Helen Thomas's controversial voice

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

I am appalled that Helen Thomas's comments on Israel prevent her from speaking at Walt Whitman High School's commencement ["Helen Thomas bows out of speech," Metro, June 7]. I am also disgusted that Ari Fleischer and Lanny Davis conducted a campaign to punish Ms. Thomas, no doubt as retribution for her outspoken questions when they served in earlier administrations. Freedom of speech, however, is lost to their petty maneuvering.

Most of us would not agree with Ms. Thomas's unfortunate and seemingly uninformed comments about where Jews might live in peace. But she has the right to say what she thinks, and listeners can decide whether she is foolish, biased and out of touch. Had she spoken at Whitman, perhaps she would have retracted, perhaps she would have lamented further . . . or maybe not.

Whitman's cancellation under fear of protest makes a sham of the belief in freedom of expression espoused by the poet the school was named for, not to mention his belief in the irrepressible strength of our common citizens to come to good conclusions about the ideas they confront.

Walt Whitman's America cannot be heard "singing" at the moment.

Phyllis Fordham, Glen Echo

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As a long-ago graduate of another Bethesda high school who now lives in Israel, I'm glad to hear that Helen Thomas won't speak at Walt Whitman's graduation.

Ms. Thomas's comments that Jews should leave Israel and "go home" to Poland or Germany were no different from hateful comments from others about African Americans "going home" to Africa or Hispanic Americans "going home" to other countries.

Israel was created legally by League of Nations mandate and United Nations vote. Israel has also been willing to live in peace alongside a Palestinian state as early as the 1948 partition plan and as recently as the Gaza withdrawal in 2005. If the Palestinians would accept that Jews are "home" in Israel and stop being fueled to hatred by comments such as those of Ms. Thomas, we could hope to reach peaceful coexistence.


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