Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, American Muslims For Palestine and Respect

The American Muslims For Palestine's Chicago Chapter Annual Dinner on March 3, 2019 was a most significant event for me.   I am a white, Jewish man, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace - Chicago, seeking a better world for Jews, Palestinians, Black people and others. 

Most of my father's family lives in Israel.   My great-uncle S.Y. Agnon was Israel's first nobel laureate and is a beloved, well-known figure to (virtually) all Israeli Jews.   While I have opposed Israeli government policies towards Palestinians for over 30 years, only now am I really seriously trying to help bring about positive change.

I came last evening hoping to hear inspiring words from Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a man I greatly admire.   I experienced Dr. Hill's brilliance and warm heart far more than I could have hoped for.  I also was welcomed and loved by the warmth of many members of the greater Chicago Muslims for Palestine, who gave me far, far more than I could possibly have imagined.

Respect is important to me.   I was shown so much from so many people.  I am thankful!  I am blessed!

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill gave a powerful, impassioned speech!   He spoke directly to Palestinian Muslims.   His speech was far different than his incredible November 29, 2019 speech at the United Nations.  where he spoke to all of us.   While Dr. Hill did not speak directly to me as an American Jew, his words resonated in their inclusivity.   He explicity made clear that he was not speaking against Jews and white people.  Dr. Hill was very clear that Israeli governmental policy is the problem.

Dr. Hill's love for the Palestinian people was made very clear in the speech.   He also spoke strongly about the importance of both Black (and White) people supporting Palestinians and for Palestinians to support the struggles Black people including in cities like Chicago and Detroit.   His words were powerful, emphasizing non-violent struggles that may of necessity take more than our own lifetimes to succeed.

Equally significant to me was how well we were treated by both our hosts of American Muslims for Palestine and the others who attended the dinner.    Our hosts included both women and men of varying ages.    Many, if not most of the women's heads were covered.   I surmised that they were devout Muslims.   References to the Muslim religion were made throughout the presentation.

The people I met were far, far more caring of us than I could have imagined they would be.   We were shown to our table by several very helpful people.   Before the proceedings begun, a man came to our table thanking us as Jewish Voice for Peace Members for doing our work.    The American Muslims for Palestine Annual Report in its page on the Chicago Chapter included a picture showing Jewish Voice for Peace members demonstrating with Palestinians.

While many people we met were exceptional individuals, they were also wonderful in talking with us, in the varied parts of the presentation and in other ways .  This pointed clearly to the lies we face daily of the violent, not to be trusted Arabs, who allegedly prevent peace in Israel.   Yes, there are extremists who kill, but they are dwarfed by far more who seek a just, lasting peace.   It was very sad for me to hear that the "Volunteer for the Year" had never been in Palestine.   It was also uplifting to hear and feel the warmth and spirit of so many.

I am reminded of stories I've heard in the past.    I remember hearing of Palestinians in 1948, who warned neighboring Jews, preventing them from being killed.   I am reminded of the story one of my Israeli relatives told me circa 1980 in Jerusalem.   Her sister in Tel Aviv lived in a protected world where she spoke primarily German with her peers and English with her nieces and nephews and those younger.   Her husband and she had a fancy dress shop in Jerusalem dating back to well before the 1948 war.   She told me of how their customers had been both well off Palestinians and Jews who wanted custom made women's apparel.

My cousin told me of how in 1967, after the Six Day War, an older Arab man came to her shop, asking for her husband.   She told him that he had died.   The man wept.  She hadn't recognized him. He had been their porter in the store, until the War separated him,  putting him in then Jordanian run East Jerusalem.   My relative spoke admiringly of how this man insisted on carrying her bags when she went into the Old City until he died several years later.   He would not take any money from her.

I can not possibly understand the loss that Palestinians have faced for over 70 years losing their homeland.   I do admire their dignity in continuing the struggle for justice through (mostly) non-violent resistance.  I hope that a lasting, just peace will be achieved sooner, rather than later.

Thank you!


  1. Thanks George for this post. As you recommended to me in other correspondence, I listened to the interview with Mark Lamont Hill at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_5k6AJoNDs. I realize he is a highly controversial figure, and that the university where he teaches has condemned his U.N. comments as "hate speech." Certainly I'm no expert on what he believes and teaches, but I found what he says in the interview to be reflective of a person who is both well informed and reasonable, yet passionate about the issues he addresses. Some of what he stated comports with my personal interactions with Jews and Arabs in Palestine/Israel. I was there last January and plan to return next January. My tour guide was a Palestinian Christian and my bus driver a Muslim Arab. What I learned from them (and other Palestinians as well as some Jews I spoke with) is that there is a lot of misinformation in the U.S. (and perhaps elsewhere) about the issues.

    The U.S. press tends to oversimplify the issues. Also (and quite sadly in my view) many of my Christian brothers and sisters in the U.S. buy into a perspective on these issues that has more to do with a particular political position (Zionism) than with either the relevant biblical teaching or the reality on the ground in Israel/Palestine.

    Also, I have learned about some of these issues from my wife who spent a summer in Israel many years ago on an archaeological dig at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. While there she befriended (and was hosted by) many Palestinians and got to see what they see through the "eyes" of their life experience. It was eye-opening to her.

    All that said, I feel that Dr. Hill erred in his U.N. speech in using what I feel was unhelpfully inflammatory language in his reference to one state "from River to Sea." As the scholar he is, he is well-aware that, in many circles, his statement is code language for the dissolution of the State of Israel. He noted in the interview that this is not what he advocates, and what he meant. Fine, but my question to him is this: "Why use that language?"

    One more thing. While in Israel, I learned more about some of the progress being made to find a solution to the problems faced in Israel/Palestine. I won't go into it here because some of it is based on information I have not yet verified. However, if what I learned is correct, there are some solid reasons for hope. In my view, no solution is workable unless it works for both Jews and Palestinians. Whether what is bubbling up will work for the radical political groups on both sides is another matter. Time will tell.


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