A Jerusalem-born human rights and BDS activist shares her thoughts on the recent firing of CNN political analyst Marc Lamont Hill following his U.N. speech in support of Palestinian rights.
BY DANIELLE ALMA RAVITZKI
A few days ago, I heard that CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill was fired by the news network after he expressed his support for Palestine at a United Nations conference. Hill explicitly called for a boycott of Israel, and hoped for a free Palestine that extends from the river to the sea. After reading the article on this issue, I realized how important it is to speak about this event from a broader perspective.
First, there is a need for a clear understanding of the meaning and social rhetorics behind the phrase “from the river to the sea”. As is typical for a colonial entity such as the State of Israel, it uses grand, utopian words to describe itself, while purposefully preferring denigrating words and phrases to describe the Palestinians and their supporters. Just like the USA, Israel also brands itself as a free, utopian country, portraying a false image of a country in which all people are welcome. This is patently false. Israel is a country of refugees, who began settling in Palestine at the end of the 19th century, around 1881. The Jews, or Zionists, who began to occupy the land at that time, were settler colonialists with a clear vision – to Judaize Palestine. The realization of this vision also included massacres, ethnic cleansing, and even changing street names, pulverizing Palestinian buildings and destroying Palestinian land and a plethora of other human rights violations.
Today, in Gaza Ghetto, there are millions of disenfranchised Palestinians who live under siege, which renders them prisoners of one of the biggest open-air prisons in the world. Furthermore, Israel is an apartheid regime, holding millions of people under a belligerent military occupation, while Palestinian citizens living within Israel are subjected to over 60 laws denying them civil, equal, and basic human rights. Just recently, Israel legislated the Nation State Law, legitimizing itself to be a country meant exclusively for Jews, and also legitimizes apartheid.
The way in which Israel uses rhetorics to make people abide by its false (and dangerous) image of a free, peace-promoting state, is by dehumanizing the Palestinian people and their supporters. What they are in fact doing, is dehumanizing language itself. For example, the immediate, Pavlovian response invoked by the phrase “from the river to the sea,” is a negative connotation of fear: Israelis, Zionists, and people who refuse to dive into the specifics of politics and human rights, genuinely believe that this phrase means expelling the Jews out of the land, and imposing an extreme religious (Islamic) state instead. Why this interpretation to such a pictorial phrase as “from the river to the sea”? Because it fits perfectly with their Islamophobic point of view.
To many, imagining a Palestine from the river to the sea, is to picture an extreme muslim country in which severe human rights violations occur. In their mind’s eye, they probably see it as a chaotic place in which to live. “I wouldn’t want to live in a Muslim country,” I hear many Zionists say. To me, what is most unfathomable about this interpretation, is that they blindly abide by the dogmatic rhetorics of the Israeli government, and buy into the denigrated idea branded by the regime through the use of language, without having solidified a personal point of view that stems from freedom of thought, or even the basic will to question and dig deeper into the facts of the story. Zionists, especially Israeli Zionists, are under complete government tutelage. They refuse to understand that their enigmatic fear of religion (and specifically Islam), is the “channel” through which Zionism tricks them into becoming blind followers of a violent regime.
“Why this interpretation to such a pictorial phrase as “from the river to the sea”? Because it fits perfectly with their Islamophobic point of view.”
Simple research would have led them to see that the Palestinians are not a religious group. Palestine is the land, and Palestinians are the natives, the indigenous people. It’s that simple. Just like France is a land, and the people that live in it are French. There can be Muslim Palestinians, Christian Palestinians, and even Jewish Palestinians, just as there are Muslim, Christian, and Jewish French people. It is vital that people all over the world would differentiate between a religious identity and a national, ethnic one.
The Jewish Zionist Israelis, even those who define themselves as left-winged, are completely unaware that they are beguiled by a racist, supremacist ideology. This ideology completely misinforms them of the fact that the Jews themselves are not a nation, but simply a religious group. Palestinians, on the other hand, are not a religious group, and do not even claim to be one. Hence, in reference to a Palestinian land, the expression “from the river to the sea” means that the people who live in this land, called Palestine, are either Muslim Palestinians, or Jewish Palestinians, or Christian Palestinian, or any other people who live there belonging to whichever religious group.
I am personally flabbergasted by the idea that not only are the Palestinians dehumanized by the genocidal Zionist state through its oppressive actions against them, but they are also dehumanized through this regime’s rhetoric, and so are their supporters, as is evident by what happened to Hill. Zionism is dehumanising language in its denigrating use of certain words, while also ensuring that specific rhetorics will not be tolerated, to the point of generating a consequence to be placed on those who speak it. Anyone who is openly supportive of Palestine, risks being labeled as anti-Semitic, or getting fired, like Hill. Israel has “delineated” its boundaries with the power of language too – not only are the Palestinians unable to verbally resist their oppression, neither can their supporters.
As an ardent BDS activist, I highly identify with Hill. BDS, the Palestinian nonviolent civil society call, which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, has been vehemently slandered, labeled as anti-Semitic, and even described as a terrorist group. As an Israeli dissident, I too have been slandered for my stance on human rights, and I have always so been called anti-Semitic, much as any other person who stands by the oppressed and heeds their plight. Anti-Semitic is the magic word Israel uses against anyone who opposes it and/or supports Palestine. It is hard to withstand the force of this specific word, and through it Israel is deliberately blocking away any criticism, remaining shut within its abusive ideology with no voice stronger than its own to question the legitimacy of Israel’s actions, violence, and dehumanization of language itself.
“Not only are the Palestinians unable to verbally resist their oppression, neither can their supporters.”
Conflating every criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is another form of language dehumanization. Here again, it is important to see that the Zionist propaganda campaign controls not only people and principals, but also language.
When Israel is concerned, many top media platforms, including CNN, seem to be blindly misled to consider a legitimate criticism as inappropriate. Haunted by the shadow of the Holocaust, and feelings of guilt perhaps, people still operate out of some sense of responsibility for what had transpired in WWII, and avoid a scenario where they may be construed as anti-Semitic. They do not see that the tables have turned, and by supporting Israel now, or refraining from criticizing it, they are in fact conceding to the human rights violations it is committing against Palestinians.
Moreover, supporting Zionist Israel is equivalent to supporting anti-Semitism, because it is harmful to Judaism. This is so simply because Zionism in itself is anti-Semitic, based on its racist narrative that coerces Jews to be racist by viewing themselves as superior to other groups. This itself is a racist, anti-Semitic point of view, because it creates the harmful division between “good Jews” and “bad Jews”, when the latter are those who profoundly support human rights. By Zionist standards, being a “good Jew” means being racist and xenophobic. According to Zionism, Jews that go against the Zionist racist rationale, support Palestinians and refuse to be racist or hateful, the Jews who believe in human rights, are automatically labeled as “traitors”, or even “anti-Semitic,” and are considered “bad Jews”.
People’s fear, rooted in historical events, enables Zionism to use media outlets to dehumanize anyone who explicitly calls for the liberation of Palestine. CNN should be criticized for its cowardly decision to fire Hill, but CNN is simply the symptom to the international problem that is Zionism.
Zionism is “feeding” itself on the augmented sense of fear and xenophobic atmosphere that currently prevails in our global cultural landscape (especially on the backdrop of the symbiotic uprising of fascism worldwide), and CNN simply fell in its trap. Most people who explicitly support Zionism, or those who simply act in acquiescence with Zionism (like CNN), are severely blind to the unabated, abysmal suffering of the Palestinian people and their dire reality under the Israeli, Zionist-led, regime. In their jargon, a situation involving a colonial, genocidal, apartheid state, which belligerently enforces such horrendous actions on an indigenous nation, is just tagged as “a conflict.” This is yet another euphemism used to describe a harsh, brutal reality by belittling it. It is shocking to see how unperturbed they are by this astringent, harsh reality, and choose to use words that do not convey the full gravity of the situation.
“CNN is simply the symptom to the international problem that is Zionism.”
Those who side with the Zionist ideologies are carrying a lot of clout, since it is easier to lead, or even erode people’s minds using fear. Or as American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski put it best, “We are all museums of fear”. Fear unites, and Zionism is using fear to give people a false sense of unity.
I am happy that Marc Lamont Hill did not choose the path of fear, but in fact exposed the way that Zionism uses fear to expand its genocidal principles. The fact that he was fired demonstrates this. In such a volatile, hectic reality that we all live in, it is incumbent on all people to speak up for the oppressed.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the writer’s only and do not necessarily represent those of The Turban Times.