Arab Americans Ask for Reversal of WSU's Decision to Pull Helen Thomas Award, Warn Against Stifling the Debate
The Congress of Arab American Organizations (CAAO) in Metropolitan Detroit is condemning last week's decision by Wayne State University to pull its Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Award following comments she made at a diversity conference in Dearborn.
Thomas, an Arab American, is perhaps the best-known alumna of WSU, having covered every President of the United States from the last years of the Eisenhower administration until the second year of the Obama administration. She was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents' Association, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club. She has written five books.
At the conference, held December 2, Thomas reiterated the claim she first made earlier this year at the White House’s Jewish Heritage Day event on May 27 that the Israelis should withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. In the Dearborn conference she lamented U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and added: "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by Zionists. No question, in my opinion." WSU leaders said they considered the remark anti-Semitic and pulled the award the following day.
CAAO leaders met with WSU officials this morning to discuss the decision, its meaning and ramifications. "We do not understand why a remark against a political group - the Zionists - would be interpreted as being anti-Semitic," said Osama Siblani, CAAO spokesman. "We categorically reject equating Zionism with Judaism. We believe the real problem here is that some in the pro-Israeli community donor base are doing what they do whenever they can, which is silencing debate on the subject of Israel. But for an academic institution to silence debate is unconscionable. Universities are where debate should begin."
"Helen Thomas is not now and never has been anti-Semitic," said CAAO executive committee member Imad Hamad. "She has worked her entire career, 60 years, to bring truth to the American public and she is simply continuing to do that."
CAAO warns that unless it is properly addressed and corrected, this hastily-made decision will negatively impact relations between the university and the Arab American community for many years. CAAO has asked the university to reconsider its decision. "The ball is now in their court," Siblani said.
University officials said they would respond to the CAAO concerns by Friday, December 10.
CAAO members will meet at the Lebanese American Heritage Club at 6 p.m. tomorrow, December 8, to further discuss the matter.
|Posted by Yusif Barakat on Thursday, December 09, 2010|
SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER NO MATTER WHAT THEY LABEL YOU A famous Arabic expression says: “Free Palestine from Israel and Free Jews from Zionism”. Judaism has been hijacked by Zionism and knowledgeable Jews should separate themselves from the Racist and Fascist Zionist Holocaust that has been committed, in their name, in Palestine! Many Jews I know have made the separation and I honor them for that! Jews, who join Zionism and support the apartheid and racial cleansing in Palestine, should be blamed for this political choice and not for their Jewish religion or ethnicity. Arabs are Semites---we are all (Jews/Christians/Muslims) the children of Abraham. The use of the term “anti-Semitic” should be taken out of the equation. The Zionists have used this expression to strike fear into anyone who dissents from their policy of genocide in Palestine, by linking it to the Hitler atrocity against Jews! “Anti-Semitic” is a label on par with “Islamic Terrorists”. These are labels that are put on people, who are fighting for their rights, and are designed to stifle and marginalize those who object to the violence inflicted on Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans. People have the right to use all means available to defend themselves against the attacks of colonial powers like Britain, the U.S. and Israel. “WAR IS THE TERRORISM OF THE RICH AND TERRORISM IS THE WAR OF THE POOR!” We should be addressing the real issues of war and violence inflicted on innocent people and not get side-tracked by semantic labeling! I am not afraid of labels. I am afraid of what the U.S. and Israel are doing to stifle debate on issues of peace, justice and human rights. Yusif Barakat Palestine Holocaust Survivor
|Posted by Abdul-Ghani Mekkaoui on Thursday, December 09, 2010|
It is the responsibility of the Jewish people to stand up and denounce the perception that criticizing Israel or Zionism is an attack on Judaism. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are holly religions that should be respected and separated from politics. It is about time that Israel and the Zionists stop utilizing Judaism as a shield or a pray. They must be exposed for what they really are.
|Posted by An Arab WSU Student on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
I don’t believe that Helen Thomas really deserves to be celebrated so elaborately by the Arab American community and its organizations just because of her ancestral background. For sixty years, she did almost nothing to challenge the anti-Arab bias in the U.S. media, where she had always enjoyed the first seat! And, finally, when she did, she was humiliated and kicked out! Having said so, WSU’s action against her is utterly shameful and reflects rather dangerous ignorance, on the part of its leadership, as to the distinction between politics and religion/ethnicity!
|Posted by Rev. Henry Smolinski on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
You said it, Gary Schwartz: pulling the Helen Thomas Award is just another example of the influence of a few moneyed Zionists on the politically-correct leaders of so many American institutions. Let "responsible free speech ring" on our university campuses as well as in our public forums!
|Posted by Awni on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
As a whole WSU people are professionals and well regrded in their respective fields of higher education. However, the decision made by WSU was most likely made at the highest level in the administration of WSU which is influnced by politics and not by the spirit of an an insitution of higher education. It is biased and influenced by influncial group. It is salp in the face of the Arab community and will impact the relationship between WSU and our community. This event will be remebered at the next elevtion.
|Posted by Kaen Donahue on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
Thank God for people like Helen Thomas. She has the courage to speak truth to power. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a characteristic of the officials at Wayne State.
|Posted by Ron Amen on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
Thank you Gary Schwartz
|Posted by samir haddad on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
shame on you Wayne State University.I thought the name Wayne stood for Justis, freedom and telling the truth.
|Posted by Yehia Hatoum on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
WSU's biased decision to pull Helen Thomas Award is a blatant disregard to Thomas's contributions to truth in journalism and to Arab American contributions and significance to Dearborn, Detroit and Americe. This one sided and blinding bias is Shameful coming from an educational institution.
|Posted by Ann Wright on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
I totally agree with you. WSU should continue the Helen Thomas award.
|Posted by Gary Schwartz on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
I am jewish. Helen Thomas' remarks were & are part of the open American democratic political discourse. Her remarks are political with regards to the Zionist movement. They are not anti-semetic. Silencing unpopular opinions seems to be the order of the day.
|Posted by christian palestinian on Wednesday, December 08, 2010|
WSU people are a bunch of cowards with no principals!
|Posted by Sandra Salloum on Tuesday, December 07, 2010|
The American public can't handle the truth from Helen Thomas. She is a learned and professional woman who has seen so much, and has the political background to know what is REALLY going on. Truth is not always politically correct.