Fired CNN Contributor Denied He Called For Israel’s Destruction. He Also Endorsed ‘Resisting’ by Palestinians

By Patrick Goodenough | November 29, 2018 | 8:05pm EST
Marc Lamont Hill addresses the U.N.’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in New York on Wednesday, November 28, 2018. (Screen capture: U.N. Webcast)

( – Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired as a CNN contributor on Thursday, had earlier rejected criticism that his endorsement for “a free Palestine, from the river to the sea” amounted to a call for an end to Israel.

Elsewhere in his remarks – made at an annual U.N. meeting in support of the Palestinian cause – Hill also drew parallels with black Americans’ struggle, which he noted had gone beyond Gandhian non-violence, and said those supporting the Palestinian people should not shame them for “resisting.”

It is the “river to the sea” comment that has drawn most of the attention, however. A CNN spokesperson in response to an emailed query confirmed, “Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN.”

Addressing the U.N.’s “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” Hill condemned Israeli policies – using such terms as “ethnic cleansing” and “settler colonialism” – and voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, before ending with the loaded phrase.

“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,” he concluded. “And that is a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

The expression is traditionally used to refer to Palestinian statehood from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which would self-evidently spell an end to the world’s only Jewish state.

The slogan is popular at anti-Israel demonstrations around the world, and is frequently espoused by officials of Hamas and Fatah.

(Despite alleged amendments to the Palestinian National Covenant, its article two still declares that “Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.” Like Hamas’ charter, which calls for raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” that essentially covers the area “from the river to the sea.”)

Seeking to defend his comments on Twitter, Hill said that the “river to the sea” slogan “has a variety of meanings” and was and is “a phrase used by many factions, ideologies, movements, and politicians.”

The slogan “has never been the exclusive province of a particular ideological camp. The idea that this is a Hamas phrase is simply untrue.”

“My reference to ‘river to the sea’ was not a call to destroy anything or anyone,” Hill tweeted. “It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza.”

The National Council of Young Israel urged Hill’s employers to sack him over the speech, saying he “does not deserve to be given any sort of platform that facilitates the dissemination of his bigotry, whether it be on cable TV or in a classroom.”

‘We must prioritize peace, but …’

In one section of his speech, Hill voiced support for Palestinians “resisting” and noted that in their struggle against discrimination African Americans did not use exclusively non-violent means.

“Contrary to Western mythology, black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through Gandhian non-violence. Rather, slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. [Martin Luther] King or Mahatma Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and attaining freedom,” he said.

The Palestinians should be allowed “the same range of opportunity,” he said.

“If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself,” Hill continued.

“We must prioritize peace – but we must not romanticize or fetishize it.”

“We must advocate and promote non-violence at every opportunity – but we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing.”

In the Israeli-Palestinian context, “resistance” has long-established associations with violence against Israelis.

U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah style themselves part of the “resistance front.” (Hamas is an acronym for the Arabic name “Islamic Resistance Movement.”)

Factions’ statements hailing as martyrs those killed while carrying out attacks refer regularly to their “resistance” actions – which can include lethal shootings and stabbings, the firing of missiles from Gaza, and suicide bombings.

According to the Israeli foreign ministry, at least 3,159 Israelis have been killed, and many more wounded, in terror attacks carried out by Palestinian “resistance” groups since 1948.

The chairman of the ‘Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,’ Cheikh Niang of Senegal, left, and the Palestinian permanent observer Riyad Mansour, applaud Hill’s speech. (Screen capture: U.N. Webcast)

‘Boycotting the Israeli water’

At one point during his speech, Hill paused for a drink, then riffed, “I literally just got off a flight from Palestine to come to address you this morning and I was boycotting the Israeli water, so I was unable to uh, quench my thirst.”

That comment drew laughter, and Hill received a warm reception overall at the gathering, with applause at the end of his speech. Previous speakers, who included representatives of the African Union, Arab League, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation, were not applauded.

The annual solidarity day marks the anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s 1947 passage of a resolution partitioning the then-British mandated territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean into a Jewish and an Arab state.

The resolution was accepted by the Jewish occupants but rejected by the Arabs. When the State of Israel was declared the following spring, five Arab armies launched a war with the declared aim of destroying it.

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