As 2018 prepares to wrap up, one of the overarching themes of the year will undoubtedly be the idea that this was the year that many in the media, like the general public, put their foot down with regards to racism, sexism, and intolerance. While there have been many instances of justice truly being served (especially against misbehaving celebrities), the controversy surrounding the firing of Marc Lamont Hill has ushered in an era of carrying out the execution before the trial.
When former CNN political commentator and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill spoke at the United Nations’ event for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Wednesday, Hill contends that he was trying to have an educated and informed dialogue about the plights of the Palestinian people living under Israeli rule. During the speech, Hill generally spoke about the importance of finding a peaceful resolution for the decades-long conflict in the region. Yet, his use of the term “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” was construed by some as being anti-Semitic as the term has often been co-opted by Palestinian extremists.
Hill was almost immediately fired from his role at CNN, despite his numerous apologies and explanations as well as an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, where Hill argued that by using the term, he was calling for justice in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in the form of a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
While CNN seemingly wasn’t accepting of his apology, his other employer, Temple University, announced that while they were seemingly a bit disappointed in Hill’s remarks that they did not find them valid as grounds for dismissal- especially following Hill’s op-ed.
Hill’s word choice may have led him into a gray area where misunderstandings and actual intolerance are sometimes difficult to discern, yet as far as the majority of Temple faculty are considered, Hill’s clarifications not only served as an adequate apology but also demonstrated the professor’s right to freedom of speech.
In an op-ed penned on behalf of several Temple faculty, author Josh Klugman writes: “We thought his arguments were passionate, considered, and thoughtful, and respected the humanity of Palestinians and Israelis. Regardless if we agree or disagree with him, we support his freedom to espouse his views.”
Whether or not CNN will follow suit remains to be seen, but with the support of numerous Temple staff and faculty, free speech advocacy groups, and general public opinion, as well as the American Association of University Professors, it appears that Hill’s job is safe going into 2019- at least for now.
The question is whether or not the same can be said about the first amendment.