Rabbi David Nesenoff made headlines recently when he inadvertently exposed veteran American journalist Helen Thomas' virulently anti-Israel views. In an impromptu video interview, Thomas told Nesenoff that Jews living in Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine" and “go home” to Poland and Germany. Under strong attack for her remarks, she announced her retirement just days later.
Nesenoff said Sunday that his background and motives had been misunderstood. Far from attempting to expose Thomas, he told CNN, he was a supporter of hers who had been unaware of her anti-Semitic views.
When he approached Thomas and asked her for her thoughts on Israel, he was not expecting her response, he said. “Of course, there might be anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian [opinion]. That's very different than anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish and wanting to cleanse a piece of land,” he explained.
Nesenoff described himself as “a New York Democrat Jewish liberal supporter of Obama” who is now reconsidering his political views in light of what has happened.
"Now I have to reevaluate totally," he said, "...because if I was part of a team where their agenda was that Israel and the Jewish people don't have a connection... I have to really reevaluate liberal and conservative [views] and really find out where I stand, because I think I've been a little blind.”
Nesenoff has received 25,000 hate messages since the incident, many of which he has posted online. Worse than the hate mail, he said, “is the hate media I'm beginning to learn about.” When asked to clarify, he explained that he was referring to those who blindly attack him without asking questions. “They have to attack me and find, maybe we'll say he did something on purpose or he filmed it a certain way... why don't they actually ask me and find out maybe I liked Helen Thomas?” he asked.
(For an opinion article on the Thomas story, click here).