Temple administration, advocacy groups react to Marc Lamont Hill’s controversial UN comments

Jewish and pro-Israel groups said Hill’s remarks at the United Nations on Wednesday were anti-Semitic, which resulted in CNN dropping the Temple professor from their programming Thursday.

Marc Lamont Hill, a Media Studies and Production professor and former CNN commentator, spoke to students on in the Student Center at a Temple Students for Justice in Palestine event on Oct. 7, 2017. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / FILE PHOTO

UPDATE Nov. 30 at 5:40 p.m. 

Temple’s president sent a statement to the Temple community Friday night. He called the university a place of “divergent points of view,” and condemned anti-Semitic language. 

President Richard Englert said the university condemns hate speech and reiterated that Hill’s comments do not reflect the university’s beliefs.

“Let me be clear: Professor Hill does not represent Temple University, and his views are his own. Further, Professor Hill’s right to express his opinion is protected by the Constitution to the same extent as any other private citizen,” the statement reads. 

It is also vitally important to remember our values: Temple condemns in the strongest possible terms all anti-Semitic, racist or incendiary language, hate speech, calls to violence, and the disparagement of any person or persons based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity. The university, in the best interest of its community, will take necessary and proper action to protect these values when they are threatened. At the same time, we pride ourselves on our diversity, in all its forms. We will always be a place where divergent points of view will find a home. These are the values the Temple community embraces. 

A portion of President Richard Englert’s statement to the Temple community

National Jewish advocacy groups are calling on Temple University to fire professor Marc Lamont Hill after he made controversial pro-Palestine, anti-Israel remarks during a United Nations speech this week.

CNN cut ties with Hill, a media studies and production professor and national news contributor, on Thursday for his remarks the day before.

A CNN spokesperson wrote in an email to The Temple News that Hill is no longer contracted with the news organization.

Israel supporters criticized Hill, who started teaching at Temple in 2005. He left the university in 2014 and became a Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College, a historically Black, private college in Atlanta for men.

He rejoined Temple’s faculty in May 2017 as the first endowed Klein College Steve Charles Chair in Media, Cities and Solutions.

“We believe these comments run counter to our shared values of respect for all people and fostering pathways towards peaceful dialogue and coexistence.”
Rabbi Daniel Levitt
Hillel at Temple

In his speech, which was on the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Hill said the state of Israel is committing injustices against Palestinians and called to “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

Hill added in his speech that the Israeli government indiscriminately attacks anti-Israel protests in the Gaza strip, which sometimes causes the jailing, injury or death of Palestinian protesters and citizens.

Jewish groups, like the National Council of Young Israel and B’nai B’rith International, criticized Hill for not referencing the violent attacks the Palestinian government has launched against Israel, and for not calling for peace, or a “two-state solution,” which promotes ceasefire and coexistence of the two sides.

Some national Jewish and Israel advocate groups said the language in Hill’s speech was anti-Semitic and similar to language used by Hamas, an Islamic extremist and Palestinian nationalist group. They said he called for the destruction of Israel.

The NCYI reiterated its call on Friday for Hill’s firing from Temple. The organization, which encompasses 25,000 Jewish families and 135 synagogues in the country, wrote in a statement to The Temple News that Hill invoked violence against the Israeli state and has a history of making anti-Semitic comments.

“The reality is that Dr. Hill is a member of Temple’s faculty, and he, therefore, does indeed represent Temple as a result, despite the university’s perplexing assertions to the contrary,” wrote Aaron Troodler, an NCYI spokesperson. “If he is a Temple professor, his hate-filled diatribe is a reflection of the university, and the administration should do the right thing by severing its ties with him.”

B’nai B’rith International, a human rights and Israel advocacy group, wrote in a statement on its website that CNN was right to terminate its relationship with Hill.

“CNN personality and Temple University instructor Marc Lamont Hill, made blatant his bigoted position by calling for the effective erasure of Israel, justifying all Palestinian ‘resistance’ tactics and endorsing economic pressure campaigns that single out Israel for targeting,” the statement reads.

The group called yesterday for Hill’s immediate dismissal by his employers.

Any anti-Israel speech that suggests the elimination of the state of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic, said Rabbi Daniel Levitt, the executive director of Hillel at Temple.

In an interview on Friday, Levitt said the way in which Hill expressed his support of the Palestinian state could make Jewish students feel targeted or silenced on campus or in Hill’s classes.

“We believe these comments run counter to our shared values of respect for all people and fostering pathways towards peaceful dialogue and coexistence,” Levitt wrote in a statement to The Temple News.

“We encourage university administrators to review the potential impact Professor Hill’s comments may have on Jewish students on campus and we stand ready to engage in dialogue and discussion to ensure that students are provided with a complete understanding of these complex and challenging issues,” the statement read.

Levitt would not comment on whether Hill should be fired from his position at the university.

He told The Temple News that President Richard Englert contacted him after Hill’s remarks went viral on Twitter to show Englert’s personal support and appreciation for the Jewish community on campus.

“Marc Lamont Hill has been quoted extensively over the last 24 hours,” wrote a university spokesman in a statement. “Marc Lamont Hill does not represent Temple University and his views are his own. However, we acknowledge that he has a constitutionally protected right to express his opinion as a private citizen.”

Temple University spokesperson

This is a complicated issue for the university, Levitt said, and Hill was either being “naive or duplicitous” after the fact when defending the “from the river to the sea” phrase. But, Levitt added, Hill still has the right to freedom of speech.

“It’s important to recognize the views of democratic organizations, and free speech is one of those,” Levitt said. “It’s not helpful for Jewish people to be seen as enemies of free speech.”

“I would like to believe he’s unaware of how his anti-Israel stance makes Jews uncomfortable,” he added. “But I don’t think we should ignore the potential threat.”

Some contend that the “from the river to the sea” phrase is not inherently anti-Semitic, or rhetoric exclusively used by anti-Israel terrorist groups.

The phrase represents the geographical area that encompasses Israel and Palestine and Hill called for freedom for the people who live in that space, wrote Abraham Gutman, a columnist for the Inquirer.

“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,” Gutman wrote.

It’s also a phrase used by Palestinian liberation and solidarity movements, like the Temple Students for Justice in Palestine, said Tara Faik, SJP’s treasurer and a senior political science major.

“All Palestinian supporters say this all the time and it’s gotten ridiculous that we have to say this every single time we talk about Palestine,” Faik said. “But anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. Just because we want Palestinian rights, just because we want justice in Palestine, does not mean we hate Jewish people.”

Bryan Leib, who ran for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 3rd District and is Jewish, called on Klein College of Media and Communication Dean David Boardman and Englert to fire Hill in a series of tweets Friday morning.

Boardman could not be reached for comment.

Temple SJP, the university’s chapter of a nationwide pro-Palestine group, would fight for Hill to keep his position if Temple decides to take action, said Jasper Saah, who is Palestinian, the secretary of SJP and a senior history major.

“The pro-Israel perspective is commonplace and the fact that CNN fired Marc for daring to publicly promote another view is absolutely an infringement on free speech and an issue of censorship of progressive voices in this country,” Saah said.

“He’s a man who’s very, very dedicated to justice for all people,” Saah added. “That shows in his willingness to not sell out Palestinians or other groups, and I think the solidarity that he shows between these struggles is really admirable.”

Saah said that anti-Zionism, which is a political position against the existence of the state of Israel, has been conflated to be considered at all times anti-Semitic.

Many Jewish groups do consider some anti-Zionist sentiment to be anti-Semitic when it is suggested that the state of Israel should altogether not exist, according to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition To Combat Anti-Semitism.

Saah said SJP does not support a two-state solution. Saah said their grandparents were some of those made refugees from Palestine after Israel became an independent nation in 1948.

While Levitt said Jewish students could be uncomfortable in classes with Hill, Saah said they’ve had their own experiences with university professors who don’t recognize his pro-Palestinian views.

“There’s a lot anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racism on Temple’s campus,” they said. “Being Palestinian on this campus or even being someone who cares about Palestinian human rights on this campus is is incredibly difficult and definitely something that is a struggle.”

Hill said he was in Palestine the day before he delivered his speech. Hill has visited the country several times as an activist and researcher.

In his speech, Hill expressed support of protest and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement against Israel-based institutions that do not recognize or support the occupation of Palestine.

Hill stood by his statements Thursday, tweeting that his remarks were not anti-Semitic, and he is a critic of Israeli policy toward Palestine. He wrote he was not calling for a destruction of Israel, but for redrawing borders and granting full citizenship for Palestinians in Israel.

“Unfortunately we are in a moment where any critique of the Israeli government is called anti-Semitic,” he tweeted.

In October 2017, Hill shared similar pro-Palestinian sentiment during a Q&A with SJP in the Student Center, The Temple News reported. He related his experiences as a Black person in America to the violence and oppression against the Palestinian people.

Faik said that Hill has been a longtime supporter of SJP.

“We fight to stop the kind of occupation of North Philadelphia that Temple engages in,” Lamont Hill said at the 2017 event. “I can’t operate purely within the boundaries of America because there are direct connections between the violence we see here and the violence we see around the globe.”

This story has been updated at 5:15 p.m. on Nov. 30.


  1. It’s hard to see his comments as anything but antisemitic. He’s a smart guy. He knows ‘River to the sea’ is a rallying cry of Hamas and that it means the abolition of Israel. He explicitly said that violence toward Israel (which is always directed at population centers) is acceptable. He knows that Arabs are safe in Israeli territory and Jews would be massacred in Arab territory. He can plead ignorance all he likes, but he explicitly endorsed violence against Israeli civilians.

  2. Plain and simply. If a white professor said something that was construed to mean that maybe slavery was not the horror that it was, would that professor be kept on because of his first amendment right to free speech? Absolutely not. The students would force the school to close down if they didn’t fire him. Racism is racism. Enough hypocrisy. AntiIsrael doesn’t mean anti Semitic hate?? Code words used by bigots. If someone makes positive remarks about slavery but says I’m not being racist, I’m just talking about slavery. No one would or should buy it.

  3. A call for Free Palestine has never equated to destruction of the Jews but rather a fundamental call for ending Israel’s systematic oppression, displacement, land theft and forced exile of the Palestinians, the indigenous people of historic Palestine.
    A Single Secular Non-Sectarian State in Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all its citizens shall be the “One and Only” solution in that land. The status quo will never be sustainable.
    Professor Lamont’s Speech at the UN expresses the urgent obligation of Israel and the World Bations to finally acknowledge the crimes inflicted on the Palestinian People for over 70 years by the current Racist and Apartheid State of Israel. The World Jews shall rise to embrace the moral values of Freedom, Equality, and Justice for the Palestinian People within Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the seven million exiled refugees in diaspora.

  4. There is no room for having anyone with type of hate on the staff of my former university. Please do what any other school that wants to be consider itself a vessel of learning to terminate this professor and send a message that this type of rhetoric is unacceptable.

  5. I’ll believe that load of manure when Temple hires a White Supremacist Professor and defends their right to “Freedom of Speech and Expression.” I hope Temple won’t mind too much when alumnus decide their money is better spent elsewhere. After all, alumnus have a right to “Freedom of Speech and Expression” as well.

  6. Back in the days when I was still watching CNN occasionally, I saw Professor Lamont a few times and was totally unimpressed with his depth and intellect; I don’t know where Lamont received his Ph.D. (I am sure he did not receive his from Northwestern University where I received mine) but he is an example that these days having a Ph.D.is no guarantee for intellectual depth. Temple University can do better; if he has tenure, Temple is stuck with him.

      • University of Pennsylvania is not better. The board tends to hide a lot of serious crimes that happen on that campus. There are many rapes that go reported but the board won’t do anything because it was done by a rich and famous son. The board would lose money if it was reported to the parents. They just hide crimes under the rug.

  7. If a white staff member had to state that Blacks are a murderous nation, would the university’s freedom of speech still apply. I have no doubt it would not. So their double standard only applies to Jews and Israel. I can only appeal to Jews not to fund this university with a single cent and no Jews must enroll there.

  8. I am an Alum of Temple and very disappointed in the University condemning responses to Dr. Marc Lamont Hill. I heard his entire speech and it was thoughtful and truthful. I stand with Dr. Hill and accept his heartfelt apology and historical explanation of the phrase used.

  9. Palestine, the place, the Land, should be free; free of the ideology of Jewish-political-identity-nationalism. “Zionism” can theoretically mean, simply, that Jews can have a “homeland” within Palestine; so, it’s not necessarily exclusive, of anyone else, or any other peoples’ homelands. The problem is in the grabbiness; the claiming of exclusive ownership. The Land, naturally, should be free of this ethnic grab. A Jewish homeland could possibly have been a blessing for the land and the people of Palestine. But, then, what can you expect, from Europeans settling the 3rd world? A stupid mess; from which, the Land should be freed, even from the river to the sea.

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