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Helen Thomas defends remarks on Israel

Associated Press / October 13, 2010

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MARION, Ohio — In an interview, Helen Thomas, former White House correspondent, acknowledges she touched a nerve with remarks about Israel. But she said the comments were “exactly what I thought,’’ even though she realized soon afterward that they meant the end of her job.

“I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive,’’ Thomas told Ohio station WMRN-AM in a sometimes emotional interview that aired yesterday. It was recorded a week earlier by reporter Scott Spears at Thomas’s Washington, D.C., condominium.

Thomas, 90, stepped down from her job as a columnist for Hearst News Service in June after a rabbi and independent filmmaker videotaped her outside the White House calling on Israelis to get out of Palestine. She gave up her front-row seat in the White House press room, where she had aimed often pointed questions at presidents going back to Eisenhower.

She has kept a low profile since. It was “very hard for the first two weeks. After that, I came out of my coma,’’ Thomas said.

Rabbi David Nesenoff, who runs the website rabbilive.com, said he approached Thomas after he’d been at the White House for Jewish Heritage Day on May 27. He asked whether she had any comments on Israel.

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,’’ she replied.

“Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany; it’s not Poland,’’ she continued. Asked where they should go, she answered, “They should go home.’’

“Where’s home?’’ Nesenoff asked.

“Poland, Germany, and America, and everywhere else,’’ Thomas replied.

“They distorted my remarks,’’ Thomas, a daughter of Lebanese immigrants, said in yesterday’s radio interview.

Asked whether she’s anti-Semitic, she said: “Baloney!’’

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