Rabbi David Nesenoff who videotaped veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas urging Jews to "get the hell out of Palestine," tells Newsmax.TV that the ensuing media frenzy led him to question his support for President Barack Obama and embrace conservatism.
Nesenoff received some 25,000 pieces of hate mail, which included death threats, after unleashing the explosive 2010 video that ended Thomas’ 50-year career as Dean of the White House Press Corps.
“You’re in a story like that, you get to really see how everyone covers it — what they’re thinking while they’re covering. Who’s not covering it? And you get a really strong education of media, international media, very quickly,” recalled Nesenoff of RabbiLive.com in an exclusive interview.
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Nesenoff, who voted for Obama and considered himself a liberal, was actually pleased to meet Thomas when he began taping her during a visit to Washington.
He had no idea of her views until she started slamming Israel and Jews. The tape triggered a public shaming for Thomas, who later apologized for her remarks made during a Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House.
When asked by Nesenoff if she had “any comments on Israel,” the Hearst Newspapers columnist snapped back, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”
Thomas added that Palestinians “are occupied and it’s their land” and that Israelis should “go home” to Poland, Germany, America “and everywhere else.”
Nesenoff said that some liberal media organizations slammed him as a result of the interview. “Some of them didn’t want to report on it, and some of them went and tried to attack me,” he explained. “I had about 25,000 hate mails and threats from all different individuals. But I tell you that was nothing compared to the danger I felt from the way certain media outlets handled the story.”
The rabbi said that fellow liberals at the time didn’t seem to care that he voted for Obama and wanted the president to succeed.
“I was for hope and change. I loved the fact that we had diversity in our White House, all those great things. And so why are you attacking me, all of the sudden, liberal friends? Because now Israel was in the mix,” Nesenoff insisted.
While President Obama captured 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, Nesenoff is seeing signs that the president’s support may be starting to fade among American Jews.
“I see cracks,” acknowledged Nesenoff, who recently conducted a series of interviews at Kosher delicatessens on feelings toward Obama. “Person after person said, ‘You know I voted for him. I’ve been a liberal. I’ve been a Democrat. I voted for him. Not again. I can’t do it.’ And some of them said, ‘I’m going to have a very difficult time with this election.’ ”
It was apparent through his interviews that although clearly frustrated with Obama, some Jews have a difficult time voting for a Republican.
“To take the next step of crossing over that aisle, for some reason, it’s a difficulty. And in a sense, they may have to close their eyes and just say, ‘I’m doing this for Israel. Because ultimately what I do for Israel is what I’m doing for the world,’ ” according to Nesenoff.
He said that Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that he doesn’t understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what’s at stake for Israeli.
“The problem is that you have someone that doesn’t understand that the one sentence he says all the time, that Israel has a right to exist, isn’t just a sentence. There’s something behind that sentence that one has to do. Everybody can say that sentence.”
He added that Obama seems to have overlooked the fact that Jews are an “indigenous” people of the region.
And when Obama poses for photographs with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the relationship appears strained.
“When I see him sitting with Netanyahu in the White house it looks like they're sitting Shiva,” said Nesenoff, referring to the week-long mourning tradition in the Jewish faith.
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