The sides of the Marc Lamont Hill CNN firing
On Nov. 28—the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People—Hill gave a speech at the United Nations, detailing Israeli and Palestinian…
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Marc Lamont Hill was fired by CNN last week after a speech he made at the United Nations on Nov. 28, which can be heard here.
In his speech, he spoke heavily about the lack of human rights that Palestinians have been attributed, particularly, in the last 70 years.
To close his speech, he 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.” Those last few words caused an uproar, which was the likely cause of his firing.
According to the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups, the phrase has a historical context of being anti-Semitic, and is a demand that "calls for the destruction of Israel."
Through a series of tweets, Hill looked to clarify his comments. Several of which can be seen below:
I believe in full rights for all citizens. I believe in safety for all citizens. I believe in self-determination for all citizens. This is not an anti-Semitic position.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
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 freedom. This does not have to be, nor should it be, the case.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
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.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
In the days following his firing, he penned a letter to The Temple News, the student-run newspaper for Temple University, of which he is an urban studies and media studies and production professor. In the letter, he apologized for the interpretations of the language he used, and detailed his hope to engage in healthy dialogue about several key issues. This was after Temple University's president condemned Hill's words, stating his comments "do not reflect the university's beliefs". It was also the chair of Temple's board of trustees called for further discipline upon Hill's job as a professor.
Hill’s firing from CNN brings to light two very important topics. For one, his firing can be perceived as a representation of the complete and utter rejection of anti-Semitism, which is a right and just approach. Anti-Semitism shouldn't have a place anywhere. However, what his firing also does is fail to address the totality of the message Hill displayed in his speech.
Hill’s reason for giving the speech was to detail the plight of the Palestinian people, as well as the unjust treatment and oppression of Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank since 1948. Hill's speech was an attempt to call for a reform of the Israeli government that would allow Palestinians to receive their basic human rights. That concept does not err on the side of anti-Semitism, and shouldn’t be perceived that way. There should also be no place for the denial of basic human rights.
There are two sides to the issue here, and so far, CNN has only addressed one with their firing of Hill. Both sides should be addressed here. Perhaps Hill didn’t choose the best set of words to make his point; nonetheless, more could have been done to address the overarching message.
We have to reach a point in time where the calling for basic human rights, freedom, and liberation for all should no longer be a controversy. It should be a necessity, and a goal that all of us should be trying to achieve for ourselves and others.
Being pro-Palestine doesn’t have to equal being anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, and vice versa. There can be a common ground reached, and this could have been an opportunity to work towards making that a reality. However, CNN decided against it.