US pundit axed for ‘rolling her eyes’ at Israel captive’s sister

Briahna Joy Gray is one of the leading voices on the US’s progressive left [Getty]

US political commentator Briahna Joy Gray was fired from The Hill news site this week after she allegedly rolled her eyes in contempt during an interview with Yarden Gonen, the sister of Israeli captive Romi Gonen.

Gray’s alleged disdain for Gonen has caused outrage among pro-Israel figures on social media.

However, the progressive left pundit and her supporters believe it is being used as a pretext by the largely pro-Israel media outlet to get rid of Gray, who has been one of the strongest voices against Israel’s war on Gaza in the US media.

The incident occurred during Gray’s interview with Gonen on The Hill’s YouTube show Rising.

During the interview, co-hosted by Gray and conservative libertarian co-host Robbie Soave, Gonen and Gray clashed about numerous issues relating to the war, including Israel blocking aid into Gaza, which Gonen denied.

The “eye-roll” moment occurs at the very end of the interview after Gonen addresses Gray directly, saying “I really hope that you, specifically, will believe women when they say that they got hurt”.

Gray then sighed and rolled her eyes.

The 13 second exchange has since been widely shared on social media platforms. 

Pro-Israel commentators have depicted this as an act of callousness on Gray’s part.

However, the full context of the interview actually shows Gray and Gonen parting amicably seconds before, with Gray expressing hope that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to a permanent ceasefire that sees all captives, including Gonen’s sister, returned safely.

Pro-Palestine commentators on the US’s progressive left, such as Al Jazeera host and academic Marc Lamont Hill, have pointed out that Gray is not rolling her eyes at Gonen, but rather at the suggestion that she disbelieves women who have been victims of sexual assault.

The two also clashed when Gonen claims that if Israel’s war on Hamas doesn’t succeed, there will be “another 9/11”, citing pro-Palestine marches in Michigan, which is home to the US’s largest Arab and Muslim population.

‘Suppressing’ free speech

On Thursday, following her firing, Gray uploaded a copy of the email from The Hill firing her, writing:

“It finally happened. The Hill has fired me. There should be no doubt that @RisingTheHill has a clear pattern of suppressing speech – particularly when it’s critical of the state of Israel.”

In 2022, The Hill fired left-wing journalist Katie Halper from Rising for calling Israel an “apartheid state”. 

Gray has not been afraid to call what Israel is doing in Gaza genocide, which is considered taboo within the US’s overwhelmingly pro-Israel media environment. 

There is evidence that sexual violence against women occurred at the hands of Hamas or other individuals who broke through the separation fence on 7 October.

However, the extent to which this occurred and the exaggeration of such acts for war propaganda by the Israeli government have been called into question by Gray and many other journalists and news publications, including mainstream Israel-friendly outlets like The New York Times.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed at least 36,000 Palestinians and wounded at least 83,000 others in the same time frame. The bombardment has levelled entire neighbourhoods and plunged the enclave into a deep humanaitrian crisis. 

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