Progressive academic/activist Marc Lamont Hill was famously fired from CNN in 2018 after he called for “a free Palestine” at the United Nations that would be “from the river to the sea,” among other troubling statements.
“From the river to the sea” is a phrase that has been chanted around the world at rallies calling for the destruction of Israel. It literally means that all of Israel should be wiped off of the map, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Hill has repeated that phrase various times in participating in anti-Israeli events, but still vehemently denies any malevolent meaning to the phrase.
“There is no other meaning than the destruction of Israel,” said historian Daniel Pipes, head of the Middle East Forum.
But as the Times of Israel recounted the history of that phraseology, there can be no dispute as to its unambiguous meaning:
“Palestine from the river to the sea” was a slogan of the Palestine Liberation Organization beginning with its founding in 1964, claiming a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and rejecting control by Israel of any land in the region, including areas controlled by Israel prior to 1967. It later became a popular political slogan used by Palestinians who reject compromise with Israel, including the terror group Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel.”
As the accompanying Investigative Project on Terrorism video shows, Hill has just come out with a new book, released in mid-February, apparently designed to repair his public image. The book is entitled Except for Palestine – The Limits of Progressive Politics, co-authored with Mitchell Plitnick, the president of ReThinking Foreign Policy, former director of the U.S. Office of B’Tselem and co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace.
The book is self-touted as a “major work of daring criticism and analysis.” It argues progressives in America are not anti-Israel enough. Kirkus Reviews described the book as “a welcome, well-informed contribution.”
Here’s one excerpt: “We also stress that a commitment to Palestinian freedom does not, cannot, and must not reflect hatred or hard toward Jewish people.” Yet, also in the book, Hill argues in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, whose founder Omar Barghouti openly admits that for BDS, “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian — rational Palestinian, not a sellout Palestinian — will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Moreover, Hill echoes the Palestinian demand for the “right of return.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told IPT News that the “Palestinians ripped off their non-existent, so-called ‘right of return’ from the Jews—which was and is at the core of the lone Jewish state’s “Law of Return” that allows all Jews to return to their ancestral homeland; but to the Palestinians, it means getting millions of Palestinians into Israel proper in order to overwhelm the Jewish population and use demographics to destroy the Jewish state.”
Hill performs great acrobatic leaps to try to portray his views as not anti-Semitic. Yet, quite conspicuously, it’s what Hill does NOT mention in the book that is most significant.
Hill deliberately avoids using the now infamous “from the river to the sea” phrase in the book. He says his book merely advocates for Palestinian “freedom,” but the book is only the latest in Hill’s long string of anti-Semitic statements and behavior.
To wish to see Israel wiped off the map is a very definitive expression of anti-Semitism as laid out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a definition accepted by the U.S. State Department. The definition includes the following example: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
Hill is quick to embrace lies about Israel when not in print. For example, in 2018, he has accused Israel multiple times of “poisoning Palestinian water“—a demonstrably false allegation that was actually fabricated by Hamas and plays upon an age-old blood libel.
Less than a year later, Hill tried to claim that he was actually “against anti-Semitism” and he had the audacity to condemn the accusations of Israeli “poisoning of [Palestinian] water” — the very allegations he made — as an “anti-Semitic trope:” “When you start linking Jewish people to money or saying they’re dishonest or obsessed with money or sneaky or poisoning water wells or all these other anti-Semitic tropes, they are ugly vicious tropes that we reject wholeheartedly,” he said in early 2019. “I do not want to be a part of any mission, any coalition, any organization, any faith, any community that is anti-Semitic in any way, form or faction. We denounce anti-Semitism wholeheartedly.”
If only that were true. Hill’s hypocrisy remains astounding.
Hill has only leaned in further to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, such as repeatedly invoking the inflammatory and false accusation that a police exchange program between Israel and the United States leads to police killings of black people in America. In 2018, he said: “But again, there’s a relationship between the two. The New York City Police – they’re killing us. But they’re being trained by Israeli security forces. [Host: “Really?”] Yes! They’re being trained – New York City Police and in other cities as well. So there’s a connection between the two.”
In October, the Investigative Project on Terrorism exposed this narrative about police exchanges with Israel lead to Black American deaths as a big lie. “I did not learn repressive kind of techniques as it relates to what the, the narrative has been around this exchange,” said retired Atlanta Police Chief (2010-2017) George Turner, who was interviewed, along with several other police chiefs, in the IPT series called “House of Lies.”
It’s a claim that even an ideological ally of Hill — Jewish Voice for Peace — now says is anti-Semitic and even admits to being inaccurate: “Suggesting that Israel is the start or source of American police violence or racism shifts the blame from the United States to Israel… It also furthers an antisemitic ideology … Taking police exchanges out of context provides fodder for those racist and antisemitic tropes.”
All of this context makes it abundantly clear that Hill’s call for “a free Palestine, from the river to the sea” is a call to erase the Jewish state of Israel.
Hill finds his now infamous U.N. comments a joking matter. Publicly, at least, so as to distract from the true meaning of his comments and to diminish the cause of his firing from CNN. At an April 2019 talk he gave at the University of Houston, he said: “I said, ‘we must do what justice requires.’ And justice requires ‘a free Palestine.’ (applause). Then there was like six other words. I can’t remember what they were… (laughs) ‘From the window to the wall…’ I don’t know. (laughs). And this idea of ‘from the river to the sea’ became the whole story.”
For good reason.
Hill’s record unambiguously shows that he has not stopped advocating for the destruction of Israel, the only state for the Jewish people. He just tries to camouflage his anti-Semitism by a campaign of lying and denial, disguising his scandalous hatred of Jews in the form of a policy book that even “reputable reviewer” Kirkus Reviews falls for when praising his book as a “clear and evenhanded analysis.” No, as former U.S. Ambassador to Israel (under the Obama Administration) Daniel Shapiro tweeted when he first heard Hill’s “from the river to the sea” comments in 2018: “This is disgusting. Calling for the elimination of Israel is anti-Semitic…”
Hill’s book is duplicity at its finest.
This column was originally published at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.
The views expressed in CCNS member articles are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS. They are the views of the authors, who are members of the CCNS.