Rabbi Recalls His Shock at the Helen Thomas Answer

Rabbi David Nesenoff, the rabbi who stumbled into Helen Thomas's rant that Jews should "get the Hell out of Palestine," recalled his thoughts in Sunday's Washington Post:  

The gentle give and take has now been broadcast, transcribed and thoroughly dissected. However, a strict transcription misses the accuracy of the audiovisual. Only in the director's cut, the video, are the nonwords, the sound, the noise, the true reaction. And that was my "oooh."

"What were you thinking when you said 'oooh,' rabbi?" asked Fox News, as did many of the other national and international media outlets that probed and jabbed for my innermost thoughts. Well, I was thinking "oooh." Oooh. Most heard it the first time. Certainly during the multitude of reruns, "oooh" became part of the song. It was a response by a rabbi to Thomas's comments, and it was from my soul.

I merely asked a question with a video camera to a columnist. She answered me with an opinion that was unacceptable not just to me but to former and current press secretaries, politicians, the president, her agent and a great many other people. Her freedom of speech was not stifled; on the contrary, it was respected.

She 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.

And why? Because, as Thomas went on to explain to me, "I'm from Arab descent." That's it? That's all you got? Do we all travel with only our parents' stereotypes to guide us, never going beyond them to get to a peaceful destination?

In the past weeks I have relived this moment over and over, on television and radio, in newspapers and blogs. I've listened to a constant stream of commentary. And my sharpest impression is this: Where before I saw a foggy anti-Israel, anti-Jewish link, it's now clear. This feeling is not about statehood. It's about an ingrown, organic hate. It's a sentiment that bears no connection to history, dates, passages or verses. Erase the facts, the dates and the lore. Erase the Jew. Incredibly, even the Nazis said to the Jews, "Go home to Palestine." But Thomas and a babbling stream in our world and country dictate to Jewish people to "go home to Poland and Germany." Yeah, I said "oooh."

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.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis