CNN commentator’s UN speech calls for a ‘free Palestine from the river to the sea’


(JTA) — A CNN political commentator and professor at Temple University used a phrase associated with Palestinian extremists – “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” – during a speech at the United Nations.

Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of Media Studies and Urban Education at Temple who also hosts the syndicated television show “Our World with Black Enterprise,” spoke at the United Nations on Wednesday at an event held for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

“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,” Lamont Hill said.

“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.

Lamont Hill defended his remarks, saying in a tweet that the phrase predates Hamas by some 50 years. “It also has a variety of meanings. In my remarks, which you clearly didn’t hear, I was talking about full citizenship rights IN Israel and a redrawing of the pre-1967 borders,” he retweeted.

Lamont Hill also suggested that Palestinians have a right to use “resistance” against Jewish civilians to achieve their aims, without specifically ruling out violence. He said that Israel sometimes fails to distinguish between Palestinian civilians and fighters and that “we must allow the Palestinian people the same range of opportunity and political possibility. If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself.”

“We must advocate and promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing,” he said.

Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, called Lamont Hill’s use of the “river to the sea” phrase “disgusting.” “Calling for the elimination of Israel is anti-Semitic and (being thankfully futile) does Palestinians no favors,” he tweeted.

Lamont Hill later said in a tweet that: “In my speech, I talked about the need to return to the pre-1967 borders, to give full rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to allow right of return. No part of this is a call to destroy Israel. It’s absurd on its face.”

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