The author is a PSL member in Philadelphia
Marc Lamont Hill, a widely-respected progressive activist, commentator and media arts professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, has been unjustly fired from his job at CNN after his comments defending a “free Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea” at a United Nations hearing. This event was held on the International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinian people. Regardless of the ridiculous accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against him, the truth is clear — he was fired for publicly critiquing the apartheid policies of the Israeli government.
Dr. Hill, in addition to teaching at Temple, owns a local coffee shop, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, an important venue for Black people in Philadelphia to get engaged politically and socially. He has an exemplary record of advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people, against racism and police brutality, and for the freedom of political prisoners.
After his firing, the corporate media went on the offensive, selectively airing his comments on Palestine and spreading the false anti-Semitism narrative. They wanted to silence his views, and reaffirm the dominance of pro-Israel opinion in U.S. news. There are virtually no voices on mainstream networks that are vocal about the plight of Palestine under Israeli settler colonialism. The fact that CNN was so quick to fire him is indicative of the coordinated campaign waged by pro-Israel organizations in the United States against Dr. Hill.
The modern state of Israel is occupying land that belongs unequivocally to the Palestinian people. Israel as a state is founded on settler colonialism. Zionism, the state’s guiding ideology, is inherently violent and based on racial supremacy. Being anti-Zionist does not mean one is an anti-Semite, and the ideology of Zionism has always been opposed by many progressive Jewish people around the world.
One should be able to critique a violent system as a private citizen, as Marc Lamont Hill did at the United Nations. It is wrong for a commentator who is paid to give their opinion to be fired when their opinion challenges powerful interests.
Several organizations and political figures decried Hill’s comments, most prominently the Anti-Defamation League and Dan Shapiro, the former US ambassador to Israel under Barack Obama. The amount of intense mobilizing that occurred within days to condemn Hill for his simple comments, “free Palestine from the river to the sea” was so threatening to the pro-Israel forces within the U.S. elite that they devoted a huge amount of screen time and energy to silencing him. Their actions were so aggressive because they know that the tide of public opinion — in the United States and around the world — is turning in favor of Palestine.
CNN has had a long history of hiring commentators who have clear ties to the U.S. government and the military-industrial complex. They are known for hiring former “national security” functionaries, Pentagon generals, and high ranking ex-government officials with ties to big corporations.
This is a clear case of the capitalist media trying to dictate what journalists, intellectuals and organizers can say in public forums. Should their ruling class interests be allowed to dominate the discourse? The answer is no. Everyone who stands in solidarity with oppressed peoples around the globe has a duty to reject the apartheid regime in Israel.
At the United Nations, Marc Lamont Hill spoke eloquently about the clear parallels between the struggles for Black liberation and Palestinian liberation. I too recognize that my liberation as a Black person is intrinsically tied to that of oppressed people around the world. The Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves against Israel, and against all imperialist threats to their survival. For Hill to support the Palestinian struggle falls directly in line with Black radicals generations ago, who were acutely aware of the entanglements of liberation. Malcolm X, The Black Panthers, and The League of Revolutionary Black Workers all stood with Palestine, as we all should now. It is in Black people’s self-interest to ally ourselves with anti-imperialist struggle, which is what is going on in Palestine against the Israeli state. I am passionate about this issue because we should never be afraid to critique the imperialists for what they have done, and what they continue to do. The Black struggle has always been aligned with an international struggle, and we need not ever forget it.
The firing of Marc Lamont Hill from CNN is important because he voiced something publicly that is rarely uttered on television networks: Palestine must be free.