Marc Lamont Hill keeps job after call to ‘free Palestine from river to sea’

Temple University board ‘disappointed’ with the comments he made in a private capacity, but says he is entitled to free speech protection

Marc Lamont Hill speaks at the United Nations on November 28, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Marc Lamont Hill speaks at the United Nations on November 28, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Marc Lamont Hill, a political commentator who was fired by CNN after a video surfaced of him calling for “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” will not lose his teaching position, Temple University said.

The Philadelphia school’s board of trustees stated their “disappointment, displeasure, and disagreement with Professor Hill’s comments” made late last month during an event at the United Nations for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Hill, a professor of media studies and urban education, as well as host of the syndicated television show “Our World with Black Enterprise,” later apologized for using a phrase associated with Palestinian extremists, that many saw as a call denying the right of Israel to exist.

A Temple statement Tuesday saying Hill would stay on at the university cited the Constitution.

“In giving this speech outside of his role as a teacher and researcher at Temple, Professor Hill was not speaking on behalf of or representing the University,” the statement said.

“We recognize that Professor Hill’s comments are his own, that his speech as a private individual is entitled to the same Constitutional protection of any other citizen, and that he has through subsequent statements expressly rejected anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence.”

In an op-ed published  in Hill’s hometown newspaper, the Philadephia Inquirer, he wrote: “Critics of this phrase have suggested that I was calling for violence against Jewish people. In all honesty, I was stunned, and saddened, that this was the response.”

“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.

Hill said in his op-ed that he was calling for justice in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in the form of a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

“Throughout my speech, I spoke explicitly about the need for Israeli political reform, specifically as it pertains to Arab citizens of Israel. I also called for a redrawing of borders to the pre-1967 lines, as well as a greater attention to human rights for those living in the West Bank and Gaza. At the time, I believed that these demands made in the speech sufficiently reflected my belief in radical change within Israel, not a desire for its destruction,” he wrote. “Clearly, they did not.”

“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,” he wrote.

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