In a brief statement made yesterday, the US TV channel announced that “Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN”. Though CNN did not explicitly state that Lamont Hill had been fired due to the content of his UN speech, it is widely understood that it was this which prompted the news outlet’s move.
Speaking at the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Wednesday, Lamont Hill – a professor of Media Studies and Urban Education at Temple University in Philadelphia, USA – said:
“We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Criticizing the actions of Israel is not anti-semitism. Since when is advocating for human rights a fireable offense? Join us in standing in solidarity with Dr. @MarcLamontHill: https://t.co/5Sd3b1qdBK
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) November 30, 2018
His use of the phrase “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” sparked an immediate backlash from Israel supporters who were quick to launch a tirade of accusations against the pundit, including claiming he had called for the destruction of Israel and killing Jews and was therefore anti-Semitic.
Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro called Lamont Hill’s choice of words “disgusting”, while Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan also condemned the remarks, the Times of Israel reported. “Lamont Hill called for the elimination of the State of Israel from the map,” Dayan tweeted, adding: “MLH is a racist, a bigot, an antisemite. The fact that he is all this while in the payroll of @CNN and [Temple University] is appalling.”
My reference to “river to the sea” was not a call to destroy anything or anyone. It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza. The speech very clearly and specifically said those things. No amount of debate will change what I actually said or what I meant.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
It is thought that CNN’s decision was swayed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – a powerful American NGO which monitors anti-Semitism – after it objected to Lamont Hill’s speech. Al Jazeera quoted left-wing activist group Jewish Voice for Peace as saying: “While the ADL markets itself as a civil rights organisation, its history betrays an extensive record of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian advocacy,” calling into question its motives for denouncing Lamont Hill’s comments.
Lamont Hill took to Twitter to defend his speech. Responding to one Twitter user who claimed the phrase was a Hamas slogan, he argued: “’River to the sea’ is a phrase that precedes Hamas by more than 50 years. It also has a variety of meanings. In my remarks, which you clearly didn’t hear, I was talking about full citizenship rights IN Israel and a redrawing of the pre-1967 borders.”
Hi, I'm Jewish. All solidarity with @marclamonthill. Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism. Real anti-Semitism is the assumption that all Jews are of one mind and abide – or even endorse – the horrific mistreatment of Palestinians. Shame on @CNN
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) November 29, 2018
In a separate tweet he wrote: “Unfortunately, we are in a moment where any critique of the Israeli government is called anti-Semitic. Any call for Palestinian freedom is seen as an attempt to diminish Israel[i] freedom. This does not have to be, nor should it be, the case.”
Lamont Hill also lamented that his speech had been misrepresented, saying: “Yesterday, I gave a speech at the UN in which I critiqued Israel’s policies and practices toward Palestinians. It’s baffling how people are not responding to the critique, but instead responding to things I didn’t actually say.”
(PC, MEMO, Social Media)