No one should whitewash, rationalize, or excuse what former CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill did this week. He spoke at a gathering of anti-Semites at the UN, a notoriously anti-Semitic institution, and called for violence against Israel and for destruction of the Jewish state. There is no other explanation for his actions that make the slightest bit of sense. He did not use a “dog whistle.” He stood and shouted.
Simply put, his actions were the left-wing anti-Semite version of walking into a white nationalist meeting and speaking the infamous 14 words.
On Wednesday, Hill spoke at a U.N. event honoring the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and made two despicable statements. First, he at length defended violent Palestinian resistance against Israel. He condemned romanticizing or fetishizing peace, scorned the politics of “respectability,” and compared Palestinian resistance to slave rebellions. He added that while “we must promote non-violence at every opportunity” he could not “endorse narrow politics that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in ethnic cleansing.”
This is important context for his second statement, an explicit call for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” In other words, he called for violence with an explicit anti-Semitic goal — the physical destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.
Why do I compare this statement to the white supremacist’s 14 words? (For those who are blessedly ignorant of white-supremacist propaganda, the 14 words are “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”) Because of content and context. The content is plain enough. “Palestine” is not Israel and Israel is not Palestine. Any two-state solution would not result in a Palestine “from the river to the sea.” He is expressing a desire for a one-state solution, and that state is not Israel. A free Palestine in that context means the destruction of the Jewish state. Full stop.
Next, the context. Any person expert enough on the topic to be invited to address a U.N. gathering (or vouched for so strongly by Peter Beinart) knows those words represent a specific rallying cry for terrorist organizations like Hamas. They are the specific rallying cry for those who want to end Israel as a Jewish state and wipe the only homeland for the Jewish people from the face of the earth. They know the extraordinarily violent recent history of those who’ve sought to make that rallying cry a reality, and they know the horrific warfare that would result if that rallying cry was once again the national military doctrine of Israel’s neighbors.
Further, they do not just know of the efforts to wipe out the Jewish state of Israel, they also know of Palestinian efforts to render their own state judenrein even in the event of a two-state solution. The contemporary understanding of the phrase “from the river to the sea” is eliminationist.
For example, here’s Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri at a 2005 rally in Gaza:
We have come here in multitudes to proclaim that Hirbiya and Ashkelon will be taken by the mujahideen. We have come here to say that the weapons of the resistance that you see here will remain, Allah willing, so that we can liberate Palestine — all of Palestine — from the Sea to the River, whether they like it or not.
Palestine is Islamic, and not an Islamic emirate, from the river to the sea, that unites the Palestinians. Jews have no right in it, with the exception of those who lived on the land of Palestine before World War I.
He knows all these things. That’s why his explanations for his actions are so thoroughly inadequate. He responded with tweets like this:
But he did support killing Jewish people with his explicit endorsement of Palestinian violence and his explicit disdain for so-called “respectability” politics. This is hardly the first time he’s supported Palestinian terrorism. In 2014 he lamented Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system because it took away Hamas’s “military leverage.” To be clear, Hamas’s “military leverage” is terrorism, pure and simple. Hamas’s missiles are aimed indiscriminately at Israel’s towns and cities. There’s not even a hint of an effort to confine their targeting to Israel’s military alone.
Indeed, one could write an entire piece about Hill’s rhetoric and actions. He denies anti-Semitism while engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric and supporting anti-Semitic outcomes. Then, of course, there’s his respect for Louis Farrakhan, one of the most notorious anti-Semites of the Left:
This is the left-wing equivalent of alt-right edgelord behavior. It’s radical chic. And you see it all over college campuses. Progressives are right to call out alt-right (and alt-right-sympathetic) figures who push the envelope as far as they can, then retreat behind implausibly benign readings of their intentionally provocative words. For a classic example, watch Faith Goldy recite the 14 words and then try to argue that they simply mean that “we want to survive.”
Moreover, progressives are right to call out a conservative culture that values smashing political correctness so much that it often gives aid and comfort to some of the worst voices on the right. I’ve written at length about the toxic presence of figures like Steve King in Republican politics and the indefensible decision of ostensibly conservative publications and conservative organizations to grant airtime to their own edgelords — under the pretext of fighting for free speech or to “trigger the libs.”
But physician, heal thyself. As the New York Times’s Bari Weiss wrote earlier this week, anti-Semitism is hardly confined to the Right. And left-wing anti-Semitism’s academic acceptance and educated eloquence hardly makes it more acceptable than, say, the redneck anti-Semitism of the modern Klan or the grotesque memes of the alt-right. Nor is it any more acceptable because it’s disguised behind concern for the Palestinian cause.
Throughout my entire adult life, I’ve been stunned at the level of anti-Semitism I’ve encountered on campus. I’ve been shocked at the double standards applied to Israel, and the elite rationalization of pure hate and the darkest of evil from Palestinian terrorists. And now, as more innocent Jews die in Europe and America — and as Hamas rockets recently rained down on Israel once again — the anti-Semitism metastasizes.
Progressives should resist the temptation to rally around one of their own. His words were indefensible. Hate in the name of “justice” — even justice for a cause you may have sympathy for — is still hate. Israel has a right to exist. Eliminationists left or right should be treated as we treat all other bigots, entitled to their First Amendment rights, but not to our respect.