On Wednesday, CNN contributor and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill spoke at the United Nations to offer his support to the Palestinian people. Regrettably, Lamont Hill’s argument was built on a river or even a sea of falsehoods.
Of course, Lamont Hill disagrees, believing that most of his critics are focusing on false narratives.
Yesterday, I gave a speech at the UN in which I critiqued Israel’s polices and practices toward Palestinians. It’s baffling how people are not responding to the critique, but instead responding to things I didn’t actually say.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
Here’s my critique of the five biggest fallacies in his argument. Note that these are not Lamont Hill’s only misleading points – most of Lamont Hill’s speech is delusional – but simply the ones I decided to focus on.
1) The Nabka mythology: By “Nabka,” the Palestinian people refer to the supposed forced expulsion of Palestinians from Israel in 1948. Lamont Hill adopts the same view, presenting the Nabka as the moral rationale for Palestinian fury towards Israel.
History suggests a far more skeptical eye towards the Nabka theory. Because it’s a myth. Yes, some Palestinian and Arab families were forcibly expelled from their homes by Israeli militias, but this omits the context that Arab militias also pursued the same objective against Jewish settlers. And many Palestinians also left their homes of their own volition, often after selling their land.
Still more Palestinians left Israel as a consequence of the defeat of the Arab armies that invaded Israel in 1948 with the aim of annihilating the Jewish nation. To adopt the Nabka myth whole hog is to accept a clear historical delusion.
2) Israel uses random violence against Palestinian civilians: Lamont Hill claimed that “Palestinians continue to live under the threat of random violence by the Israeli military and police. Disproportionate violence within the West Bank and Gaza, unprompted violence in the face of peaceful protest, and misdirected violence by an Israeli state that systematically fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants.”
Each of these claims is false. Israeli security forces go to great lengths to protect civilians, and do so in a tactical environment defined by Hamas’ use of civilian human shields. But the most obvious proof of Israeli regard for Palestinian civilian protection is that Israel allows Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to exist, when it could instead pursue a military campaign that would risk many Palestinian civilian casualties. And Israel’s extensive intelligence effort in the Palestinian territories is about accurately identifying threats in separation from civilians.
3) Israel’s criminal justice system is profoundly unjust: Lamont Hill says that Israeli justice is “a term I can only use with irony.” Sorry, Marc, but the only irony here is your veil of absolute confidence over authoritative ignorance.
There is a staggering distinction between Israeli and Palestinian systems of justice. Where Israel holds its security forces to judicial account for killing civilians, Palestinian authorities give their forces decorations for killing Israeli civilians. Where Israel brings accused Palestinian terrorists or criminals to trial, Palestinian security forces throw accused criminals into gulags, or off the top of buildings. Where Israel’s government is subject to the power of an independent judiciary, Palestinian government is subject only to its leaders’ authoritarian impulses and the capacity of Palestinian leaders to steal or waste as much money as feasibly possible.
4) Palestinian violence against Israel is compatible with the cause of peace: Lamont Hill asserts that “we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself.” The necessary implication here is support for Palestinian groups which use violence against Israel. And the vast majority of those groups are violent Islamic extremist organizations such as Hamas. As such, even if this is not his actual intent, Lamont Hill’s narrative offers a de facto defense of Hamas’ strategic intent. Which is to say the annihilation of the Jewish people in Israel and the usurpation of their democratic authority under a green flag of exclusionary Sunni supremacism. That takes us to the next point.
5) A just peace requires a Palestine that reaches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: The professor concludes with a call to arms: “What Justice requires, and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” But while he’s now denying it on Twitter, that slogan is not a rallying cry for the Palestinian compromise bloc led by Fatah. It is the rallying cry of Hamas and other groups which seek a literal purge of both of Israeli and Jewish existence from the Levant.
If put into practice by those who purvey it, Lamont Hill’s war cry would mean a second Holocaust.
There’s a great sustaining tragedy to Lamont Hill’s understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He seriously seems to believe that his favored solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Palestinian-preferenced one-state solution, is moral. The pursuit of that state, he says, is one that comes from a movement dedicated to defeating “hatred, imperialism, and white supremacy, and patriarchy and homophobia … ” But comparing the respective governance in Israel with that in Gaza and the West Bank, it is clear that Israel’s government is manifestly the more moral one on each of Lamont Hill’s stated concerns.
That’s not to say that anyone should be reflexively pro-Israeli on every issue. There are very serious grounds for opposing most Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli intelligence operations targeting the United States, and President Trump’s relocating of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. But Israel is rightly an exceptionally close American ally for two simple reasons. Far more often than not it acts in furtherance of shared U.S. interests, and it does so in a democratic tradition that is unique to the Middle East.
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