The latest remarks by now-former CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill appear to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, ending Hill’s relationship with the media outlet which had survived years of fringe beliefs, conspiracy theories, and vitriolic anti-Israel rhetoric.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for CNN confirmed that the media giant had cut ties with Temple University professor, writer, and left-wing activist Marc Lamont Hill, after Hill had taken part in an anti-Israel event at the United Nations on Wednesday.
'Palestine from the River to the Sea'
At the event, which was hosted by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Hill indulged in the kind of reckless anti-Israel fear mongering typically limited to representatives of Arab or Muslim governments hostile to Israel’s very existence, terrorist leaders, or online trolls with an axe to grind against Jews.
During his address, Hill accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and glorified anti-Israel terrorism, comparing it to “slave revolts” and “self-defense”.
In case his support for terrorist violence against Jews in Israel were in doubt, Hill later stated it explicitly: “We must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself.”
“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.”
Then, in perhaps the most revealing line of his speech, Hill called for “action” to “give us what justice requires… a free Palestine, from the River to the Sea.”
Marc Lamont Hill's anti-Israel rejectionism
The line, “Free Palestine, from the River to the Sea,” is hardly novel, and did not make its public debut with Hill’s appearance at the UN on Wednesday.
While Hill took to Twitter following his speech to challenge accusations of anti-Semitism, the meaning of and history of the phrase he chose to express himself with is hardly ambiguous.
A popular chant both with terror groups as well as with fringe anti-Israel movements in the West, including Students for Justice in Palestine, “From the River to the Sea” does not represent the rejection of Israel’s presence in Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem, or the Golan – but the very existence of a Jewish state per se.
That rejectionism of Israel’s existence is at the very heart of Hill’s argument, that Israel should not exist, but should be ‘replaced’ with a majority-Arab state of Palestine.
Not surprisingly, the comments drew widespread criticism.
Surprisingly, CNN reacted to the scandal by distancing itself from Hill and announcing in a brief, somewhat cryptic comment Thursday that the commentator was “no longer under contract with CNN.”
The move was in a sense surprising because the network had tolerated outrageous behavior before from Hill, even when said behavior provoked criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism.
Rape, torture and kangaroo courts?
For years, Hill has used his influence not merely to express criticism of Israel or of specific policies in the Jewish state, but to portray Israel as a kind of nightmarish Third World regime which he says has constructed an Apartheid-like system of terror and abuse to cow a peaceful Palestinian population into submission.
Aside from his repeated, explicit claims that Israel is an Apartheid regime, Hill has claimed that the Jewish state utilizes rape and torture to extract confessions from innocent Arabs, maintains a system of kangaroo courts arbitrarily convicting all suspects.
Hill has also repeatedly accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing”, a claim he repeated in his diatribe at the UN on Wednesday.
The arguments go far beyond simple disagreement or even dislike of Israel, but venture into the realm of conspiracy theories, with the kind of hostility towards reality and embrace of pseudo-facts mainstream outlets like CNN often condemn.
For instance, in October 2015, Hill wrote a revealing op-ed piece in the Huffington Post to advocate on behalf of convicted terrorist and murderer Rasmea Odeh.
Odeh, who was an active member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization in the 1960s, was involved in a series of bombing attacks, including one which killed two Israeli men. A second bombing attack targeted the British consulate, but caused no fatalities.
After being released in 1980 as part of a prisoner exchange, Odeh admitted to taking part in the bombing attacks.
Odeh later immigrated to the US after concealing her past conviction, and in 2015 was stripped of her citizenship. In 2017, Odeh was deported to Jordan.
At the time of her conviction, Hill penned a piece entitled “Why Every Black Activist Should Stand With Rasmea Odeh”, portraying the terrorist as a victim and “Palestinian freedom fighter” and drawing upon debunked accusations of rape and torture.
Hill dismissed Odeh’s conviction, claiming it was based on a “false confession” forced out of Odeh by an extended period of “vicious rape” and torture.
“What everyone now knows is that her conviction in 1970 was by an Israeli military court, which “convicts” over 99.7 percent of Palestinians who come before it; and that it was allegedly based on a false confession made by Odeh after over 20 days of vicious rape, and other physical and psychological torture. She spent 10 years in Israeli prisons for a crime she maintains she did not commit, and now the U.S. wants to put her in prison again.”
The sole proof Hill brings is a citation of the website “Truth Out”, which peddles in far-left conspiracy theories.
Nation of Islam ties
While Hill has repeatedly denied accusations of anti-Semitism, Hill nevertheless apparently maintains an amicable relationship with the man named by the ADL as one of the biggest purveyors of anti-Semitism in America today – Louis Farrakhan.
In August 2016, Hill uploaded a picture onto Instagram of the two smiling together.
“Been blessed to spend the last day with Minister Louis Farrakhan. An amazing time of learning, listening, laughing, and even head nodding to music. God is Great,” Hill wrote regarding the meeting.
Farrakhan was condemned unanimously by the US Senate in 1984 after he called Adolf Hitler a “great man” and called Judaism a “gutter religion”.
More recently, Farrakhan has compared Jews to termites, charged American Jews with practicing Satanism, led Iranian college students in a chant of “Death to Israel”, and accused Ashkenazi Jews of being ‘fake Semites’ and interlopers who stole the Holy Land.
Strange friends to keep for a man who claims to have fought anti-Semitism “my entire life”.
When pictures of the meeting resurfaced this October, Hill dismissed criticism of his ties to the Nation of Islam leader, saying he had “principled” disagreements with the organization.
In 2010, Hill expressed his appreciation of the Nation of Islam, while noting that the group was “too conservative” for his taste.
“While I’ve appreciated much of the Nation of Islam’s message, its politics and ideology have always been too conservative for me.”
While speaking on Fox News in 2008, however, Hill defended Farrakhan from charges of anti-Semitism, claiming his comments on Jews had been taken “out of context”.
“I don’t think David Duke and Louis Farrakhan are on the same level,” adding that a quote from Farrakhan calling Judaism “a gutter religion” was “severely out of context”.
Denial of Israeli legitimacy - on both sides of the Green Line
Aside from his associations with the Nation of Islam and Black Lives Matter - which excoriated “Israeli Apartheid” in its 2016 platform and sent protesters to Israel to demonstrate against the Jewish state – and his regular claims that Israel engages in Apartheid-like behavior or ethnic cleansing, Hill also has a long history of both refusing to condemn terrorist violence or to recognize Israel’s legitimacy on either side of the pre-1967 Green Line.
In 2017, Hill denied ever having been in Israel – a claim he repeated this week on Twitter – this despite a much-publicized 2015 trip to….Israel.
By his own admission, Hill has visited Jerusalem – Israel’s capital – as well as the Galilee in northern Israel.
While hostile Arab governments and other anti-Israel stalwarts may deny Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, no one, save perhaps the Ayatollahs in Iran, would argue that the Galilee is not located within the borders of the State of Israel. It’s a fact.
And yet despite visiting Nazareth – which is very much in Israel – Hill said he had only visited Palestine, thus enabling him to continue the lie that he has never been in Israel.
The Galilee – again, well within the Green Line and recognized universally as Israeli territory – was described by Hill in 2015 as “Palestine” and “stolen” land. Hill said he would back the efforts there to “resist the occupation”, making it clear his view that even in pre-1967 Israel, the Jewish state is illegitimate.
“We came here to Palestine to stand in love and revolutionary struggle with our brothers and sisters. We come to a land that has been stolen by greed and destroyed by hate. We come here and we learn laws that have been cosigned by ink but written in the blood of the innocent. And we stand next to people who continue to courageously struggle and resist the occupation. People who continue to dream and fight for freedom. From Ferguson to Palestine, the struggle for freedom continues,” said Hill.
Refusal to condemn terrorism, hatred
Nothing, however, may be able to top his May 2017 rejection of President Trump’s call to the Palestinian Authority to “reject hatred and terrorism”, calling the condemnation of “hatred and terrorism” not only “repugnant, but also “offensive and counterproductive”.
“Trump’s position on Israel/Palestine is repugnant. His call for Palestine to ‘reject hatred and terrorism’ is offensive & counterproductive.”
If Hill couldn’t even tolerate simple criticism of terrorism and hatred, is it really surprising that he refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist?