helen thomas 311.
(photo credit: Rabbi David F. Nesenoff)
A retired journalist accused of making anti-Semitic remarks has withdrawn her
participation from an anti-AIPAC conference in Washington next month because of
opposition by some of its participants.
Helen Thomas, who caused
controversy when she called on Jews in Israel to “go back to Europe” last year,
reportedly declined to take part in the Move Over AIPAC when it became clear
that “several members of the coalition and our grassroots community” involved in
the conference were opposed to her attendance.
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“When Thomas was informed
about this, she feared that the focus of the events might shift to her, instead
of AIPAC and US policy, and she gracefully withdrew her participation,” the
press release by Move Over AIPAC said.
Thomas was quoted by organizers as
thanking Move Over AIPAC for inviting her, saying she hoped the conference’s
purpose of countering Israel’s perceived influence in Washington will
“I am delighted that people are coming together for this
gathering and I want to make sure that the focus stays on AIPAC and US policy,
not me,” she was quoted saying by the anti-Israel lobby group.
earlier conference organizers announced Thomas would be the keynote speaker at
the event in a press release which was removed from the Web on
“We’re delighted to announce that Helen Thomas, who spent her
career questioning the powerful and speaking out against war and injustice, will
be joining us in DC as a keynote speaker at the Move Over AIPAC,” a press
Move Over AIPAC has been endorsed by the likes of
political scientists Stephen Walt and John Meirsheimer, who wrote a book
criticizing the “Israeli lobby” in Washington, and Jewish Voice for Peace, a
leftist Jewish organization involved in attempts to break the blockade on Gaza,
according to its website.
Several messages and phone calls to Walt,
Meirsheimer and JVP went unanswered.
Medea Benjamin, a spokesperson for
the event, elaborated on differences of opinion among participants regarding
Thomas and her reputation.
“Some within the coalition think that the
remarks were anti-Semitic and condemned what she said,” Benjamin
“Others thought that it was a slip of the tongue and that her
extended comments afterwards were a good explanation. Personally, I’ve been an
admirer of her for years and her protest of the Iraq war.”
inviting a speaker who in the past made inflammatory comments about Jews proved
the point of the gathering’s critics that it was pushing an anti- Semitic agenda
under the guise of an anti-Israeli lobby event, Benjamin responded in the
“The conference is really to talk about – and many of us are
Jews – is to work for a policy where Israel and Palestine can live together in
peace and get a process started,” Benjamin, who is Jewish, said.
values are Jewish and I believe in compassion for all and AIPAC does not
represent my Jewish values. Helen Thomas is one of 30 people who have been
invited and we are a community