Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor and former CNN analyst who was fired for calling for a “free Palestine” at the United Nations, issued a statement clarifying his comments and offering an apology for hurting the sentiments of his “Jewish brothers and sisters”.
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Hill, in an address at the U.N. meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People Wednesday called for “a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
“If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself,” Hill noted
Pundits, observers and commentators pounced on the "river to the sea" line, which is a popular expression referring to the idea that Palestinians should have a right to an area that extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Some political actors, however, have extended the interpretation as a call to eliminate Jewish people or settlements from all land in between those areas.
The speech raised a huge outcry leading to his dismissal from the media giant CNN. Many criticized Hill’s speech for being anti-Semitic and calling for violence on Israel.
The media studies and urban education professor at Temple Saturday issued an apology through an opinion piece in a Philadelphia daily The Inquirer.
“I strongly believe that we must reject anti-Semitism in any form or fashion… During my speech, I offered a deeply critical analysis of the State of Israel. Specifically, I challenged the Israeli criminal justice system, settlement expansion in the West Bank, and the need to attend to human rights abuses throughout the country and occupied territories,” Hill wrote.
On his call for a free Palestine from “river to sea” and the subsequent reaction on it as a call for violence against Jewish people, Hill said, “My use of "river to the sea" was an invocation of a long history of political actors – liberal and radical, Palestinian and Israeli – who have called for their particular vision of justice in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. For many, justice will come from a two-state solution. For some, like me, justice will come through a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”
He continued, “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.”
However, Hill, at the conclusion of his piece, wrote that he is still committed to, “critical dialogues throughout the city, nation, and world in order to advance the cause of justice. And I remain open to learning, growing, and struggling together toward freedom.”
The host of the syndicated TV show, “Our World with Black Enterprise,” did not, however, write anything about CNN firing him Thursday due to his speech.