Sisterhood Blog

Why We're Hooked on Helen Thomas

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Flare-ups and screw-ups in the Middle East reveal peoples’ biases much closer to home — and I’m addicted to discovering them. The last few times there’s been a flare-up of violence and controversy between Israel and its antagonists, I’ve taken to quietly but obsessively scrolling through the comments sections of blogs discussing the topic. I get a perverse kick out of witnessing people desperately trying to avoid a flame war and eventually getting sucked into one anyway. Of course.

Each thread has its guaranteed characters: Those for whom the mere mention of conflict in Israel seems to cause steam to come out of their ears, those who immediately complain about undue criticism of Israel and point to far more autocratic regimes, their foes who repeatedly list human rights abuses Israel has allegedly perpetrated, and the would-be mediators, the proudly rational “let’s all calm down” folks.

And then there are the bigots — on both sides. Yes, occasionally people write something really intelligent after a fiasco like the recent flotilla raid. But more frequently the internet gives one access to a whole bunch of anti-Semitism on one side, and equally vicious anti-Arab racism on the other. My husband and I call it the “Zionism is racism vs. the racist Zionists” phenomenon.

Facebook and Twitter just make this voyeuristic masochism even more acute — not only are strangers on the internet revealing their nasty streaks of prejudice, but relatives and colleagues are doing it, too! So often, this disappointing rhetoric comes from people I previously admired, like Helen Thomas. So to me, Thomas’ downfall — which Sisterhood contributors wrote about here and here is just another example of the kind of disillusionment I’ve gotten hooked on.

I know and understand why this kind of thinking appeals to liberal-old me. It brings this snowballing crisis back under my control and understanding. It’s easier to condemn a cousin or a journalist than carefully weigh and parse out blame to nations and their governments.

I was an English major, after all. I can quite handily parse comments for a level of shrillness that denotes racism or anti-Semitism and self-righteously shake my head at general “you started it!” immaturity from both sides. But what I can’t do is solve the crisis overseas. I think getting angry at people closer to home is one way to make manageable this seemingly unsolvable, emotionally draining conflict. It’s also one of the reasons people have so eagerly switched from asking how the heck we’re going to stop the violence to debating Helen Thomas’s remarks, weighing them against her breathtakingly inspiring career, and asking whether someone else said the same thing, they’d get in as much trouble.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Helen Thomas

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.