Exposing the Myth of “Free Speech” in America

You hear a lot of blather about the constitutional right to free speech in America, and it’s true that those crazies who utter threatening and seditious remarks against the country’s first black president would probably be rounded up and shot in some other countries. Or at least sent to prison.

But the same “right” apparently does not extend to Helen Thomas (photo above).

You know who she is, right? The longest serving White House correspondent? Yep, that one.

The 89-year-old legend “retired” yesterday after comments she made about Israel were released over the weekend, drawing condemnation from the White House.

Obviously, Thomas didn’t really retire. She was fired. Her immediate “retirement” was announced after heiress Victoria Hearst publicly demanded that the corporation bearing her family’s name fire her.

So much for free speech.

Apparently, you can say whatever you like about President Obama – call him a “rag head,” compare him to Hitler, accuse him of treachery and other crimes, pray for his death and even call for his assassination. But you have to be really careful when you talk about Israel in America.

And Helen Thomas was not.

In a video recorded by the website RabbiLive.com on May 27, she was asked if she had any comments on Israel,

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she said.

“Where should they go?” the interviewer asked.

They should go back where they came from, to Germany, Poland or the United States, she said.

The White House called the remark “offensive and reprehensible.”

Really? Why?

A reasonable person can argue that Israel is an artificial nation, forced upon the Palestinians in much the same way as the English under Oliver Cromwell moved settlers into Ireland to drive the Irish from their homes.

I feel specially privileged to discuss Israel because my father was among the British soldiers who marched into Jerusalem on December 9, 1917, opening the door that led to the country’s foundation.

The surrender of Jerusalem (photo above) marked the end of four centuries of Turkish rule and the beginning of 30 years of British rule.

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, it was decided that territories inhabited by peoples unable to stand by themselves would be entrusted to advanced nations until the local population could handle their own affairs. This concept was incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.

When representatives of Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, and Belgium met at San Remo, Italy, in April 1920, to discuss methods of implementing the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Palestine was handed over to the British.

The British Mandate was approved by the League of Nations Council on July 24, 1922, and became official on September 29, 1923. The United States was not a member of the League of Nations, but a joint resolution of the United States Congress on June 30, 1922, endorsed the concept of the Jewish National Home.

The British Mandate over Palestine expired on Friday May 14, 1948,  and the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was signed. The “repatriation” of Jews from all over the world began.

A reasonable person could argue that the Jews have a right to this territory after all they’ve been through. We know the story of Moses and the Promised Land.  We know the Jews have been persecuted in Europe and elsewhere. We know about the pogroms and the Holocaust. We might feel it’s only fair that they should have a land of their own, and we might applaud the way in which they’ve toiled to make that land fruitful and progressive in the past six decades.

However, another reasonable person might argue that the creation of Israel was unfair to the Palestinians, and that the Jews should not have been arbitrarily invited to take over territory that Arabs have inhabited for generations.

To me, Helen Thomas expressed a reasonable opinion. I do not agree with her. I think the Arabs should let bygones be bygones and try to reach an accommodation with Israel to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future.

And I do not approve of the undiplomatic way in which she expressed her views. But I think she has every right to speak her mind – any way she wants.

Especially in America.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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