Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas was harshly criticized by American Jewish groups for comments she made last week regarding the Israeli occupation in Palestine.Thomas was asked if she has any comment on Israel, during a celebration of the Jewish heritage in the White House on May 28, and was quoted as saying, they should “get the hell out of Palestine.”

She added that Palestine is an occupied land, and the Jews can go back home, explaining later that they can go to Germany, Poland, the US or anywhere.

Thomas, a senior White House Press Corps member, published a statement on June 4th regretting the comment she made.

‘I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon,’ Thomas said on her website.

Thomas’ comments stirred a lot of voice calling for her resignation, and was forced to cancel a public appearance as a commencement speaker at a school graduation in the US, where the many of the audience would be Jewish.

Alan Goodwin, principal of Walt Whitman, where objections to the appearance had been raised, said he reached a niece of Thomas’s earlier in the day.

‘Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness,’ Goodwin said in an e-mail to Whitman parents. ‘Graduation is the time for a cohesive and joyous celebration of our students’ achievements,’ he wrote.