some
personal threats, said some of the e-mails have threatened Jews in
“We have been specifically threatened, myself and my family, but the
Jewish people have been threatened in thousands of these, to wipe out,
to kill,” he said. “So who do you call for that? To say, ‘Hey, we need
help. We have anti-Semites threatening the existence of the Jew.’”