Headline Fails: Media Outlets Distort the Truth on Marc Lamont Hill
Marc Lamont Hill called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” at the United Nations. The fact that he also used his speech to advocate a boycott of Israel and even approved of terror against Israel would have been enough to create pushback. However, using words that are widely recognized by Israel’s advocates and detractors alike as calling for the Jewish state’s destruction is a significant red line.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Anyone who has ever been involved in standing up for Israel and faced off against a baying crowd of hate-filled anti-Israel protesters on campuses or other public spaces will recognize that chant.
Granted, there are always plenty of “fellow travelers” and “useful idiots” who have very little idea what they are actually advocating for or protesting against when it comes to Israel — so often the cause celebre to join these days.
But those who initiate the chanting know full well what those words mean. Yet judging by some media headlines, you’d think Lamont Hill was simply fired because a few Jews disagreed with his opinions, or wished to curtail his freedom of speech.
Hill did not simply criticize Israel. Nor did he call for a “free Palestine,” something that plenty of Israelis and Jews would have no problem with — as long as it did not mean the end of a free Israel next to it. The Washington Post’s headline removed the real context of his remark.
The Guardian‘s understated term — “speech on Israel” — in its headline, used a sub-header to imply that the end of Hill’s CNN contract was due to pro-Israel groups condemning him for “advocating a boycott.”
Again, this fails to portray what actually got Hill into trouble. After all, could CNN have been expected to even contemplate sacking Hill for supporting a boycott of Israel? Probably not.
In addition, Hill would not have been fired simply for criticizing the Israeli government, something that plenty of Israelis do themselves.
Criticizing the Israeli government is perfectly legitimate, and all governments can and should be held accountable for their policies. Hill went way beyond that.
CNN offered no explanation on the record for why it fired Hill. But a CNN insider told The Daily Beast that executives had been on alert about Hill since October, when The Algemeiner published “Yes, Marc Lamont Hill is an antisemite,” which got the attention of the network brass.
In 2010, CNN fired its Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs, Octavia Nasr, after HonestReporting exposed her tweet expressing her sadness at the passing of a founder of the Hezbollah terrorist group.
For too many years, it has been a virtual free-for-all when it comes to commentary on Israel. Freedom of speech must be protected, as should the ability to debate and criticize Israeli government policies and its actions. But CNN should be commended for recognizing that there is a limit, and that Marc Lamont Hill crossed the line into speech that has the potential for serious consequences. At a time of rising global antisemitism and only weeks after the horrific Pittsburgh synagogue attack, CNN has done the right thing.
In addition, coming in the same week as a highly publicized CNN poll and investigation into European antisemitism, the news channel could hardly ignore the situation.
Hill can claim all he wants that what he said was not meant to be interpreted as a call for Israel’s destruction. Unfortunately, however, there are plenty of people out there who understand a dog-whistle when they hear one. There’s a place for debate and criticism when it comes to Israel. Calling for its destruction is beyond the pale.
Simon Plosker is managing editor of HonestReporting, a leading organization monitoring anti-Israel media bias. A version of this article was originally published by HonestReporting.