In a departure from its practice in recent years, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) will have a keynote speaker, rather than an address by the organization's president. Anti-Israel professor Marc Lamont Hill from Temple University will deliver the professional association's keynote address Friday evening, November 15.
In perhaps his most notorious statement, the controversial Hill called for "a free Palestine, from the river to the sea" before a United Nations panel a year ago. Not only was this effectively a call for the destruction of Israel, it echoed a slogan used by the terror group Hamas. Though he claimed that he did not have any such intent — only that he wanted a binational state in the area consisting of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza — CNN fired Hill as a commentator following the remarks.
Hill has a long history of not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic activism.
Hill, though, has a long history of not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic activism.
Shortly after his "river to the sea" comment, a video emerged of him implicitly (and falsely) accusing Israel of poisoning the Palestinian water supply.
Two weeks later, Hill said in an interview that he would not denounce anti-Semitic preacher Louis Farrakhan, calling the Nation of Islam leader "my brother." The Anti-Defamation League classifies Farrakhan's organization as a hate group.
In 2017, academic Petra Marquardt-Bigman reviewed Hill's record — including his friendship with Farrakhan, his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, and his defense of convicted terrorist Rasmeah Odeh — and observed that his actions did not comport with his claim that he is not an anti-Semite.
MESA hasn't offered an explanation why Hill was chosen to deliver the keynote address. Regardless of their reasoning, the choice of Hill prompted scholar Martin Kramer to observe: "As I've argued for years, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is an advocacy organization with a thin academic cover. More proof: Marc Lamont Hill, whose sole Mideast qualification is a veiled call to eliminate Israel, will give the keynote there."
David Gerstman is managing editor of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.