Where Helen Thomas is Coming From

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQcQdWBqt14]

This is the famous video where some rabbi set up Helen Thomas and got her on camera saying that the Jews should get out of Palestine and go back to Europe where they came from.

This comment has been attacked as everything from stupid to anti-Semitic. It’s neither, really.

The comment is best analyzed in seeing where Thomas herself is coming from. Helen Thomas is the child of Lebanese Christian immigrants to the US, specifically Greek Orthodox Arabs. These comments of hers are quite in line with the typical Arab attitude about the Zionist Jews forming their state on the ashes of Palestine. The attitude is that the Jews are occupying Arab land in Palestine and that they ought to go back to Europe where they came from. So, she’s just talking like a typical Arab, nothing more, nothing less.

Although many Arabs who say such things are anti-Semites, not all are. Surely they are anti-Zionists. Rather than a battle of racists, this is really a war between two tribes, the Arabs and the Jews, and increasingly between the Muslims and the Jews. Tribal wars are not very pretty affairs, but it’s often incorrect to accuse the parties involved in the war of racism. Were those who hated Germans and Japanese during WW2 a bunch of racists? Get real.

The Jews do not like Arabs very much. Understandably so, as the Arabs won’t stop trying to kill them. Likewise for the Arabs in turn. If members of some enemy tribe kept trying to kill my people and more particularly me, I would surely opt to paint myself with the flimsy stain of temporary racist sin as opposed to daubing my body with the sturdy blotch of universalist death.

But it’s not much of a choice.

Further, Thomas’ comments must be seen in terms of her Greek Orthodox Arab religion. There were many Greek Orthodox living in Palestine before the Nakba, and many were ethnically cleansed. George Habash, leader of the PFLP, was ethnically cleansed with his family from Lydda, and his own sister was killed by the Jews. He was permanently radicalized. The Greek Orthodox refugees spread out to the surrounding Arab states, and many were attracted to secular Arab nationalism. Waddi Haddad, another PFLP radical, was also Greek Orthodox.

In Lebanon, the Greek Orthodox live heavily in the South with the Shia, but they often have their own villages. During the latest Lebanese war, when Israel invaded a Greek Orthodox village, the Lebanese Army surrendered, but the Israelis were soon attacked by a Greek Orthodox militia from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a pro-Syrian and pro-Hezbollah political party.

In the early days of the Lebanon War of 1982, the first suicide bombers were often Leftists, often Lebanese Christians, typically Greek Orthodox, from parties like the SSNP. Only later did Hezbollah take up the tactic.

In Lebanon, the Greek Orthodox support Syria and Hezbollah and despise Israel. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is a ferocious anti-Zionist and even anti-Semite who has supported suicide bombings and Hamas. The Greek Orthodox had a large population in Jerusalem. Recall that one of the four quarters of the Old City, the Christian Quarter, is mostly Greek Orthodox.

Unfortunately, the Greek Orthodox, and the Orthodox Church in general, has a long history of anti-Semitism. Note the anti-Semitism of the Russian Orthodox Church. Some say that Orthodox anti-Semitism is even worse than Catholic anti-Semitism. Note that the Orthodox Church sees itself as the true pure church, and has never gone through Vatican I, forget Vatican II. My understanding is that they don’t even like Catholics, and consider Catholics to be some sort of liberal deviationists.

The anti-Semitism of the Orthodox involves accusations that the Jews are Christ-killers and the ancient enemies of the Christians. In this way it is similar to Catholic anti-Semitism, which is all about a homicidal or even genocidal response to their descendants of those who committed the Deicide.

The Nazis killed 80% of the Jews of Greece, who were mostly living in the formerly majority-Jewish city of Salonika (now Thessaloniki).  Israelis who vacation in Greece report that Greeks are quite hostile, and describe them as anti-Semites.

One of the worst Christian anti-Semites was the 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, Church Father Saint John Chrysostom. He delivered a series of homilies about Judaizing Christians, suggesting that they needed to choose one religion or the other.

The Jewish people were driven by their drunkenness and plumpness to the ultimate evil; they kicked about, they failed to accept the yoke of Christ, nor did they pull the plow of his teaching. Another prophet hinted at this when he said: “Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn heifer.”…

Although such beasts are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what happened to the Jews: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit for slaughter. This is why Christ said: “But as for these my enemies, who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and slay them.”

Here’s an excerpt from Homily 6…

You [Jews] did slay Christ, you did lift violent hands against the Master, you did spill his precious blood. This is why you have no chance for atonement, excuse, or defense.

Pretty ugly stuff.

In spite of these sentiments, or, even more frighteningly, possibly due to them, this man was made an Orthodox saint! His hatred for the Jews was palpable. He wanted them hunted down and killed, and he wanted their synagogues burnt to the ground.

In that sense Orthodox anti-Semitism is worse even than Catholic anti-Semitism founded in part on Saint Augustine. At least Augustine felt that the Jews should be preserved in humiliation as witnesses to the triumph of Christianity. Neither accorded the Jews full humanity, but at least Augustine was willing to let them survive, albeit as some sort of Catholic version of the dhimmi.

So, while I have no knowledge of whether or not Thomas is an anti-Semite, this is the cultural milieu that she comes from. She may have heard dinner-table conversations like this while growing up in her Greek Orthodox home.

10 thoughts on “Where Helen Thomas is Coming From”

  1. Recall that one of the four quarters of the Old City is still the Greek Quarter.

    Do you mean that the Christian Quarter is predominantly Greek Orthodox?

  2. Were those who hated Germans and Japanese during WW2 a bunch of racists? Get real.

    Actually, the Germans and Japanese were virulent racists. The Rape of Nanking was partially (though it wasn’t the main reason) motivated by anti-Chinese bigotry. And of course, I think we know about Hitler.

  3. To Rob:

    The Nazis killed 80% of the Jews of Greece, who were mostly living in the formerly majority-Jewish city of Salonika (now Thessaloniki). They may well have had help from Greeks.

    From a Jewish source it appears that Greeks (including the Archbishop of Athens…) did quite a bit to save Jews from the Germans.

    As Mort Goldman previously noted over half of Israel’s Jewish population is either from (or descended from Jews from those areas..) North Africa or the Middle East and can not be expected to return. About 20% are actually from (as in born in…) the US or Europe. (predominantly the former Soviet Union and not Poland or Germany except for some elderly Jews….) Around 75% were born in Israel.

    As I have said before…I do not believe a developed country such as Israel should receive any government aid from the US. (I think foreign aid should for acute situations (such as the Haitian earthquake, the Asian Tsunami.. and the preparedness to respond to such events.. and not backhanded aid which is return to the US for military or over priced agricultural goods….)

  4. Oh do not cut your hand or your foot
    by mistake or on purpose.
    At once a god will be raised in the wound,
    as it is everywhere, always,
    they will set a god there
    to be worshipped since he
    protects everything that parts with the self.
    Look after,
    you fighter,
    not to be deprived of your eye,
    because they will bring and raise
    a god in your eye socket
    and he will remain there, like a stone,
    while we will be raising our souls to praise him.
    And even you,
    you will turn your soul towards him
    and you will worship him
    as you do with the strangers.

    – Beatnik Hiermonk Savatvie Bastovoi

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8V9HS3Zv0o&feature=related

  5. The irony is that Helen tHomas (just look at her face) is by far much more genetically related to a typical Jew than an ethnic German is.

  6. Hey Robert, how did the ethnic split between Arabs and Jews occur? And why is it that Jews were the only Semitic people to maintain their identity against Islam and Arabization? By the way, what’s wrong with Orthodox anti-Semitism? Jews in eastern Europe were usurers.

  7. Dear Robert,

    Please I would appreciate it if you stopped attacking the Orthodox Church. How is Orthodox anti-Semitism any worse than Catholic anti-Semitism? Were the Orthodox responsible for the Spanish Inquisition? Were the Orthodox the ones who waged the Crusades? Incidentally, the Fourth Crusade was against us Orthodox and no one else.
    We Orthodox were victims of every Crusade…Catholic claims at the time that the Crusades were mainly directed at Muslims and Jews in order to secure the Holy Land for Christians are not entirely accurate…the indigenous Orthodox Christians of the Middle East were also targeted, since Rome wanted to bring the Christians of the Middle East (who were mainly Orthodox) under the hegemony of the Papal See. Hence the Orthodox of the Middle East decided to side with the Muslim Saladin, since their Western “Christian” correligionists were more than happy to slaughter them.

    Why is it that you do not mention how Orthodox Serbs saved many Jews when Nazi-allied Catholic Croats ((Ustasha) were ethnically cleansing them from the Balkans? Or mention that most of the Slavs in the German S.S. (Gestapo) were Catholic, not Orthodox (they were Poles, Croats, Eastern-rite Catholics from the Western Ukraine, Czechs, Slovaks,Slovenes, etc.).

    As an Orthodox Christian with roots in the Middle East, I must say, yes, culturally speaking we have more in common with our Muslim neighbours than with our Christian correligionists in the West. That can be a good thing however, as we can be a bridge of understanding between our Western correligionists and the Muslim world.

    As for your mention of a “Greek Orthodox militia”…I didn’t know we Orthodox even had a militia in Lebanon. In fact we are the only religious sect in Lebanon that has no militia and no foreign sponsor (as much as you would like to make it sound as if Syria is our sponsor and benefactor). Gebran Tueni was Lebanese and Orthodox, and vehemently anti-Syrian. That is what cost him his life, some would say. I have never known the Syrian Nationalist Party in Lebanon to have a miltia either, by the way.

    Do we consider Catholics deviationists? Yes we do, since they do not follow the Church Canons, and have drifted away from their Apostolic roots (which we have maintained over 2000 years), and as one English convert to Orthodoxy once said, “It was from the egg of Catholicism that Protestantism was hatched”.

    Maybe I am biased, but we are the ONLY Christian denomination that still follows the Tradition of the Church Fathers (Apostolic Tradition), and has remained faithful to Church Canons and the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
    We have preserved Christianity in its purest, most undefiled, uncontaminated form, over a period of two millenia, mind you. Where is Catholicism today? Incorporating heresies such as the Charismatic Renewal not to mention reducing fasting before Communion to simply one hour (which includes the Mass itself)…So of course we consider ourselves to be part of the “pure Church”.

    Palestinian Orthodox Christians have been victims of a brutal occupation that has made them prisoners on their own land…that is, land that hasn’t yet been staked out by American Jewish settlers from New York who have distorted their own religion in order to acquire real-estate 6000 miles away. Today they are caught between Jewish Talmud-fixated settlers and Muslim extremists who have their own agenda and their own religious bone to pick with the Jews. However the worst offenders are those who occupy and steal their land, and steal their water, and build huge settlements on the choicest hilltops to be found in the West Bank.

    There is hatred and prejudice in every community and every religious group, but you chose to focus only on Orthodox Christian Arabs.

    Let’s talk about how some Jews call Arabs “modern day Amalekites”, and call for their destruction.

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