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At Sundance, Noa Tishby shows protester ignorance of Mideast geography

The former antisemitism envoy tackles the basics: What river and what sea do all those signs refer to?

Israeli actor and activist Noa Tishby at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, Jan. 2024. Credit: Screenshot.
Israeli actor and activist Noa Tishby at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, Jan. 2024. Credit: Screenshot.

At the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, actor, author and activist Noa Tishby chose some revealing questions to ask anti-Israel protesters waving flags and holding banners outside of the entertainment-oriented event that annually draws more than 100,000 people, including its fair share of celebrities. This year, it takes place from Jan. 18 to Jan. 28.

A young man wearing gold sunglasses offered the “from the river to the sea” chant, prompting Tishby to ask what river he meant. Caught off-guard, he says, “Um, uhh. I forgot the river’s name.”

He then states: “But the sea is the Red Sea.”

He also tells her that “the occupation is illegal. Even chocolate is not allowed. Wedding dresses are not allowed” (eliciting an eye roll from Tishby). “It’s been that way for 15 years.”

Tishby poses the same question to a young woman in a hooded red coat and a keffiyeh. “So where is the river and the sea that everyone’s chanting about?”

Carrying a sign with a watermelon on it, she responds: “I think it’s the Black Sea and the river on the other side of Gaza.” She acknowledges that she got the poster from someone else.

“Do you know what it means?” asks Tishby. “No,” she says.

Tishby served as special envoy for combating antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel until she was removed in April 2023 after just a year in the role.

She interviews a young woman in a purple parka who proclaims that “the Palestinian genocide,” it’s “just awful.” Then Tishby asks her about the hostages kidnapped by Hamas. “Unfortunately, I’m not that educated about that part,” responds the protester.

An older woman insists that Hamas wasn’t in the Gaza Strip. When Tishby asks her if there are hostages in Gaza, she replies: “Oh, I don’t know,” and looks away.

Tishby’s findings align with recent research that showed only 47% of students who supported the protest slogan could identify which river and sea it referenced.

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