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OpinionIsrael at War

Ask Hamas: ‘From the river to the sea’ is a call for the destruction of Israel

For Hamas and other jihadi groups, the phrase is an ideology and way of life.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters gather in front of the Colorado Convention Center, the site of the opening plenary of the Jewish National Fund-USA annual conference, Nov. 30, 2023. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters gather in front of the Colorado Convention Center, the site of the opening plenary of the Jewish National Fund-USA annual conference, Nov. 30, 2023. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Steven Stalinsky
Steven Stalinsky

Less than 24 hours after Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attack, its representative in Tehran, Khaled Qaddoumi, gave an interview in English to Iran’s Press TV about the “historic event [that] took place in the holy land of Palestine… the Al-Aqsa Flood battle to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea, in order to expel the Zionist regime.”

The following day, he added, in another interview with the IRGC-affiliated Fars News: “We will witness the liberation of the dear homeland of the Palestinian people from the river to the sea, as well as the destruction of the Zionist regime.”

Though the tens of thousands of anti-Israel protesters worldwide chanting “from the river to the sea” fully understand its true meaning, many insist that this phrase is merely an expression of support for the Palestinians and want the world to believe that it is not a call for the destruction of Israel and for killing Jews.

As do other antisemites, they are playing a disingenuous game to hide their true beliefs. For example, antisemites online use coded language and symbols to prevent removal or shutdown of their accounts, such as the triple parentheses—the so-called “echo”—to highlight the names of individuals and organizations thought to be Jewish. On TikTok, “the Austrian painter” is code for Hitler. New codes are emerging all the time.

In the United States, the most prominent use of “from the river to the sea,” and manipulation of its true meaning, was by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), with her November 3 tweet attacking President Biden for his pro-Israel stance and warning that Arab and Muslim Americans would not support his reelection bid.

The tweet featured a video showing scenes of pro-Palestinian marches where participants chanted the slogan. In response, the House of Representatives voted to censure Tlaib, with some House members labeling the phrase a “call for the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews.”

Attempting to extricate herself, Rep. Tlaib clarified her tweet: “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate…”

It is interesting, then, that Germany considers the phrase a Hamas symbol and banned it in early November, and that countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and others have followed suit. Online platforms, including X and Etsy, have begun removing posts containing it.

For Hamas and other jihadi groups, the phrase is an ideology and way of life. It is a fundamental part of a May 2017 Hamas policy document setting out the organization’s vision of a Palestinian state: “Hamas rejects any alternative to the complete liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea… Palestine in its borders from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the West, and from Ras Naqura [Rosh HaNikra] in the north to Umm Rashrash [Eilat] in the south is a complete unit and the land and homeland of the Palestinian people.”

Underlining this, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk said on Aug. 8, 2023 that the Palestinian people want a Palestinian state “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, and from Rosh HaNikra to Aqaba and Rafah. This is the territory of Palestine that we want.”

In 2021, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar called for “the full liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river… the heart of Hamas’s strategic vision.”

Hamas political bureau chairman Ismail Haniyeh explained during the 2018 Gaza “March of Return [into Israel],” “We shall never forget Palestine from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River”—as the crowd chanted “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return” and “Death to Israel.”

Other enemies of Israel who use the phrase in its true meaning include the Iranian regime and its proxy militias. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi explained after Oct. 7 that “the only solution” for the Israel-Hamas war is “the establishment of the Palestinian state from the river to the sea.”

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has also made it clear in his speeches that “Palestine from the river to the sea is the property of the Palestinian people” and that “the elimination of Israel” is “the interest of the entire Muslim world and the entire Arab world.” He has stressed for years that “what the Arabs have wanted for 60 years is… for the land from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea to be returned” to the Palestinian people, and has also said that “Israel must be wiped out of existence.”

Highlighting how the term is now universally used by antisemites of all stripes since Oct. 7, neo-Nazis have joined Hamas supporters worldwide, both online and in protests on the ground, in the use of “from the river to the sea.”

“From the river to the sea” is a call for the eradication of Israel. Those who obfuscate about this are simply dishonest. It is but one of the many manifestations of the deliberate misinformation emanating from the anti-Israel camp since Oct. 7, that has persuaded media and other policy shapers that Israel is the aggressor in the current Israel-Hamas war.

Originally published by The Middle East Media Research Institute.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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