Having received a “Courage in Journalism” award from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, former White House correspondent Helen Thomas is now scheduled to be honored by an Arab group whose executive director had his home raided by the FBI because of his alleged ties to terrorist groups.
On December 12, the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) is featuring a speech by Thomas, who has been called the Arab American Dean of the White House Press Corps, as part of its 15th anniversary fundraising event.
The Arab American National Museum, based in Dearborn, Michigan, is currently raising funds for a Helen Thomas Sculpture Project, in order to create a sculpture honoring Thomas. The Arab American National Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
But plans to honor Thomas—and questions about how she should be treated in the history of journalism in the U.S. —have become increasingly controversial because of the questions surrounding the AAAN and its executive director, Hatem Abudayyeh. His home was raided on September 24 as part of an FBI investigation into illegal support provided by U.S.-based groups to foreign terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Latin America.
Incredibly, the raid followed a friendly visit to the White House by Abudayyeh earlier this year.
A long-time White House correspondent, Thomas served as a columnist for Hearst newspapers before her anti-Israel views, termed anti-Semitic by many critics, became too controversial and she was forced to step down from her journalistic perch. In a controversial video appearance, recorded by Rabbi David Nesenoff for his “Rabbi Live” program, Thomas said the Jews ought to “get the hell out of Palestine” and presumably turn the land over to the Arabs and Muslims. She also said they should return to countries like Germany and Poland , where the Holocaust took place, which ultimately led to the creation of the Jewish homeland in Israel .
During the Bush Administration years, Thomas became known for Bush-bashing and her sleazy technique of making accusations disguised as questions at news conferences and briefings. She became the poster girl of liberal media bias, serving to discredit the notion of a professional and objective press corps.
Accuracy in Media had suggested that she quit journalism, which she subsequently has done, and become a full-time advocate for the Arab/Muslim cause.
This appears to be what lies behind her scheduled appearance at the AAAN fundraiser.
But the nature of the AAAN raises even more questions about Thomas’s judgment.
It also raises some concerns for the Obama White House.
The AAAN was founded by Barack Obama friend Rashid Khalidi, who once served as a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Then-State Senator Obama was photographed at an AAAN dinner held on May 24, 1998 in Burbank, Illinois. The Woods Fund, where Obama served as a director from 1994 through 2001, approved a $40,000 grant to the AAAN for “community organizing.”
When a controversy emerged during the 2008 presidential campaign over Obama’s ties to the AAAN, the liberal-oriented “PolitiFact” website called it a non-controversial group that focused on “local initiatives” and “has no foreign policy.”
But one target of the FBI investigation is alleged support provided to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist group designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the U.S. Secretary of State. U.S. law prohibits U.S.-based groups or individuals from providing support to foreign terrorist groups.
Other foreign terrorist groups on the official list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and various Marxist and Islamic groups in the Middle East.
The State Department says that “FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business.”
The AAAN counters, “The FBI has overstepped its boundaries and targeted individuals based on their commitment to peacefully challenge U.S. policies in Iraq , Afghanistan , Palestine, and Colombia .”
The AAAN reports that Hatem Abudayyeh has been with the group since 1999, and was appointed Executive Director in 2003. It says that he “has led the social services, cultural outreach, adult education, and youth development programming of the AAAN; and has advocated for the civil and human rights of Arabs and other immigrants in the U.S. , as well as Palestinians and oppressed peoples across the world.”
Two other Chicago-based activists, Joseph Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner, have been associated with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a Marxist group, and had their homes raided as well. They are said to be personal friends of AAAN executive director Hatem Abudayyeh and possibly linked to his activities.
In total, 14 far-left activists were targeted by the FBI on September 24, with Abudayyeh being the only Arab.
The Marxist-Leninist website features a video of Hatem Abudayyeh, described as a “Palestinian Liberation Movement activist and organizer,” in Chicago on March 14, 2009, chanting “Free, Free Palestine” and “Free, Free Iraq.”
Abudayyeh was reported by the Gateway Pundit blog to have taken part in a meeting for Arab-American leaders sponsored by the Obama White House and held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 22.
The story was picked up by Politico but not by any established national liberal media organizations.
WLS-TV, a local TV station in Chicago, covered the story, highlighting the White House visitor logs showing Abudayyeh’s participation as an invited guest in what was described as a “large Arab briefing.”
Reporter Chuck Goudie said that while Obama did not attend the briefing, the AAAN was founded by an “Obama friend and fundraiser named Rashid Khalidi, who became a lightning rod during the presidential campaign for his views on Israel .”
The AAAN now wants Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder to stop the FBI investigations and prevent a Grand Jury from bringing criminal charges against the “anti-war” and “peace” activists.