Pundit apologizes for using 'River to the Sea' phrase

Marc Lamont Hill, fired from CNN following anti-Semitic UN speech, apologizes for using a phrase associated with terrorists.

Ben Ariel ,

Marc Lamont Hill at United Nations
Marc Lamont Hill at United Nations
United Nations

Marc Lamont Hill, a political commentator and professor at Temple University, has apologized for his use of a phrase associated with terrorists in discussing Palestinian Arabs at the United Nations, JTA reported on Sunday.

At an anti-Israel event in the United Nations last Wednesday, hosted by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Hill called for the termination of the State of Israel, and its replacement with a Palestinian state “from the River to the Sea”.

“Palestine from the River to the Sea” was a slogan of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) beginning with its founding in 1964, claiming a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and rejecting control by Israel of any land in the region, including areas controlled by Israel prior to 1967. It later became a popular political slogan used by Palestinian Arabs who reject compromise with Israel, including the Hamas terrorist group.

Hill’s comments sparked a wave of criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism by several mainstream Jewish groups in the US.

CNN announced on Thursday that Hill was no “no longer under contract” with the cable news giant, but his other employer, Temple University, appeared to be unwilling to terminate him over his remarks at the UN event.

Hill, who wrote on Twitter that he did not back anti-Semitism, and denied that his comments constituted an endorsement of violence, apologized for using the phrase “from the River to the Sea” in an op-ed published on Saturday in his hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Critics of this phrase have suggested that I was calling for violence against Jewish people. In all honesty, I was stunned, and saddened, that this was the response,” he wrote in the op-ed, as quoted by JTA.

Hill added that he was calling for justice in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in the form of a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza.

“Throughout my speech, I spoke explicitly about the need for Israeli political reform, specifically as it pertains to Arab citizens of Israel. I also called for a redrawing of borders to the pre-1967 lines, as well as a greater attention to human rights for those living in the West Bank and Gaza. At the time, I believed that these demands made in the speech sufficiently reflected my belief in radical change within Israel, not a desire for its destruction,” he wrote. “Clearly, they did not.”

“I take seriously the voices of so many Jewish brothers and sisters, who have interpreted my remarks as a call to or endorsement of violence. Rather than hearing a political solution, many heard a dog-whistle that conjured a long and deep history of violence against Jewish people. Although this was the furthest thing from my intent, those particular words clearly caused confusion, anger, fear, and other forms of harm. For that, I am deeply sorry,” he wrote.

Hill also noted that he has called for a rejection anti-Semitism in any form, including preventing physical violence against Jews, as well as anti-Semitic images.