(February 21, 2021 / JNS)
Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired from CNN in November 2018 for his clarion call to destroy Israel, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is reiterating that call. This time, he has written a book, Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics, and has been promulgating his violent ideas in a series of interviews.
As Hill speaks about his book, in which he calls for “justice” for the Palestinian people, he disregards the history of the Jewish people, including their exile from the land of Israel, their millennia of persecution in the Diaspora, their endless longing to return to their ancestral homeland in Zion and the presence of Jews in the land of Israel since biblical times. In doing so, he chooses to dismiss the existence of Jewish peoplehood, and instead, arrogantly and naively defines Jews as “a religion and a faith,” as he did during an interview with Carmen Perez Jordan on Feb. 18.
Hill’s refusal to acknowledge historical facts is coupled with his dismissal of contemporary realities, as he laments the plight of the Palestinian people but does not acknowledge the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947, Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, or the terror with which Israeli citizens have lived for decades at the hands of Palestinians. His simplistic bifurcation of the resulting complex and multi-dimensional social and political situation into a “good guys and bad guys” scenario says more about Hill’s desire to lambast the Jewish people of Israel than it does about the conflict.
Indeed, watching and listening to Hill propagate anti-Semitic tropes as he promotes his book has been both illuminating and deeply disturbing. On one occasion, he mocked what he regarded as Israel’s demand for exceptional treatment—reminiscent of the anti-Semitic view that Jews regard themselves as the “Chosen People.” (Ironically, he was discussing Israel’s right to exist, a subject that originated when Israel’s legitimacy was called into question as an attack by Israel detractors like Hill, not as a unique demand by Israel.) On another occasion, he spoke about Israel as having stolen land from the Palestinians, using the words, “transfer of people out of their homeland” and “dispossession,” eliciting the stereotypical image of the thieving, greedy Jew.
Most disturbing, however, was hearing Hill reiterate his genocidal call for an end to Israel as the Jewish state, in an interview with Briahna Joy Grayon on the Bad Faith Podcast. He stated, “When I called for a free Palestine from the river to the sea, I was referring to … a belief that we should have justice and equality in the entire region of historic Palestine. When I say historic Palestine I’m referring to that entire area, both in the State of Israel, what is now known as the State of Israel, founded in 1948, also in the West Bank, also in Gaza.”
Equally disturbing, in his interview with Jordan, he argued that Israel is so despicable that those who associate Jews with Israel are anti-Semitic and that those who work to sever the relationship between Jews and Israel are advocating for the preservation of Jewish goodness. He stated, “Part of what Zionism has produced is the narrative … of Israeli policy and practice being equated with Jewishness, so that if I critique Israel I’m critiquing Jewishness or Jews. We have to separate those things because actually in many ways it’s actually anti-Semitic to do the opposite. I don’t want Judaism associated with the occupation. Judaism is a religion and a faith and a tradition of justice of love … I don’t want that linked to the open-air prison of Gaza.”
In other words, Israel is so despicable that Zionists whose Judaism is inextricably linked to the State of Israel are enabling the very anti-Semitism that oppresses them.
The insidious nature and pernicious impact of Hill’s message should not be underestimated.
It is incumbent on Temple University to take action against Marc Lamont Hill for his violent rhetoric. The university must recognize that he has now added to his attack on Jews in Israel an attack on the 90 percent of Jews in the United States who support Israel, and, therefore, on the vast majority of Jewish students and faculty at Temple University.
Melissa Landa is a former professor of education at the University of Maryland with a background in cross-cultural competence and anti-bias education. She is the founding director of Alliance for Israel, a Maryland-based nonprofit that opposes BDS activity in schools and communities, and that provides education about Israel’s multi-ethnic society.
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