American Cable News Network (CNN) has severed ties with Marc Lamont Hill, a recurring political contributor, after he delivered a speech at the United Nations accusing Israel of “state violence and ethnic cleansing” and championed a one-state solution.
A CNN spokesperson said in a brief statement on Thursday that Hill, a professor of media studies at Temple University, was “no longer under contract”.
The network did not give a reason, but the move came amid objections to Hill’s speech by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other groups.
Hill, a recurring political commentator on CNN, had called for “a single secular democratic state for everyone” in a meeting at the UN marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Wednesday, with a “free Palestine from the river to the sea”.
The ADL said the “river to the sea” phrase was code for the destruction of Israel, adding that the annual UN event promoted “divisiveness and hate”.
According to the Jewish Voice for Peace, “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”.
In 1993, the United States police raided the offices of the ADL in San Francisco and found illegally obtained files on nearly 10,000 individuals and at least 950 organisations, including labour unions, LGBT groups, progressive media, Arab-American organisations, anti-Zionist Jewish organisations and other civil rights groups.
Hill defended his speech in social media posts, saying he did not support anti-Semitism and that his “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,” he tweeted. “The speech very clearly and specifically said those things.”
“I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice,” he continued. “I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech.”
There has been a strong revival in recent years among Palestinians for a one-state solution which they claim will guarantee equal rights to Palestinians and Israeli Jews throughout historic Palestine.
Israel’s right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has rejected a one-state solution and has stopped short of explicitly endorsing Palestinian statehood.
CNN's decision contributes to the chilling effect on freedom of expression ... where speaking honestly about Israel's abuse of Palestinians could result in shunning, and even firing
Calling out oppression ‘isn’t anti-Semitic’
Politicians, journalists and pro-Palestinian activists called Hill’s firing shameful, and accused CNN of kowtowing to right-wing Israeli groups.
“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 anti-Semitic,” said Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American congresswoman.
Media personality Mehdi Hasan questioned how CNN could fire Hill while keeping onboard Rick Santorum, who has denied Palestinians exist in the West Bank. Hasan hosts UpFront, a popular news affairs show on Al Jazeera English.
Ayman Mohyeldin, a senior presenter at MSNBC, wrote: “Denying the legitimacy and existence of Palestinians/Palestine/historic Palestine, whether it’s on-air commentary, or in official state policy or in simply punditry is widely acceptable among American mainstream media, politicians, and religious figures.”
Don’t hold your breath… denying the legitimacy and existence of Palestinians/Palestine/historic Palestine, whether its on-air commentary, or in official state policy or in simply punditry is widely acceptable among American mainstream media, politicians, & religious figures https://t.co/6mRPzBSBg2
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) November 29, 2018
Al Jazeera reached out to CNN for comment but it did not receive a response at the time of publication.
Omar Baddar, the deputy director of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, said it was “disappointing to see CNN cave to transparently dishonest pressure”.
“Israel’s rejection of the historic Palestinian compromise of a two-state solution, and its insistence on building illegal settlements throughout the Palestinian territories is the reason why a one-state reality has been imposed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Israeli leaders insist on this one-state reality to be an apartheid state where Palestinians are squashed and dominated. Hill, on the other hand, dared to support a different vision, one of equal rights for all.
“This vision of equality is so appealing to people of conscience that pro-Israel propagandists cannot confront it honestly, which is precisely why they resort to the kind of smears that resulted in Hill’s firing.
“The damage, of course, goes well beyond Hill’s career. CNN’s decision contributes to the chilling effect on freedom of expression on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to the suffocating environment where speaking honestly about Israel’s abuse of Palestinians could result in shunning, and even firing.”
Additional reporting by Faisal Edroos. Follow him on Twitter: @FaisalEdroos