Temple professor’s speech results in criticism

Back to Article
Back to Article

Temple professor’s speech results in criticism

Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was fired by CNN for controversial statements made to the United Nations in November.

Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was fired by CNN for controversial statements made to the United Nations in November.

Photo courtesy of WHYY

Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was fired by CNN for controversial statements made to the United Nations in November.

Photo courtesy of WHYY

Photo courtesy of WHYY

Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was fired by CNN for controversial statements made to the United Nations in November.

By Abuzer Zaidi, News Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Former CNN pundit Marc Lamont Hill, currently a professor of Media Studies and Urban Education at Temple University, gave a speech at the United Nations criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians that resulted in a maelstrom of backlash.  

“It is clear that any freedoms naturally endowed to all human beings are actively being stripped away from Palestinians by Israeli statecraft,” Hill said.

Following his speech, he was fired from CNN and heavily criticized for his remarks.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an Associate Dean at Simon Wiesenthal Center, called Hill a “confirmed anti-Zionist ideologue,” an “extremist,” “anti-peace,” and “a supreme propagandist unfettered by facts” according to the Jewish Journal.

The question remains was his speech inherently anti-Semitic? In firing Hill, what agenda was CNN pursuing?

The Situation on the Ground

In measuring the happenings in the Israel-Palestine conflict, there are few objective perspectives. Any relevant nations both on the world scale and in the region have economic or otherwise moral stakes in the conflict.

When discussing the UN, the natural discussion regarding geopolitics anywhere are the UN Security Council.

The permanent members of the UN Security Council are the US, France, UK, Russia, and China. France and the UK can be easily classified as a US ally, especially considering the relatively strong economic and military ties that the European countries have with the Americans. As a result, there’s largely two active players on the Security council that don’t necessarily have aligned goals with the US, being China and Russia.

However, in the case of Israel, China has strong economic and military cooperation with the country. Israel also receives the majority of its military from the US, and Russia has 100,000 Israeli citizens within its border.

Needless to say, the UN Security council, which largely is the trend-setting handful of nations, has an economic stake in maintaining the goodwill of Tel Aviv.

However, the UN has, in resolutions that have passed both the general body and the security council, indicated that Israel is actively in the wrong, and is suspending the rights of Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza.

Many of such resolutions were active condemnations. So, by any objective measure, Israel is in violation of human rights in regards to Palestine. This is only corroborated as the Security Council has a pro-Israel economic stake.

Anti-Semitism vs Anti-Zionism

Zionism is defined by the ideology that the Jewish people are entitled to a nation of their own. Theodor Herzl, the founder of this ideology, envisioned the Jewish return to Zion (Jerusalem). This resulted in the founding of the Jewish state of Israel.

According to an article on Vox.com, Zionists defend this claim by saying that, as the Chinese have China, the Germans have Germany, the Italians have Italy, the French have France, the Jewish people should have a nation of their own.

However, this claim is deeply troubling for the simple reason that a Jewish state is necessarily exclusive. This is rooted in the fact that Knesset, the legislative body in Israel, passed an amendment to the Israeli constitution that said that “the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” This statement necessitates nationalism and approaches extreme right-wing ideology.  

An issue with the discourse surrounding the topic is that often when a public figure is critical of the Israeli state, as Hill was, they are immediately criticized for being anti-Semitic. The examples following this trend are mentioned above in the denunciation of his speech.

However, Hill specifically stated in both his speech and on Twitter that he “called for freedom and equal rights for all citizens, irrespective of race, religion, class, gender, or sexual identity.”

Hill was specifically criticized in using the phrase “From the River to the Sea” in reference to Palestinian liberation. Largely, this is viewed by the Israelis as a call used by Hammas as a call to eradication.

Hill specifically stated on Twitter that the implications in that specific phrasing was not meant to indicate a destruction and elimination of the Jews from Israel. Largely, in various interviews and statements, the Temple professor said that he was strongly against anti-Semitism.

To point, Hill apologized to those offended by his remarks in a recent opinion-editorial for the Philadelphia Inquirer in December when writing “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.”

Motivations of the Firing

After the UN speech, the pundit was fired from CNN. This leaves a singular question: Why?

History teacher Doug Landis could only postulate CNN’s motivations as he did not believe that it was an active agenda.

“Due to CNN not wanting to offend any of their viewers, they decided to part ways with (Hill),” Landis said. “They’re a business, and they can fire and hire anyone they want.

However, the Guardian in September of 2012 ran an article about the compromised state of CNN’s legitimacy. NYU Professor of Media Studies Jay Rosen indicated in the quotes of the article that CNN largely operates as a business first.

Rosen made the assertion that CNN’s business model was that it proclaims neutrality while taking business partnerships with foreign states. This results in an ideological agenda that coincides with the highest bidder.

One of the consequences is that it puts you into business with ruling regimes in order to get on the air,” Rosen was quoted in the article of stating.

This evidence results in the postulate that CNN’s action is pandering to donors, sponsors, or other world leaders providing the company with business opportunities. Aside from that, they are sanitizing coverage for those viewers offended.

That means that CNN silenced Hill purely out of a corporate interest rather than a moral injunction against hate speech.