In CNN interview, veteran reporter refuses to call comments urging Jews to leave Israel and return to Europe insensitive, says Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is the real insensitivity.
The Jews did not have to leave Germany and Poland following the Holocaust since they were not being persecuted anymore, former White House correspondent Helen Thomas said in an interview on Thursday, adding that the Jews had no right to take other people's land.
Thomas, 90, stepped down from her job as a columnist for Hearst News Service in June of last year 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 10 presidents, going back to Eisenhower.
Speaking of the controversial comments in an interview with CNN's Joy Behar on Thursday, Thomas said she did not regret her comments, saying that the Jews did not have to go anywhere after the Holocaust.
"There hasn't been persecution since that, since World War II. You don’t take other people's land," Thomas said in reference to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
When Behar asked Thomas if she realized that her comment regarding sending the Jews back to Poland and Germany were insensitive in view of the past the Jews share with those countries, the former correspondent said: "I also said Russia."
"Well Russia, they had their share of anti-Semitic pogroms," the CNN interviewer said, to which Thomas answered: "They also had 25 million who died in World War II…. More than that."
"They didn't have to go anywhere really, because they weren’t being persecuted anymore but they were taking other people's land," Thomas said, adding of the perceived insensitivity of her comments by saying: "Count how many Palestinians are in jails now, taken from their homes, a million refugees, is that sensitive?"
Responding to Behar's question whether or not she considered herself to be anti-Semitic, Thomas said: "Hell no! I'm a Semite…of Arab background," and saying of the Jews: "They're not Semites. I mean, most of them are from Europe."
Thomas also referred to the widespread uproar which her comments caused, saying she "didn't realize it would ring that many bells, because they've [the Jews] been free ever since."
When asked by Behar how would she revise her comments in view of the reactions they garnered, Thomas said: "Why do they have to go anywhere? They aren't being persecuted! They don't have the right to take other people's land. Under international law occupied land should not be annexed," Thomas said.
The former White House correspondent did, however, say she did not accurately gauge the backlash to her comments, saying that there was a change they got "me in trouble, but everything is distorted. But I don't care. "
"We have organized lobbyists in favor of Israel, you can't open your mouth. I can call the president of the United States anything in the book, but you say one thing about Israel and you're off limits," Thomas said.
"I have regrets that everyone misinterpreted it and distorted it, and you have the Ari Fleshcer and the Abe Foxman distorting everything, so I certainly knew that and I should of kept my mouth shut, probably."