WASHINGTON - CNN terminated its relationship with commentator Marc Lamont Hill because of a speech in which he called for a “free Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
The network announced on Thursday that Hill is “no longer under contract with CNN.” This decision came after growing criticism over Hill’s speech at a United Nations event devoted to solidarity with the Palestinians earlier this week.
In his speech, Hill expressed support for boycotting Israel, and stated that a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be “a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Critics of Hill’s speech said he was calling for the annihilation of Israel. He said in reply: “I believe in a single secular democratic state for everyone. This is the only way that historic Palestine will be free.”
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Israeli officials and Jewish organizations in the U.S. denounced his speech and called on CNN to stop inviting him as to its studios. The Anti Defamation League said that “Those calling for ‘from the river to the sea’ are calling for an end to the State of Israel.”
Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General in New York, said that “Lamont Hill called for the elimination of the State of Israel from the map. Previously he expressed his admiration for antisemite Louis Farrakhan.“ He called Hill “a racist, a bigot, an anti-Semite.”
Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum, which works to promote a two-state solution and is critical of Israel’s settlement policy, noted that “Hill, in his ardent zeal to consign Israel to non-existence, insists on a Palestinian maximalism that is not even embraced by the PLO itself, which is the official representative of the Palestinian people.”
Hill received support from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who decried CNN’s decision to fire him. “Endless expansion of illegal Israeli settlements has made a two-state solution impossible,” Greenwald wrote on Twitter. “This is openly acknowledged in Israel.”
He added that as a result of the settlements, the “only real possibilities” are either a one-state solution with equal right for everyone, or apartheid - and that the denial of this reality is why Hill has been attacked for his statement.
Hill responded to the controversy on Twitter, writing, "My reference to 'river to the sea' was not a call to destroy anything or anyone. It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza."
"I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice," Hill wrote. However, he added, "I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things."