On Wednesday, November 28, the United Nations observed the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The day was filled with speeches, activities, and discussions undertaken by governments and civil society surrounding the “question” of Palestine. One of those who gave a speech supporting Palestinian rights was Marc Lamont Hill, an American academic, activist, and commentator.
In his speech, Hill criticized Israel’s policies and called for the state to be held accountable for its treatment of Palestinians. He also emphasized the importance of promoting nonviolence and peace “at every opportunity” as a form of political action in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Online, pro-Israel activists and groups distorted Hill’s remarks, saying that he called for the violent destruction of Israel. Under what can only be considered an organized campaign to silence Palestinian activists and advocates, CNN terminated its relationship with Hill. On November 30, the chairman of Temple University’s board, where Hill is a Professor of Media Studies and Urban Education, called his remarks “lamentable,” “disgusting,” and “hate speech.”
Right-wing commentators carefully cherry-picked a segment of Hill’s speech in which he advocated for “a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” The ADL says this particular phrase has been used by Hamas and other anti-Zionist groups to call for the obliteration of Israel.
The former CNN commentator defended himself in a series of tweets against the ridiculous charges of anti-Semitism. Describing any and all legitimate critique of Israel and its policies as anti-Semitism has long been a tactic used against Palestinians and their supporters to suppress their arguments. But this time, countless activists, journalists, and Jews have fought back against this propaganda and expressed their support for Hill. Newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweeted her support and even launched a petition to reverse Hill’s dismissal at CNN. Others were quick to point out the hypocrisy of CNN’s choice of political commentators and featured guests.
Rowaid Abdelaziz, a columnist at the Huffington Post, pointed out that CNN frequently brings on guest Alan Dershowitz for political commentary. Dershowitz, an American lawyer and academic, is known for his anti-Palestinian views, and was paid $120,000 by anti-Muslim extremist group the Gatestone Institute. Dershowitz was paid for consulting services and also sits on the organization’s board. CNN also regularly gives Republican politician Rick Santorum a platform to spew his racist and white supremacist views.
Mainstream, American media has continuously shown it will make no space for pro-Palestinian activists. The firing of Hill and the inflammatory statements made about his character are indicative of how the pro-Israel crowd continues to shape narratives in the Western media. As a media outlet that has claimed to be the antithesis of U.S. President Donald Trump and the hardcore right wing, CNN has undermined its self-professed advocacy for freedom of the press by firing Hill.