CNN fires contributor Marc Lamont Hill for comments about Israel

CNN/YouTube

BTW

Author and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill was dropped from the network following comments he made at a U.N. event, calling on Israel to support the rights of the Palestinian people.

CNN confirmed the termination of his contract in a statement.

Hill, also a professor at Temple University, spoke in New York on Wednesday at the U.N.’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in anticipation of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. He said he just arrived from Palestine, where he was “boycotting Israeli water.”

“If we’re to operate in true solidarity with Palestinian people we must allow the Palestinian people the same range of opportunity and political possibility,” he said in the speech, shared on Twitter.

“We must prioritize peace, but we must not romanticize or fetishize it,” he said, “We must advocate and promote non-violence at every opportunity but 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.”

But it was his concluding remarks to “free Palestine from the river to the sea” that received flak on social media. Many saw it as a reference to the boundaries of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and called it anti-Semitic rhetoric that’s reportedly used by fundamentalist group Hamas calling for the elimination of Israel.

In a series of tweets, Hill responded to the criticism, saying the interpretation of his reference to “from sea to the river” was misleading.

“I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice,” he tweeted. “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.”

Many supported the move by CNN, believing his speech was anti-Semitic and pointing out his relationship with controversial figure Louis Farrakhan. 

Others were unhappy with CNN’s decision. Actor Mark Ruffalo noted that criticizing Israel’s policies does not equal anti-Semitism. Others called Hill’s firing hypocritical when other commentators—like ultra-conservative Rick Santorum—have said similar things.

IfNotNow, a movement by young American Jews calling for an end of the Jewish “community’s support for the Israeli occupation,” initiated a petition to get Hill his contract back. The petition had reached 1,515 of its target 1,600 signatures as of this posting. 

However, it’s unclear if Hill would take another contract if offered one as a result of the petition. On Thursday, he stood by his statement.

Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque