Dear CNN and Temple University,
This letter condemns the recent firing of Marc Lamont Hill for his speech at the United Nations on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. Marc Lamont Hill is a Black American professor and CNN commentator. During his speech, Hill criticized Israel’s state violence and its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Hill pointed out that “the Israeli state continues to restrict freedom and undermine the equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as those in the West Bank and Gaza.” In his speech, he called on countries to boycott and divest from companies who contribute and invest in the ongoing Israeli settlements, which are recognized to be illegal by the United Nations.
He concluded his speech by stating that “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” The Anti-Defamation League then released a statement claiming the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ is incendiary, as it is allegedly a euphemism for destroying the state of Israel. This accusation ignores Hill’s call for justice and conflates criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism, which is not only factually incorrect, but also extremely dangerous.
Anti-Semitic violence poses a real threat to Jewish citizens all over the world and it is one that must be taken seriously. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, equating this very real violence to the advocacy for Palestinian human rights devalues the lived reality of oppressed people. By firing Hill for his statement of support for the Palestinian people, CNN is trivializing the very real and violent anti-Semitism that plagues our current social structures. It also implies that it is only acceptable to discuss the importance of human rights as long as it does not pertain to Palestinian lives.
Furthermore, this incident cannot be treated as distinct; it is a systematic attempt to silence voices that criticize the state of Israel. Coupled with the reality that the ADL has a long history with anti-Arab sentiment and Islamophobia, Hill’s firing is nothing short of an intimidation tactic to prevent people from discussing human rights abuses in Israel. The Jewish Voice for Peace has also pointed out the ADL’s “lack of commitment to standing against anti-Black racism [... as their] deep ongoing relationship with police departments makes them an unfit partner to Black communities and all communities of color targeted by ongoing police abuse.” ADL’s complicity in the racist policing of Black communities must be taken into consideration when confronting the fact that they applied immense pressure on CNN to fire Marc Lamont Hill; their insistence on Hill’s removal is nothing short of racist. The material damages to the public backlash that Hill has received must also be considered — the Dean of Temple University has said that “Professor Hill does not represent Temple University, and his views are his own [...] Temple condemns in the strongest possible terms all anti-Semitic, racist or incendiary language, hate speech, calls to violence, and the disparagement of any person.” We cannot pretend that painting Hill as a threat that Temple University must remove is fueled by anything other than racism. Policing black voices in academia and in public spaces is part of a much larger history of anti-Blackness.
CNN’s response to Marc Lamont Hill was extremely unjust. CNN and Temple University should have celebrated Hill’s call for justice and equality, but instead used it as an opportunity to silence and intimidate those who criticise the state of Israel. The racist nature of this incident should not be overlooked nor can it be excused. We are not alone in our deep disappointment in CNN for firing Marc Lamont Hill. It is for these reasons, that we, as supporters of justice and liberation for all, condemn CNN’s firing of Marc Lamont Hill. We believe in fairness and anti-racism and thus cannot stand idly by while CNN enacts blatant anti-Blackness and anti-Palestinian violence. We also urge Temple University to avoid repeating CNN’s mistake and to stand by Marc Lamont Hill’s right to speak for justice in Palestine.
Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) - McGill University
World Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Student Association - McGill University
African Studies Students’ Association - McGill University
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) - Ryerson University
SPHR Concordia University
SPHR University of British Columbia
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East - Western University
SJP - Rutgers University-Newark
Independent Jewish Voices - McGill University
Jewish Voice for Peace - George Washington University
SJP - Brooklyn College
SJP - UC Davis
Palestine Solidarity Committee - Austin, Texas
McGill Left Review
Gender, Sexuality, Feminist, and Social Justice Studies Students’ Association - McGill University
Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine
Women in Islam, Inc.
Independent Jewish Voices - Concordia University
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Independent Jewish Voices - Carleton University & University of Ottawa
SJP - Stockton University
Bears for Palestine - UC Berkeley
Students Against Israeli Apartheid - York University
Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine
SJP - University of Minnesota Twin Cities
For the full list of signatories, see here.
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