Clarence Darrow told a story about a young lawyer who lost a case because he didn’t know when to shut up.
The young lawyer’s client was charged with biting a man’s ear off. The prosecutor called the lone witness and told the witness to point the ear biter out to the jury. The witness pointed to the young lawyer’s client. Then the young lawyer asked the witness if he actually saw his client bite the victim’s ear off.
The witness said no.
At this point, Darrow said the young lawyer should have had no further questions. But the young lawyer asked the witness if he didn’t see it how did he know who did it? And the witness said because he saw his client spit the victim’s ear out of his mouth.
Recently, Marc Lamont Hill, a 39-year-old Temple University professor, was fired from CNN after he gave a speech at the U.N.’s annual international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Hill is no stranger to controversy. He was fired from Fox News years ago for alleged sympathies to “controversial figures like Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal.” (Supposedly, shareholders confronted CEO Rupert Murdoch about Hill’s reputation of “defending cop killers and racists.”)
So, what exactly did Hill say?
Hill made a case against the Israeli government’s harsh treatment of the Palestinian people. Then Hill said, “Contrary to western mythology, Black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through Gandhi and nonviolence, rather slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King … were equally important to … attaining freedom. If we operate in true solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must allow the Palestinian people the same range of opportunity and political possibility.”
That’s a loaded statement. But, was Hill calling for solidarity behind the use of violence or was Hill suggesting an act of solidarity was refraining from judgment if violence was used?
I don’t know. It would have been debatable if Hill rested his case, but Hill continued like the young lawyer in Darrow’s story. Hill said, “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words, but commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Supporters of Israel took issue with Hill’s stance that justice requires a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” It can be interpreted that Hill called for the replacement of the state of Israel or the complete destruction of Israel, because the phrase “from the river to the sea” was the historic battle cry to eliminate the Jewish state by groups like Hamas. (A Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization)
Is this criticism over the top? I don’t know.
Hill responded via Twitter. He wrote: “I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice. I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things.”
But I don’t think Hill’s critics are going to believe him, because back in May Hill wrote an article called “7 Myths About the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.” One of the myths was that Israel has the right to exist. Hill wrote, “No country has the right to exist, only people do. By naturalizing the idea that nation-states have a right to exist we undermine our ability to offer a moral critique of Israel’s (or any settler-colony’s) original story.”
This statement give’s Hill’s critics a stronger case against him and complicates my Darrow analogy. Because I don’t know if Hill is like the young lawyer who didn’t know when to shut up, or if Hill is like the young lawyer’s client who bit off more than he could chew.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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