Opinion

The real meaning of ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free’

It is impossible to imagine that anti-Israel activists have no idea that this slogan is a common call to arms for those who want to destroy Israel.

A screenshot of a shirt being sold on Amazon that says: "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which calls for the forced removal of Jews from their homeland and for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.  Source: Screenshot.
A screenshot of a shirt being sold on Amazon that says: "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which calls for the forced removal of Jews from their homeland and for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. Source: Screenshot.
Bassam Tawil

Anti-Israel students on university campuses in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe often chant the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This slogan, which basically means Israel has no right to exist on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea—in other words, at all—has long been endorsed by Islamist groups that openly call for eliminating Israel.

The same call has been repeated at:

• A recent meeting of the University of Sydney Student Council, where Jewish students were obstructed from speaking or displaying Israeli flags on Israel’s Independence Day by fellow council members.

• A rally on April 8, called “Hands Off Al-Aqsa [Mosque],” held by several pro-Palestinian organizations in New York City. At the rally, speakers praised the Palestinian “resistance” and its “martyrs,” and repeated the same chant.

• An event hosted earlier this year by Jewish groups at University College London, where dozens of anti-Israel activists chanted, “Free Palestine from the river to the sea.” One speaker at the anti-Israel gathering stated explicitly: “We should be calling upon the Arab and Muslim armies to liberate Palestine.”

Late last year, the Jewish community at Northwestern University in Chicago was shocked to see that printed copies of an op-ed piece about Jewish pride were turned into a big sign painted with the words “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

It is impossible to imagine that anti-Israel activists have no idea that this slogan is a common call to arms for those who want to destroy Israel.

The slogan reflects the wishes of Iran and its terror proxies—especially Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hezbollah—to replace Israel with a 57th Islamic state—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Iranian leaders and officials have often repeated that their goal is to “wipe Israel off the map.” Recently, Iran’s Foreign Ministry echoed the call by declaring that Jerusalem is “the eternal capital of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

On the eve of his recent visit to Syria, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi repeated his regime’s wish to see Israel removed [from the face of the Earth].

Hamas, the Iranian-backed terror group controlling the Gaza Strip, has never missed an opportunity to declare its intention to deliver the same message. In December 2022, on the 35th anniversary of its founding, Hamas unveiled its slogan: “Palestine from the river to the sea.” A map accompanying the slogan depicted—without Israel—all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Earlier this year, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh again repeated his group’s goal of destroying Israel, saying:

“All of Palestine, from the river to the sea, and from Ras al-Naquora [on the Israel-Lebanon border] to Umm al-Rashrash [Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city], is one land that is indivisible and cannot be sold or bargained.”

Hamas spokesperson Husam Badran also affirmed his group’s endorsement of eliminating Israel: “The Palestine we know is from the river to the sea—not missing an inch,” he said.

By using this slogan, Iran and Hamas are saying, bluntly, that there is no room for a Jewish state in the Middle East.

They are also saying that the land stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea is all Muslim-owned land that cannot be given away to any non-Muslims.

Article 11 of the Hamas Charter leaves no room for doubt; it is straightforwardly genocidal:

“The Islamic Republic Movement [Hamas] believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered; it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that.”

Articles 13 of the Hamas Charter openly advocates the use of violence to kill Jews and eliminate Israel:

“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad [holy war].”

Article 15 of the Hamas Charter states: “Jihad is the individual duty of every Muslim … It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters.”

Similarly, PIJ, another Iranian-backed terror group based in the Gaza Strip, also insists that the entire land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea should fall under Islamic rule. Like Hamas, PIJ has been involved in countless terror attacks against Israel and rejects Israel’s right to exist.

The anti-Israel activists who chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” are—whether they know it or not—endorsing the ideology of Iran’s mullahs, Hamas and other terror groups that have long worked to achieve their goal of destroying Israel.

These activists, who often describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian,” do not actually care about Palestinians or “freeing Palestine.” If they did, they would instead be calling for better opportunities for Palestinians; Palestinian governance that was less corrupt; the equal application under Palestinian leadership of the rule of law; women’s and children’s rights, and freedom of speech, assembly and the press.

The current protesters are nothing but Israel-haters—really, anti-Semites—who have aligned themselves with Muslim extremists and terrorists.

By chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” on a university campus in the West or at a rally in New York, these activists are serving as a mouthpiece for Muslim terrorists who daily murder people in cold blood at schoolscafés and on the roads, such as a Jewish mother and her two daughters on their way to celebrate a Jewish holiday. Hamas has even boasted that its men were behind the murder of a British family, the Dees, in a drive-by shooting attack in the Jordan Valley in early April.

The next time someone shouts the “from the river to the sea” slogan in the United States, Canada or Europe, they should take note that they are voicing support for the regime of Iran—reportedly poisoning its schoolgirls by the hundreds and hanging its own citizens for “crimes” such as “insulting religion“—as well as for Iran’s designated terrorist groups: Hamas, PIJ and Hezbollah.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.

Originally published by the Gatestone 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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