In an age of mass amnesia, it is refreshing to see the role of the internet which periodically breaks important stories that the self-censoring concentrated media ownership has fignored. Ditto for documentarians with a conscience.
Mondoweiss has published a brilliant article by journalist Gil Maguire on the silencing of the long forgotten Dorothy Thompson.
History in the age of mass entertainment goes as far back as the Beatles but there are always truth tellers who say, Hey,wait a minute. Don’t you remember…in this case Dorothy Thompson.
The reason Thompson has been resurrected was a reference made by president Obama at Saturday April 25th’s White House Correspondents Association dinner.The president reminded journalists of their actual mission:
“In the words of the American foreign correspondent Dorothy Thompson: ‘It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.’”
It is dubious if any of Obama’s speech writers really knew that Thompson’s extraordinary career ended in charges of antisemitism by Zionists.She probably was the first of serious journalists who were marginalized for questioning the injustice of Zionist expansionism
But times are changing. Zionism has long lost its luster and some writers with a memory are prone to remind the public of the shameful treatment which prophets such as Thompson have been treated. One such writer is Gil Maguire who actually has read the stunning Thompson biography American Cassandra by Peter Kurth. The book has long vanished.Even the great Toronto Public Library has no copies to circulate.
Maguire paraphrasing Kurth writes deftly about this amazing woman. Born in 1893, a grad of Syracuse University, she became active in the American suffragette movement.Off to Europe in 1920, Thompson met a boatload of Zionists on their way to a conference in London.She immediately was converted and ended up covering the conference as a free lancer.This brought her to the attention of major New York papers and in 1925 she headed the Berlin bureau for the New York Post. In 1934 after a series of exposés on the Nazi movement she was expelled from Germany.By then her reputation made, she became a syndicated columnist and commentator on NBC. By 1938 she was on the cover of Time Magazine. Next to Eleanor Roosevelt she was the most famous woman in America.
Parker wrote passionately about the plight of the Jews and antisemitsim. At the famous Zionist convention at the Biltmore Hotel in 1942 she was the keynote speaker demanding unrestricted immigration to America, She had become the darling of Zionism and the Jewish community.
Everything changed as it often does when people are confronted with reality. Her fact finding trip to Israel in 1945 permanently removed her rose colored glasses.The proposed State of Israel was a potential disaster, a “recipe for perpetual war.” You can’t pay for Hitler’s crimes in an area which had nothing to do with Hitler or his crimes.” she said. Zionism was far from the liberal crusade that the leaders envisaged.
Maguire describes her rapid descent to pariahdom:
Her anti-Zionist statements and reporting began losing her the support of American Zionists. Her boss at the New York Post dropped her “On the Record” column at the beginning of 1947. He was a strong supporter of Zionism and very close to the Irgunists and Menachem Begin, the leader of this Jewish terrorist group. Thompson had told him, after her trip to Palestine, that “…the situation there is not the way it has been presented by many of the Zionists. It is one of the most complicated and difficult problems on the earth today.”
Dorothy Thompson refused to shut up.The war of 1948 showed Zionism as “an aggressive, chauvinist movement” and the new State of Israel as “an expansionist power.” Much like Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt she was “angered by Jewish terrorism in Israel and appalled by Menachem Begin and the Irgun being treated as heroes in New York City.” Thompson permanently sealed her fate by being first and only American journalist to speak out in defense of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab nations, Now this fearless supporter of Jews was an officially an antisemite. She said that it was very dangerous to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”
Thompson paid a truly terrible price for her honesty losing many Jewish friends whom had previously honoured her.
But she still would not keep quiet.Her columns were dropped.Her speaking engagements vanished.The early 50’s were a horrific period to criticize Israel.The world still w out of deep sympathy for the victims of the Nazi holocaust refused to accept any criticism of the Jewish state
She wrote in 1950, “The Zionists would like us to believe that there is no such thing as an Arab”, and that “They have also adapted the attitude that the State of Israel, unlike every other state on earth, is sacrosanct, and outside any criticism whatsoever.” She called Israel, “the 49th state of the Union”, and “the only nation in history to have been canonized at birth.”
By 1950 the former media darling who actually had been encouraged by Claire Booth Luce and others to run for president in 1948 was now yesterday’s woman.she would not be the first victim of the Zionist thought police in America.Forgotten today and unremembered Dorothy Thompson as biographer peter Kurth called her was truly an American Cassandra, a woman who committed professional suicide because she could not abide the silence around the dispossession of the Palestinian people.
Journalist Maguire with a dollop of sarcasm concludes his brilliant article this way:
Dorothy Thompson is virtually unknown and unremembered.This fascinating woman who deserves to be an icon of the feminist movement, is rarely, if ever, mentioned as an important female historical figure.
I suspect there were very few members of the press at the White House Press dinner Saturday night who have any inclination toward investigating and reporting the plight of the Palestinians, or the pernicious influence of right wing Jewish billionaires on American foreign policy, and now American presidential candidates. President Obama’s gratuitous praise of the American press, at least the television version, was largely undeserved. Many are little more than talking heads on “news” networks that offer mostly infotainment and shameless touting of marginal news stories accompanied by frequent and breathless claims of more “breaking news”. The entire bunch couldn’t fill Dorothy Thompson’s left shoe. To suggest that our TV press is focused on preserving our liberty is ludicrous when ratings and advertising revenue are the obvious focus.