The Marc Lamont Hill affair

Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN political analyst, went to the UN on Nov. 29, its annual “Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” which just happens to be the anniversary of the partition resolution which could have created a state of Palestine – but didn’t, because the Arabs couldn’t accept a Jewish state next door. Hill called for (video) “a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” accused Israel of “settler colonialism,” and spoke approvingly of Palestinian Arab terrorism:

If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself. We must prioritize peace, but we must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must advocate and promote nonviolence 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.

He also endorsed the program of the BDS movement, “the need to return to the pre-1967 borders, to give full rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to allow right of return.”

I was planning to write about the history and meaning of the slogan “from the river to the sea…” and refute for the thousandth time the idea that Israel is a “colonialist” enterprise. I was going to explain yet again that “Palestinian” citizens of Israel do have full rights, and that “right of return” means converting Israel into an Arab-majority state. I was planning to present Hill’s explanation of why he didn’t really mean that Israel should be replaced by a Jew-free Arab state like the Jordanians created in the territory they occupied in 1948, and argue that he should have known better.

Well, screw  it. I’m going to stop right here. I am tired of swimming in the sewers with people like Marc Lamont Hill. Either he understood the connotations of the words and phrases that he used, and knew that he was participating in an ugly annual ritual to whip up enthusiasm for uprooting the Jewish people from their homeland by terrorism and murder, or he didn’t know what he was saying. Is he in favor of terrorism and ethnic cleansing or just incredibly ignorant?

I think the most generous possible explanation is that he identifies with the Palestinian Arabs, who claim to be oppressed, because as a black American he sees himself as oppressed. So he learned the Palestinian vocabulary to give himself credibility to speak about the conflict. But everything that he believes about it he learned from the Palestinian side, so like them he doesn’t relate to the Jews as people, and surely not as a people with a legitimate claim to the land.

He knows how to talk the talk, like so many others who live far from the conflict, but his repetition of clichéd Palestinian talking points makes one feel that that is as far as it goes.

It’s his job to wear a nice suit and speak well, a “radio voice” with just a trace of African-American burr to it to give him credibility as an oppressed person. He uses all the correct words to give the impression of a scholar who carefully takes into account moral and humanitarian considerations, who operates in a modern anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist anti-racist, anti-patriarchal framework.

But his talk was full of lies, exaggerations, facts presented without context, attribution of the worst possible motives, and inversions of the victim-perpetrator relationship. He made tendentious analogies between the struggle of black Americans and Palestinian Arabs, and even blamed violence by American police officers on their “training by Israeli soldiers.” There was not a single word about Palestinian terrorism or rejectionism, nothing (except barely disguised support) for the campaign of murder that is going on today in our streets, incited and supported by the PLO and Hamas.

In short, he presented 21 minutes of unrelieved hateful propaganda. There was nothing scholarly or considered about it. His later explanatory tweets, for example,

I believe in full rights for all citizens. I believe in safety for all citizens. I believe in self-determination for all citizens. This is not an anti-Semitic position.

and

I concluded my remarks with a call to free Palestine from river to sea. This means that all areas of historic Palestine —e.g., West Bank, Gaza, Israel— must be spaces of freedom, safety, and peace for Palestinians.

are disingenuous and not consistent with his words in his speech. He did not even hint that he cared at all for the rights, the safety, indeed even the lives, of the Jewish inhabitants.

In response to the outrage generated by his comments – and I hope also by the obvious insincerity of his explanations afterwards – CNN terminated his contract. Naturally this was interpreted by many as the network “surrendering to Jewish/Israeli pressure.”

It might be controversial to fire a news analyst for taking an unpopular position on his own time. One could even argue that it’s his own business if he calls for the destruction of a state and the death or dispersal of its people, and supports violent terrorism. After all, it was said at the UN, where such ideas are commonplace.

But his uncritical acceptance and regurgitation of the most blatantly false and misleading propaganda makes it clear that he is not competent in the role of political analyst for any media outlet that has the slightest regard for truth.

Maybe Aljazeera will give him a job.

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