“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion while allowing very lively debate within that spectrum.” — Noam Chomsky
On November 29, CNN fired Professor Mark Lamont Hill, a prominent academic, author and activist for having the audacity to step outside the spectrum of what is considered acceptable discourse on Israel and Palestine.
It was the words “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea,” that stirred the controversy. Yet, Michelle Goldberg, a columnist at the New York Times was allowed, without comment or controversy, to say that opposing Israel and calling for a binational Israeli-Palestinian state is legitimate.
Hill’s statement suggests that the only solution to the conflict, i.e. a bi-national state, is a single united country that gives equal rights to all its citizens from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan Valley, regardless of what side of the border they are born in, or what faith they practice, all living in a symbiotic relationship of good will and basic human rights.
This runs contrary to the narrowly acceptable public discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remains a fixation on the notion that a two-state solution is the only possible solution. If the past 70 years have proven anything, it is that walls and borders and discriminatory laws, which are all necessitated by a two-state solution, are not the answer.
Perhaps it was not Hill’s words, per say, that led CNN to fire him, but rather the result of the “Palestinian exception to free speech movement—the widespread and growing suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy across the United States, conducted by a number of Zionist organizations whose financial contributions sway heavily with Congressional members and this administration.
This does not mean that Israel is never criticized or discussed in the mainstream media. It is just that when it is, the criticism needs to fit neatly into one of two pre-packaged positions. On the one side, we have the Donald Trump-Netanyahu camp that blames the Palestinians for all of Israel’s woes. On the other, the Democratic Party-liberal Zionist camp that acknowledges Israel’s unjust treatment of the Palestinians but excuses it under the mantra of “well-intentioned” justifications.
The fact that Mark Lamont Hill was fired for advocating a bi-national state says more about his critics than it does about him.
A more in-depth discussion of this issue can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides.
The book can be found here: Amazon