Richard Prince, Journal-isms - The sisters of Helen Thomas say her statements about Israel - which cost the White House correspondent-turned-Hearst columnist her job - have been widely misinterpreted.
In a telephone interview with Journal-isms, three of them said Thomas was not calling for the destruction of Israel or the return of all Israelis to Europe or the United States, as has been the running narrative, but was expressing her opposition to the disputed Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
"They should stop confiscating the land that belonged to the Palestinians. We feel that there should be a two-state solution in Palestine," said one sister, who did not want to be identified. The sisters, who spoke from the home of one of them in the Detroit area, home of the nation's largest concentration of Arab Americans, range in age from 87 to 95. Thomas is 89. A brother is 100. The family is Lebanese-American.
"Helen Thomas is for peaceful coexistence in the Palestinian territory," said Barbara Issac, the youngest sister. "What she does not like is that the Palestinians have been completely devastated and made to live under occupation and all the deleterious effects, and the hazardous effects of that, stripped of their ability to live normal lives.
"Helen has lived with this problem for as long as she's been in Washington," she said. Displaced Palestinians become waiters and cooks there, "and would talk to her, and she's heard nothing but their stories of horror for 60 years," referencing the creation of Israel in 1948. "She's out to dinner and they find her.
"If nobody got angry about injustice, then people just go on suffering, knowing that nobody gives a damn." . . .
Helen Thomas was not talking calls, her sisters said, giving a hint at what her life has been like in the past few days. "She has so many bouquets of flowers they can't get into her condo," Issac said. . .
Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab-American News in Dearborn, Mich., which claims to be "the largest, oldest and most respected Arab American newspaper in the United States," told Journal-isms there was never any doubt about what Thomas meant.
"Helen Thomas hit it right on the nail. They should get the hell out of Palestine," he said. "It's illegal" -- what is taking place, he said, "confiscating land" and "illegal settlements."
"She's talking about the settlements," he said without hesitation, asked to explain Thomas' reference. . .
"She doesn't hate anybody," Isaac said. One of the older sisters recalled that during the Holocaust, Thomas closely followed first lady Eleanor Roosevelt's efforts to bring German Jews to the United States. "She was very upset about the whole thing, and she had fed them in her apartment building when I used to visit her back in the '40s. They were in the concentration camps. She's very close to all that."