CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill lost his job last week when he used a Palestinian phrase calling for the destruction of Israel. While there is no argument here about whether or not his statement was anti-Semitic, I disagree with CNN’s decision to cancel his contract.
Hill spoke Wednesday at the United Nations, at a meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which is what the UN calls the anniversary of the 1947 partition plan’s approval.
His speech called for the international community to boycott Israel and allow Palestinians more space to engage in violence against the Jewish state. He claimed that violence was also employed in the struggles of African Americans. Which is true, although in the end it was the nonviolent movement of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that won the day.
Hill ended his speech with, “Give us a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” a stock slogan of the Fatah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish State. It’s a call for the takeover of the entire Land of Israel, which, to this day, the “moderate” PA government refers to as Palestine.
It was that last line that got him into trouble.
According to the US State Department, one example of anti-Semitism is “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” — in other words, any statement that there should not be a Jewish State of Israel.
By calling for a Palestinian state from “river to the sea” and allowing Palestinian violence, Hill called for the violent anti-Semitic goal of the Palestinian terrorists, the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. It’s a call for a one-state solution, and that state is not the Jewish homeland.
Hill received thunderous applause at the UN, but was chastised for his anti-Semitic remarks, which were declared anti-Semitic by the politically non-partisan National Council of Young Israel.
Even the ADL, which usually avoids criticizing liberals, said Hill’s words were anti-Semitic.
It wasn’t the first time Hill disputed Israel’s right to exist. In May 2018 he wrote in the Huffington Post, “By naturalizing the idea that nation-states have a ‘right to exist,’ we undermine our ability to offer a moral critique of Israel’s (or any settler-colony’s) origin story.”
The morning after his UN speech, Hill scrambled to fight the charges of anti-Semitism. He tweeted his defense:
“I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice.
“I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things.
“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.”
It was too little, too late. By 4 pm that day CNN announced that “Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN,” turning him into a martyr for the Palestinian cause.
“I think it’s a disgrace,” James Zogby, pollster, and president of the Arab American Institute told the Daily Beast. “It’s just evidence of what we have known for decades — the lack of tolerance for any deviations from what is accepted as the position on Israel and Palestine.”
Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz said: “In the heavy-handed reality that has seized control over dialogue in the United States, there’s no room for expressions that may offend the Israeli occupation.”
Democratic Congresswoman-elect Rashida Tlaib tweeted, “Calling out the oppressive policies in Israel, advocating for Palestinians to be respected, and for Israelis and Palestinians alike to have peace and freedom is not antisemitic. @CNN, we all have a right to speak up about injustice any and everywhere.”
A correspondent for National Geographic, Francesca Fiorentina, tweeted, “CNN firing Marc Lamont Hill is a disgrace. Criticizing Israeli occupation is not antisemitic. Rather, it’s the result of understanding & bearing witness to decades of brutality, subjugation and apartheid that has no regard for international law. What happened to #FactsFirst?”
The left-wing political website Slate wrote, “Hill’s firing is rash at best and a cowardly, dangerous precedent at worst. It’s disturbing not just as a capitulation to disingenuous critics but also because it’s another step toward recasting all speech about Israel’s brutality as anti-Semitism — or, in this case, a call for ‘Jewish genocide.’”
The Washington Post headline read, “Marc Lamont Hill fired after comments criticizing Israel.”
I expected these reactions. In 2010, I took the video of Helen Thomas that David Nessenoff, later editor of The Jewish Star, couldn’t get the media to cover, and made it go viral by publishing it on my Big Journalism website, from which it was picked up by the Drudge Report.
Media coverage claimed Thomas was pushed out of her job because she criticized Israel, which is a lie. The career-ending comment was telling the Jews to “Get the hell out of Palestine” and to “Go back home to Germany and Poland,” an apparent reference to the Holocaust.
Thomas’ statement is still being described as criticizing Israel. Last year Charles Lewis former investigative producer for ABC News and the CBS’s 60 Minutes created a website to honor “independent” journalists. One of its initial honorees was Ms. Thomas. In their printed chronology of her career, the site wrote, “After making controversial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Thomas retires from Hearst Newspapers.”
Sadly, history will report that CNN fired Hill for making controversial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of stating the real reason: anti-Semitism.
Instead of firing Hill, CNN may have done better by exposing him. They should have let Jake Tapper, a proud Jew and vocal critic of anti-Semitism, interview him about his statement. A “take no prisoners” interviewer who doesn’t let his guests get away with lies could have exposed Hill’s history of anti-Semitism and make him answer questions that would show Hill’s UN remark for what it was: anti-Semitic hate speech.