The controversy that has resulted from Marc Lamont Hill’s speech is just the latest iteration of a larger effort to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights in the United States, at a time when the Trump administration is set to reveal its Israel-centric “peace plan” that is set to be a disaster for Palestinians.
PHILADELPHIA – After his UN Speech marking the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine last week was twisted so as to smear him as an anti-Semite, Marc Lamont Hill was subjected to a “political lynching” that saw him fired from his role as a political commentator on CNN and will now see Temple University — his other employer — investigate whether and how to reprimand him for his statements.
During his speech, Hill had called for solidarity with Palestinians and drew on the history of African Americans’ struggle against slavery and apartheid in the United States as an inspiration for the solidarity. Hill then noted that “if we are to operate in true solidarity with Palestinian people, we must allow the Palestinian people the same range of opportunity and political possibility” that were afforded African Americans, including “self-defense” and other tactics that do not fit neatly with “non-violence.”
However, the part of Hill’s speech that has been deemed the most controversial was his concluding call for a “a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” which recognizes the reality that the area historically known as Palestine is, in fact, not free, as Palestinians in the territory are currently under siege from a decade-long blockade, under military occupation, or under an apartheid legal system. Yet Hill’s detractors have directed their outrage at that single line, twisting it to mean the destruction or “genocide” of the Israeli state, while also failing to recognize the genocide of Palestinians that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel in the first place.
Since he was dismissed from his role at CNN, many of the same voices that pressured the news organization to fire Hill are now pushing for Temple University to do the same. On Tuesday, Temple University’s newspaper — The Temple News — published a story reporting that the university is set to “investigate” Hill and is determining whether he can be “reprimanded” by the university for the statements that he had made at the United Nations. The university had previously stood by Hill. Notably, many of the strongest voices that have been calling for Hill to be fired first from CNN and now from Temple University have close ties to the Israeli government, top U.S. Israel lobby organizations, or pro-Israel stalwarts with ties to the U.S. political establishment.
Trouble at Temple
Last Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article in which it noted that one of the people pushing for Hill to be fired from Temple University was Leonard Barrack, who was described as a “Temple trustee and major donor to the university.” Barrack, who is also a Temple alumnus and former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), was quoted as saying that “He [Hill] called for the destruction of the State of Israel in code words. I am very upset about it. I think it was anti-Semitic.”
However, the article fails to note that Leonard Barrack is also former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which regularly hosts events in Philadelphia with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), arguably the most influential Israel lobby group in the U.S., and StandWithUs, an Israel lobby group whose activities on U.S. college campuses were exposed in a recently leaked documentary.
Even though the article mentions the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia immediately below where it quotes Barrack, it does not mention this connection between the two nor does it note that the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia or the Israel lobby groups it collaborates with promote Israeli colonialism, the apartheid system imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli state ,and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from historical Palestine.
Barrack, given that he is a Temple trustee as well as a major donor who is also politically influential, clearly made his outrage heard, as evidenced by recent statements from the chairman of Temple’s board of trustees, Patrick O’Connor, who told the Inquirer, “the board’s not happy. The administration’s not happy. People wanted to fire him right away. We’re going to look at what remedies we have.” Both O’Connor and Barrack are prominent lawyers in Philadelphia in addition to being Temple trustees.
Another Temple University alumnus with connections to the Israel lobby pushing for Hill to be fired is the President of the Zionist Organization of American (ZOA), Morton Klein. Klein went even further than Barrack in expressing his outrage over Hill’s speech, calling for the university to fire Hill, whom he called a “Bigot Jew-hater.” Klein also condemns Hill for his past statements on Palestine, including voicing his support for Ahed Tamimi — whom Klein calls a “convicted Palestinian-Arab terrorist” — and for denouncing “settler encroachment” and the “systematic abuse of Palestinian children,” which Klein equated to “blood libel.”
Klein concludes his long statement on Hill, which was quoted by numerous news outlets, by stating:
As a Temple University alumnus from where I received two degrees, I am especially shocked, embarrassed and ashamed that Mr. Hill teaches at my alma mater and has a named Chair no less. His working at Temple can only hurt fundraising and support for the University.”
Like Barrack, Klein has considerable political pull in this situation, not because of his ties to Temple University necessarily, but because of his ties to the Trump administration and Trump’s largest political donor, Sheldon Adelson. Klein, who is also close to former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, was instrumental in installing John Bolton as National Security Adviser by leading the campaign to have Bolton’s predecessor, H.R. McMaster, fired over alleged “anti-Israel” beliefs. Bolton is a close confidant of Sheldon Adelson, the largest donor to Trump and the Republican Party. Adelson also funds the organization Klein leads, ZOA.
Hill’s head sought by pro-Israel right and left
In addition to ZOA, other notable Israel lobby groups, such as the American Jewish Committee (AJC), have been vocally calling for Hill to be fired. For instance, AJC’s “chief storyteller,” Avi Mayer claimed that Hill’s speech called for the “violent annihilation” of Israel and mischaracterized Hill as a Hamas supporter for opposing U.S. funding of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The U.S. gives Israel over $3 billion annually in military aid, which is set to top $3.8 billion this year.
On Tuesday @CNN aired a devastating report on antisemitism in Europe. Today CNN's @marclamonthill echoed Jihadist calls for Israel's violent annihilation, calling for "resist[ance]" to achieve "a free Palestine from the river to the sea." Not a great look. pic.twitter.com/r26Q1BU0lR
— Avi Mayer (@AviMayer) November 29, 2018
Notably, prior to working for AJC, Mayer worked as a “foreign media liaison” for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He has also worked in the Israeli embassy in Washington and for AIPAC.
AJC claims to be very different from ZOA in the sense that AJC seeks to cater to “liberals” while ZOA is focused more on Republicans and conservatives. However, both are equally committed to promoting Zionism. Indeed, AJC was instrumental in promoting the Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism that seeks to define certain criticisms of the Israeli state as anti-Semitism. The group is exceptionally well-funded, with an annual income of over $49 million, most of which comes from private donors.
Notably, a subsidiary of AJC, UN Watch, has also been very vocal in its condemnation of Hill. UN Watch is frequently quoted by media outlets on a variety of issues related to the United Nations and its alleged bias towards Israel. However, the fact that it is a “wholly owned subsidiary” of AJC is rarely noted, with the outlets only sometimes noting that UN Watch is a “pro-Israel monitor.”
In crosshairs of “fiercely Zionistic” National Council of Young Israel
Another important and controversial Zionist organization pushing for Hill to be fired from Temple University is the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI). NCYI’s call to have Hill fired was widely quoted by both Israeli and U.S. media outlets.
The #NCYI is calling on @cnn @templeuniv to fire Marc Lamont Hill following his highly offensive & virulent anti-Semitism remarks. They're abhorrent, & his senseless promotion of violence against Israel is repugnant.
He can't be given a platform to serve as a pundit or professor!
— NCYI Young Israel (@NCYIYoungIsrael) November 29, 2018
NCYI, essentially an umbrella group for over 100 smaller organizations spread throughout different areas of the United States, has a storied history, having been founded over 100 years ago.
As an example, NCYI boasts on its web page that, prior to Israel’s founding in 1948, it funneled weapons to Zionist terror groups like Irgun. Irgun, which NCYI calls a “defense force” on its website, began bombing and attacking Palestinian civilian targets in 1938, 10 years before Israel’s founding. It is best known for the bombing of the King David hotel in Jerusalem, which killed 91 people, as well as the Deir Yassin massacre, which killed over 100 Palestinian civilians as part of a self-described “cleansing” campaign.
Irgun’s leader, Menachem Begin, was called a terrorist and fascist by Albert Einstein and many other prominent Jewish American intellectuals in an open letter published in the New York Times in 1948. He went on to found the precursor to today’s Likud political party. Notably, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which has strongly condemned Hill’s speech and smeared him as “anti-Semitic,” recently hosted an event celebrating Begin’s legacy, bizarrely likening Begin to Martin Luther King Jr.
In addition to considering its past support of terror groups as a point of pride, NCYI also led the effort to commute the sentence of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who had given top-secret classified U.S. government information to Israel and other countries. Pollard was imprisoned in the late 1980s and released in 2015.
NCYI, which describes itself as “fiercely Zionistic,” now promotes anti-BDS initiatives on U.S. college campuses, including Temple University. Owing to its decentralized nature, there is little information on the group’s finances and donors.
A skirmish in a larger war to silence pro-Palestinian advocacy
The firestorm of criticism around Marc Lamont Hill’s speech was undeniably engineered, particularly given the fact that the outrage centered on a single phrase at the end of the lengthy speech and the fact that the subsequent campaign against Hill employed prominent figures and organizations in the Israel lobby, many of whom hold extremist positions and are openly racist.
Ultimately, the controversy that has resulted from Hill’s speech is just the latest iteration of a larger effort to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights in the United States, particularly at a time when Israel’s right-wing government is seeking to annex Palestine’s West Bank and when the Gaza Strip is approaching its breaking point as a result of the inhuman decade-long blockade of the enclave by Israel. It also comes at a time when the Trump administration is set to reveal its Israel-centric “peace plan” that is set to be a disaster for Palestinians and major give-away to Zionist interests.
The Israel lobby that represents extreme political Zionism in the United States is seeking to make an example of Hill in order to avoid having to discuss the important issues he brought up in his speech. These critics of Hill have claimed that he implicitly called for the destruction of Israel as a state. Though Hill did not make that claim, the alarm raised by these critics is ironic given that Israel is currently — and has been for decades — seeking to ethnically cleanse the historic land of Palestine of all of its indigenous inhabitants.
Top Photo | Activist, author, and now former CNN host Marc Lamont Hill gestures during an interview with VladTV. YouTube | VladTV
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.