Helen Thomas & Barack Obama

For two days running, the lead photograph in the Drudge Report showed President Obama seated in the front row of the White House press room.

He is holding a plate of cupcakes with one hand. His other arm is around the senior White House correspondent as he flashes that endearing smile.

This photograph shows several other White House correspondents, also smiling. They include me, two rows back. My face appears right between the president and Helen Thomas.

Then, beneath this photograph, the Drudge headline:

“WH-press queen: Jews get out of Israel, go back to Poland!”

I am a long-time friend of Helen’s – despite a couple of furious arguments we had about Israel, which nation, as a Christian Zionist, I strongly support.

I was glad to learn that she apologized for what she told Rabbi David Nesenoff – on camera – that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine and go home to Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.”

Helen, in apologizing, said:

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.”

But some statements are simply beyond any possible reach of apology.

Another White House acquaintance of whom I have fond memories was press secretary Ari Fleischer, who declared:

“She should lose her job over this. As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling. … She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist or a columnist said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would have already lost their jobs.”

The American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris, declared:

“Her comment revealed unbridled hostility to Israel’s very existence, if not to the Jewish people.

“It also showed profound ignorance, as half of Israel’s Jews come not from Germany or Poland, but from the Arab world, itself a telling point. Her apology, such as it was, seemed contrived and therefore unconvincing. She outted herself as a hater of Israel, and her credibility on the subject, if she ever had any, has been totally shot.”

This, along with a number of other strong and understandable protests, led the Hearst Corporation yesterday to announce the retirement of Helen Thomas after her lecture agency also severed its relationship with her.

Hearst announced that Helen’s decision to retire “came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.”

Helen is 89 years old, having covered the White House for Hearst since 2000 and before that for UPI, prior to that wire service becoming defunct. She was, before to her departure, first in seniority among the White House press corps.

Helen’s latest anti-Israel statement, which brought about her retirement, was also strongly denounced by my publisher, WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah, for whom I have the highest regard and gratitude.

I trust that he will understand why, in the cause of remembering the best in people rather than the worst, I recall that Helen, the seniority record-holder, despite our strong differences on the Middle East, was so often kind and congenial to me and wrote a gracious tribute to my biography, “Gadfly,” published by WorldNetDaily.

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