Regarding Helen Thomas's idiocy regarding Israel:
I just sent the following letter to her (firstname.lastname@example.org), to her boss (email@example.com), and to her agent (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Dear Ms. Thomas, Ms. Bagley, and Ms. Nine,
This is regarding Ms. Thomas's remarks that Jews should go "back" to Germany and Poland:
First, Jews are not from Germany and Poland. Before Jews ever were in Germany and Poland, they were first in Franco-Germany, and only around the 14th-century did they begin to migrate to Eastern Europe. And that's only the Ashkenazi (European) half of the Jewish people. The other half, the Sephardim, began in Spain, and moved from there into either Western Europe (especially Italy, Holland, and Britain), or the Americas (following Columbus), or into the Ottoman empire (whether Turkey or the Balkans, i.e. Greece, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, etc.). And then there are the various other Jewish groups, such as the Iraqi Jews, the Persian Jews, the North African Jews, and the Yemenite Jews, all these being called "Mizrahim".
And all these groups - Ashkenazim and Sephardim and Mizrahim - before they were in their various locations in Europe and Asia, they were all alike living in Israel, until the Babylonian and Roman Empires expelled them. But during all the thousands of years in which they were expelled, they never ceased to pray to return to Israel. Jewish liturgy emphasizes the return to Israel constantly throughout the daily prayers, each and every single day of the week. And Jews never ceased to attempt to resettle Israel throughout the centuries. Doña Nasia from Spain tried to resettle Teveria (Tiberias) in the 15th-to-16th-centuries, at the same time that Rabbi Yosef Karo in Tzefat (Safed) tried to reinstitute the ancient traditional rabbinical ordination which the Romans had severed, in order to help prepare the Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah in Israel. A few centuries later Rabbi Haim Benattar (the Ohr ha-Hayim) from Morocco tried to build a yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) in Jerusalem in the 18th-century, at the same time that Rabbi Haim Abulafia from Izmir, Turkey tried to resettle Teveria (Tiberias), after Doña Nasia's attempt had failed. Throughout all these centuries, the shadarim (an acronym for "sheluhim de-eretz yisrael", Jewish rabbinical ambassadors from Israel) would frequently travel from Israel to the rest of the Jewish world, and these ambassadors - who included such prominent rabbis as Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azulai, the Hida - were seen by the rest of the Jewish people as some of the most important Jews alive, keeping the Messianic dream alive by representing Israel. These ambassadors were among the greatest and most scholarly rabbis of their days, but it was their living in Israel which made them be considered truly great, and worthy of being ambassadors for the whole Jewish world. Rabbi Solomon Gaon, one of the former chief rabbis of the Sephardim in Britain, writes about his childhood in Sarajevo, Bosnia, saying (http://www.hagshama.org.il/en/resources/view.asp?id=1683), "When I was a boy of about six my first Hebrew teacher, Rabbi David Gaon who was the spiritual leader of the little town in which I lived, left for Israel, at that time Palestine. I vividly remember him telling me, while giving me the lesson, in Hebrew and in Jewish history, that he would be going to Yerushalayim, that he would be taken there by his son who already lived there and that the greatest Mitzvah that a Jew could fulfill was to live in the Land that the Almighty had promised us and to pray for the time when the Messiah will come and redeem the Land and the people of Israel."
Second, it was not the Holocaust which gave rise to the modern State of Israel. First, the Sephardim and Mizrahim were largely spared from the Holocaust, but Sephardim and Mizrahim were prominent in the Zionist movement, including such rabbis as Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai of Zemun, Serbia were prominently represented in the Zionist movement. And Ashkenazim were prominent too, long before the Holocaust, such as Theodore Herzl of Vienna or Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer of Prussia. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 came long before the Holocaust, and the Irgun was bombing and shooting British soldiers (just as American colonists had done in the 18th-century) before the Holocaust as well. So the Holocaust has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the State of Israel. The State of Israel exists because it is the Jewish homeland, and because Jews spilled their own blood in war to return to their homeland, and the Holocaust has nothing to do with it.
If the Holocaust were the reason for the existence of the State of Israel, then two facts would become apparent:
(1) Middle-Eastern Jews like the Sephardim and Mizrahim would have no place in Israel, because they were never in the Holocaust. But the fact is that HALF of the Jews in Israel are Sephardim and Mizrahim whose ancestors were never involved in the Holocaust.
(2) Jews would have no right to punish the Arabs in Israel for the sins of the Europeans. I.e., it would be wrong to force the Arabs to give up land just because the Europeans murdered. Instead, if the Holocaust were the cause of the State of Israel, then the Europeans, not the Arabs, would have to surrender land in payment. But the fact is that the Jewish hope to return to Israel has nothing to do with the Holocaust, and even if the Europeans had been the most lovely and philosemitic and hospitable people to the Jews, even so, the Jews would still have returned to Israel, their homeland. European antisemitism is irrelevant.
So Ms. Thomas's call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany displays an astounding and awe-inspiring degree of ignorance about Jewish history. I suggest that a higher degree of education be expected from her, on any matter on which she expresses an opinion. On any matter in which she is ignorant of basic objective history, I suggest she practice silence.
Thank you, and sincerely,
** Update: With h/t to my friend Tamar Har-Oz, Nine Speakers, Inc. will no longer represent Thomas: here.
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