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CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill for pro-Palestine comments, but gives a platform to Israeli gov’t spokespeople

Media Analysis
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Yesterday, CNN fired grassroots activist, professor, and occasional commentator Marc Lamont Hill after his passionate remarks at the United Nations defending freedom in Palestine and supporting the use of grassroots resistance against Israeli policies. In particular, Hill’s critics slammed his call for freedom in the holy land “from the river to the sea,” alleging that this long-standing, unambiguous Palestinian slogan of liberation amounted to calling for the “destruction” of Israel or otherwise contains some sort of anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli sentiment. Hill denies any secret meanings, and it prompts the question of what it says about Israel as an ethnocracy that freedom for Palestinians is perceived as “destruction”.

Michael Oren says Palestinians often fabricate their deaths, on CNN in 2014.

CNN’s decision to fire Hill, nonetheless, is not surprising. Though Zionist groups regularly allege anti-Israel bias on CNN, the record, detailed below in chronological order, shows almost the exact opposite. While CNN had no shame in firing a prominent black professor for little more than defending Palestinian rights at a United Nations panel, CNN has a long history of hiring Israeli government personnel and lobbyists, and even Netanyahu speechwriters, to freely spout war propaganda designed to dehumanize the Palestinian people and sanitize Israeli government abuses.

  1. Last November, CNN’s Jake Tapper joined the Anti-Defamation League in mocking a Jewish group for holding a panel event challenging the conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment. Tapper has previously slammed the “ugly sentiments” of Linda Sarsour, the prominent Palestinian activist who spoke at the prior event, and attacked the Chicago Dyke March over bogus accusations that the latter ejected three pro-Israel lobbyists from their march simply for being Jewish. Tapper has also dedicated an entire segment to the supposed bias of the UN against Israel, ignoring that unlike other states, Israel’s military occupation of Palestine is an international issue and necessarily of greater significance to international legal bodies than intra-national issues.
  2. In 2014, after a CNN camera crew captured an Israeli soldier killing two Palestinian children as they stood idly following a protest against an Israeli prison, alongside raw security footage of the killings and interviews with doctors who removed bullets from the boys’ corpses, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer invited former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren to explain the situation. Oren, then on contract with CNN, alleged that CNN’s own footage was fabricated. Oren further suggested that the security camera footage was also fabricated and that the boys might still be alive, echoing the conspiracy theories that fringe right-wing extremists circulated about the Sandy Hook massacre (which was not recorded). Blitzer, a long time pro-Israel lobbyist (see 6, below) made no effort to defend his own network’s footage of the murders.
  3. While on contract with CNN as a paid commentator from January to August 2014, Oren was CNN’s primary commentator on Israel & Palestine, including during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. During the war, Michael Oren was given more appearances than all Palestinian officials put together. At one point, Oren even held the title of “analyst,” obfuscating the fact that Oren was not a neutral commentator and actually an Israeli diplomat.
  4. Overall, CNN consistently ensured that Israeli officials and Oren were given far greater coverage during the 2014 invasion. Independent fact-checking by Politifact established that CNN broadcast twenty-six appearances from Israeli officials, including Oren, during the Israeli invasion, alongside appearances from only five Palestinian officials and two former PLO officials.
  5. Oren has previously argued that accepting the UN’s investigation of Israeli war crimes was the equivalent of denying the Holocaust, criticized US Jews who don’t support Israel while insisting they are nonetheless wedded to the Israeli state, and attempted to have 60 Minutes ax a segment about Israeli discrimination against Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. None of these comments or actions, nor his suggestion that a video-recorded killing of two Palestinian children was fabricated by CNN, were sufficient for CNN to fire him as CNN has done to Marc Lamont Hill. Oren later ended his contract with CNN on his own accord to appear on additional news stations, though it is rumored he left when CNN chose to begin clarifying that he was an Israeli ambassador in future segments.
  6. Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s primary news anchor, is a former AIPAC lobbyist who argued fervently that opposing Zionism is racism. Blitzer was the editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report and traveled the US talk show circuit as “the voice of Israel”.
  7. Blitzer spent the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza, when Israeli soldiers killed some 2,000 Palestinians in a series of indiscriminate strikes, embedded with Israeli soldiers. During that time, he relayed Israeli government claims that Hamas was using tunnels to sneak into Israel and kill Israeli civilians. In fact, the tunnels were exclusively used to target military installations.
  8. During the 2012 Israeli aerial bombardment of Gaza, Blitzer gave a polite and friendly interview to Israeli President Shimon Peres, complimenting the Israeli leader’s good looks and allowing Peres to comment uninterrupted when blaming Hamas. Meanwhile, CNN’s Christianne Amanpour grilled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal the same day,  asking leading and inflammatory questions about dead civilians and insisted, contrary to the entire body of international refugee law, that Palestinians who have been expelled from what became Israel are not entitled to return.
  9. The former Executive Vice President of CNN’s parent company, Gary Ginsberg, admits to extensive speechwriting for the Israeli Prime Minister during President Obama’s effort to negotiate and sign the Iran deal. Ginsberg’s suggestions included some of Netanyahu’s widely mocked comments about Iran.  

CNN’s role and importance as a mainstream news network has been predicated primarily on operating as a check on abuses of the government — including the recent effort by Donald Trump to deprive a CNN anchor of access to White House press briefings. This role as a check on American policy, which is now more supportive of Israeli aggression than ever, makes CNN’s decision to fire Hill that much worse. Instead of operating as a check on those in power, CNN’s role vis-a-vis the Middle East involves suppressing voices critical of Israel while promoting Israeli government staff and lobbyists and their perspectives.

Amith Gupta

Amith Gupta is a recent graduate of the New York University School of Law, where he was an Institute for International Law and Justice Scholar. He is a Palestine solidarity activist.

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14 Responses

  1. mondonut on November 30, 2018, 9:45 am

    There you go.

    MLH unambiguously calls for both the use of violence and the elimination of the State of Israel – and the problem is CNN.

    • festus on November 30, 2018, 1:00 pm

      You seem to have an inaccurate understanding of the word “unambiguously”.

      Seeing as how he called neither for violence of the elimination of Israel

    • Darcha on November 30, 2018, 2:12 pm

      Yet no one questions the right to the use of violence by other people under belligerent foreign occupation against their foreign occupiers. Witness the staple of WWII films of the French Resistance killing SS in Paris cafes. The audience quite rightly cheers. You do too. EVERY legal body in the world recognizes that the OPT is under foreign occupation, legally and factually just like France in the 1940s. ‘MLH’ is merely calling for the use of the standard measure.

      Please DO spell out where ‘MLH’ specifically calls for the ‘elimination’ of the state of Israel, by which you imply a call to genocide. Tell me how this is not simply the insane ‘logic’ of Palestinians want to go home. → This will destroy the Jewish character of Israel. → This will destroy Israel. → The Palestinians want to destroy Israel. → The Palestinians want to kill all the Jews. → The Palestinians are all terrorists.→ It’s OK to kill all Palestinians in self-defense.

    • bcg on November 30, 2018, 2:17 pm

      There you go – Mondonut unambiguously calls for the ethnic cleansing and the use of violence against Palestinians to achieve it – and the problem is Mondoweiss.

    • Misterioso on December 1, 2018, 9:56 am


      “MLH unambiguously calls for both the use of violence and the elimination of the State of Israel – and the problem is CNN.”


      Fortunately, there are rational, peace seeking Jews who see through your hate filled nonsense.

      To wit:

      “From Tel Aviv, Marc Lamont Hill’s Palestine comments don’t sound so wrong to me”

      The Inquirer, November 30/18 By Abraham Gutman

      TEL AVIV, Israel — “On Thursday, CNN decided to terminate its relationship with Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill. The decision followed a speech Hill gave at the United Nations, in which he reiterated his commitment to the fight for freedom of the people of Palestine. Hill called for a boycott of Israel and said the goal is to ‘free Palestine from the river to the sea.’

      “When Hill referred to the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, what pro-Israel groups heard is a call for the destruction of the State of Israel, which is in that territory.

      “CNN’s decision to end its relationship with Hill was an extreme move.

      “As an Israeli Jew, I understand what is at stake. Tel Aviv is my hometown. As I write this, I am sitting in my parents’ living room. I am literally between the river and the sea, introducing my family to my baby daughter and meeting my newest niece. The destruction of this city is not something I would cheer for. And that’s why I stand with Hill’s call for freedom and dignity for all people in this troubled land.”

      “The area between the river and the sea that Hill is talking about is the home of almost 14 million people — almost half of them Jews and half Palestinians. Of those Palestinians, 4.5 million live in the West Bank and Gaza, without citizenship and under military occupation for decades. In Israel, there are about two million residents who are Palestinian — 21 percent of the population — living as second-class citizens. That is not hyperbole or an attempt at a poetic description. This year, Israel enacted a law that enshrines the country as the state of the Jewish people — not of Israelis.

      “Oppression and humiliation of Palestinians takes many forms, some more violent than others.

      “Take Gaza, for example — the 32-mile-long stretch of land that is home to almost two million people — which has been disconnected from the world for over a decade by an Israeli blockade decimating its economy, according to the World Bank. In 2014, Israel bombed Gaza from the air and invaded it with ground forces, resulting in the death of 2,251, the majority of whom were civilians, including 551 children. More than 18,000 buildings were destroyed, leaving 100,000 people displaced.

      “This year alone, more than 150 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army while protesting the blockade of Gaza — including children, journalists, and people with disabilities. Israel reserves the death penalty only for people who assisted the Nazis in the Holocaust, but the Israeli army brings snipers to protests in Gaza, warning that damaging the border fence equals death.

      “Meanwhile, last week, in the Israeli city of Afula, Jewish residents rallied to prevent their Palestinian neighbors — citizens of the State of Israel — from using public parks. City officials vowed to preserve the ‘Jewish character’ of the city.

      “A call for Gaza to be able to join the world economy, for freedom of assembly for Palestinians, and for every child regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion to be able to play in a park should not be radical and is in no way bigoted — that’s a call for freedom for every Palestinian between the river and the sea.

      “To be fair, when I moved to the United States, I was very defensive when I heard chants like ‘from the river to the sea.’ I didn’t understand where that chant left me, an Israeli with no other citizenship. I was surprised by my reaction — in Israel I was politically active to end the occupation of Palestine and after high school refused to join the military because I didn’t want to participate in the occupation. Perhaps, the reaction to ‘from the river to the sea’ says more about how we have been indoctrinated to think that harmonic living of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is impossible — an indoctrination from which I was not immune. We have been indoctrinated to believe that the freedom of Palestinians and the freedom of Israeli Jews are mutually exclusive.

      “That isn’t true, but by firing Hill CNN further perpetuated that untruth.

      “There is no doubt that there are bad actors in Palestine — such as those who shoot rockets at the civilian population in Israel — and among its supporters — such as Minister Louis Farrakhan, who recently called Jews “termites.” But the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about the power imbalance between an occupying state that has the support of a global superpower and a liberation movement — imperfect as it may be.

      “Maybe ‘from the river to the sea’ is not the most savvy language to change hearts and minds — people have used that to call for the destruction of the State of Israel. The discussion about the rhetoric and the topic is worthy, but we won’t hear this discussion on CNN, because they fired Hill.

      “You don’t need to agree with Hill. In fact, I bet you hadn’t heard of his speech until CNN fired him — I hadn’t. But don’t buy the false choice that CNN is posing in its action — you either support Israel or call for its destruction. A call for freedom and dignity for all is another option.”

    • Maghlawatan on December 1, 2018, 7:23 pm

      Hey Mondonut

      When I started following Israel about 20 yearsx ago AIPAC controlled the US Overton Window on Israel.

      But that was then. When 10% of people know something it is deemed to be generally known. I guess you and your buddies can whine about justice in Galut for the rest of eternity.

      It is so unfair !

      There are more kind people in the US than there are Zionists in the world. Kindness is never wrong. This is why you are losing.

    • CigarGod on December 2, 2018, 10:56 am

      Well, Mondonut,
      Now we know where people who used to streak college football games go to retire.
      You just run across the page leaving little Mondomud footprints.

  2. Marnie on November 30, 2018, 1:47 pm

    There you go again. Where did Professor Hill call for violence?

    ‘it prompts the question of what it says about Israel as an ethnocracy that freedom for Palestinians is perceived as “destruction”. ‘ And that is one question that continues to go unanswered. To keep it from being answered, best get rid of all the people who question what the ‘state of israel’ does 24/7 wrt palestinians or supports palestinians in any way at all, instead to have only talking heads like Oren, Bennett, Blitzer and others points of view put out there. CNN – compromised news network.

  3. John Douglas on November 30, 2018, 3:55 pm

    “From the river to the sea…” Isn’t that what Palestinians in fact possessed prior to the colonization project of European Zionists?

    “From the river to the sea…” Isn’t that identical to “greater Israel”, which Israeli leaders claim must ultimately be theirs?

    “Hypocrisy” Isn’t that, “Accusing someone of doing something bad, when you, the accuser, have done it one-hundred times more often?”

    • Mooser on November 30, 2018, 4:37 pm

      “From the river to the sea…”

      ‘Palestine should be free’.
      Is that what the Zionists are calling for?

      • Maghlawatan on December 1, 2018, 7:26 pm

        The Zionists are calling for more money
        It is always the same with them. A total shonda.

  4. JWalters on December 1, 2018, 3:15 am

    Marc Lamont Hill is a hero for truth and democracy. Jake Tapper is not. Thank you Marc!

  5. Maghlawatan on December 1, 2018, 7:35 pm

    This is very interesting. The GOP is chaotic so different conflicting positions are emerging. Israel needs to be a bipartisan issue. The nightmare scenario is when it becomes a polarizing issue.

    « The main bill Paul is blocking puts into law an agreement reached under former President Barack Obama that gives Israel $38 billion in military assistance over 10 years. The measure has broad bipartisan support in Congress. Various versions of the bill have easily passed the Senate and the House in recent months, but the Senate still needs to pass a final version.
    Using his Senate privileges, Paul placed a hold on the bill on Oct. 11, surprising other lawmakers, according to Hill staffers.
    In various statements to the press, Paul has said he supports Israel, but that in the long run the country should become self-sufficient.

    Just this week, Paul placed a hold on a bill that is designed to counter the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement, congressional staffers confirmed. That movement urges companies and countries to penalize Israel through boycotts and other means over its treatment of the Palestinians. Rubio is also a lead sponsor of that legislation, which has plenty of bipartisan backing.

    The federal bill has a number of elements, including essentially condoning state and local government laws that penalize people and companies who back isolating Israel over the Palestinian issue.
    Paul’s office said he has concerns that the anti-“boycott” bill could infringe on Americans’ First Amendment rights — a concern other opponents of such measures share. In any case, his hold has further upset pro-Israel groups already steamed about his efforts to stop the aid package.« 

  6. lonely rico on December 2, 2018, 10:31 am

    Gideon Levy Tells It Like It Is:

    “In U.S. Media, Israel Is Untouchable”

    G-d bless Gideon Levy for calling out American media’s cowardice.

    Levy concludes his article –

    The Jews and Israel have an incredible degree of influence in Western media. Now you can call me an anti-Semite, as well.

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