‘From the River to the Sea’ … False words as weapons

Devious rhetoric incites violence. We are living in a world where there no longer is one set of facts.

“From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free” was spray-painted on a street outside Chabad at the University of California, Santa Barbara, May 2023. Source: X/Twitter.
“From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free” was spray-painted on a street outside Chabad at the University of California, Santa Barbara, May 2023. Source: X/Twitter.

The deceptive phrases that Hamas supporters shout are verbal weapons that ignite international outrage, intimidate and demoralize American Jews, and silence those who want to support Israelis during this crisis. The chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free” is actually a call for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people. Those who seek to destroy Israel use words to confuse us into believing that right is wrong and terrorism is heroic.

The devious rhetoric incites violence; hate-filled words have turned into deadly actions. Recently, a pro-Palestinian protester in California struck a Jewish man with a megaphone, forcing him backward and slamming his head onto the ground. Paul Kessler, aged 69, died the next day. No one ever expects to go to a rally to support Israel and not come home. Rabbi Moshe Bryski described the fear now facing American Jews: “We have a funeral coming up of someone who simply wanted to wave an Israeli flag.”

We live in a world where there no longer is one set of facts. The leaders of anti-Israel protests know that the facts are not on their side, so they invent false narratives. They understand that overtly harmful terms like genocide, apartheid and colonization create negative emotional reactions. These leaders know that many of their followers believe only what they hear, so they leverage ignorance and repeatedly issue false statements until they are accepted as truth.

‘Free Palestine, From the River to the Sea = Israel’s Destruction and Genocide of Jews

“From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free!” is one of the most common slogans chanted at anti-Israel rallies. This statement does not support a two-state solution nor any form of co-existence. The land area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea includes Judea and Samaria (more commonly known as the West Bank), Gaza and, most importantly, all of Israel.

“From the River” means the destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide of the Jews and their allies living in Israel. It is an anti-Jewish, antisemitic statement. “From the River” is a common call to arms for pro-Palestinian activists, especially on university campuses. It is also a rallying cry for terrorist groups and their sympathizers—from Hamas to certain members of the U.S. Congress.

Hamas cheerleaders like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) falsely claim that “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!” is actually “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.” But anyone who doubts her beliefs needs only to hear and see the words and actions of Palestinian leaders.

The Hamas charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel—and the genocide of Jews—leaving no room for peaceful coexistence. These are actual commands in the 1988 Hamas governing charter:

  • Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.
  • Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people. May the cowards never sleep.
  • Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts until the enemy is vanquished.
  • The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews).

Hamas leaders make clear their intentions with their own words. Former Hamas chief Khaled Mashal, who has lived in luxurious accommodations in Qatar since 2012, asserted that “October 7 paved a wide highway towards the removal of Israel, towards liberation and towards saving Jerusalem.”

Hamas official Ghazi Hamad declared:

  • Nobody should blame us for the things we do. On Oct. 7, Oct. 10, Oct. 1,000,000; everything we do is justified.
  • We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do this again and again.
  • Israel is a country that has no place on our land. We must remove that country.
  • We are called a nation of martyrs, and we are proud to sacrifice martyrs.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently visited Israel, and made the link between the anti-Israel chants and the goal of Palestinian terrorists: “Everybody marching across the world right now, supposedly in support of a ‘Free Palestine, From the River to the Sea,’ in fact what they are doing, whether they intend it or not, is condoning the brutality and the murder that was conducted by those Hamas terrorists—and which, by the way, they would do again.”

Other Palestinian groups share similar goals. The Palestine Liberation Organization was created in 1964, three years before Israel gained control of the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt in a defensive war. The intent of the PLO wasn’t to liberate the West Bank and Gaza; it was to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people. Christians are often not welcomed in Gaza or the West Bank either as their population in Bethlehem and across the West Bank has rapidly declined.

The PLO was replaced by the Palestinian Authority in 1993. Yasser Arafat was the leader of both; he also founded the Fatah political party and its terrorist wing. Fatah terrorists have perpetrated many terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings against Israelis. Now, the PLO, Palestinian Authority and Fatah are led by Mahmoud Abbas, who is a known Holocaust denier and financier of the 1972 Munich massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Olympics. He is considered a “moderate: Palestinian leader.

Palestine was once synonymous with Israel and the Jewish people. Signs in Europe stated: “Jews go to Palestine.” Now, they read, “Jews get out of Palestine.” Jews are named after their ancestral homeland in Judea. The Roman Emperor Hadrian officially renamed the area that included Judea as Syria Palestina in 135 C.E. after his armies put down a Jewish revolt against Roman rule. The regional name Palestine continued to be in use until Israel declared its independence in 1948; Arabs outright rejected a two-state solution that offered a Palestinian state for Arabs.

What Would a ‘Free Palestine’ Ruled by Hamas Look Like?

Notable groups marching with Palestinian flags and calling for a “Free Palestine, From the River to the Sea” in place of Israel include LGBT, feminist and some Christian movements. They seem to deny the discrimination or death they would face if they set foot in Gaza. The ruling Hamas regime rejects most of the basic principles at the heart of Western democracies—elections, free speech, religious tolerance, minority rights. These values would not exist in a future Palestinian state under an Iranian-backed Hamas rule. The P.A. is supposed to be a democracy but it has not held elections since 2006. Abbas is in the 18th year of his four-year term. If elections were held today, polls project that Hamas would win and gain control of the West Bank.

Previous protests against the brutality of Hamas were documented in interviews with young Palestinians living in Gaza. Maha graduated from a Gaza university with a degree in journalism. She gave up on her dreams to become a journalist: “The policy of ‘muzzling’ affects all the media here. At the slightest misstep, they’ll shut down a broadcast or publication.” Recently, a mourning Palestinian woman in Gaza screamed, “This is all because of those dogs Hamas!” A Palestinian man quickly covered her mouth with his hand to silence her.

Women’s rights are severely restricted in Gaza. There is no law prohibiting violence against women. Palestinian women must follow a “code of modesty,” and are required to wear a hijab in public. Recently, the 52nd annual New York Marathon was held: 44% of runners were women. The United Nations was forced to cancel the 2013 Gaza Marathon because Hamas would not allow any women to participate. The Hamas Charter makes clear the role of women in Palestinian society: to raise and educate children at home in the pursuit of jihad. Women are, however, allowed to “go fight the enemy without their husband’s permission.”

A Palestinian Islamic scholar preached: Gays “should be thrown headfirst from the rooftop of the tallest building, and then they should be stoned from the top.” The severed head and decapitated torso of a 25-year-old Palestinian man were found in the West Bank, exactly one year before the 10/7 massacre. Last year, Palestinian activists also prevented a gay Palestinian singer from performing in Ramallah because he is a “pervert.” Many gay Palestinians seek and receive refuge in Israel. Tel Aviv is known for its annual pride parade. Held since 1979, this year’s event attracted 150,000 participants from around the world.

“From the River” is one of many falsehoods promoted by Hamas supporters. Visit Antisemitism-911 for a complete list of myths and how to respond. The website also includes ways to help out, speak out, seek help and stay informed.

VIDEO: A Jewish activist asks Americans to sign a petition to help Hamas free Palestine. They are in full support until he reads them the fine print, proving that followers believe only what they hear.

March for Israel. Credit: Courtesy.

Points to Consider:

  1. Palestinians want the same freedoms Americans and Israelis enjoy.

Palestinians living in Gaza are ruthlessly controlled by the autocratic Hamas leadership. Many Palestinians share the same desire for freedom, democracy and human rights that Americans and Israelis enjoy. They want a society where they can express themselves freely, participate in the political process and enjoy basic civil liberties without fear of repression or persecution. Despite the challenges they face, some Gazans have demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination in their quest for a more open and democratic society. The promotion of freedom and democracy is not only a moral imperative but also vital for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

  • Supporting Palestinians and Israelis is not mutually exclusive.

Americans don’t need to choose a side in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In an interview with Bill Maher, Israel’s then Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and Delegitimization Noa Tishby, stated: “I’m pro-Israeli, and I’m also pro-Palestinian.” It is important to recognize that supporting both communities is necessary to promote stability and peace in the region. Encouraging leaders to engage in constructive dialogue and negotiations can help bridge the divide and find common ground. Supporting initiatives that promote education and bring together Palestinian and Israeli youth to learn about each other’s cultures and histories can help break down barriers and foster understanding, essential for building a foundation of trust and cooperation.

  • Peace is NOT possible with Hamas or other terrorist groups in power.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): “I don’t know how you can have a ceasefire, a permanent ceasefire, with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the State of Israel. I think what the Arab countries in the region understand is that Hamas has got to go.” The founding covenant of Hamas explicitly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Its control of Gaza is marked by authoritarianism, human rights abuses and a disregard for the welfare of Palestinians. Hamas is incapable of making Gaza thrive because it dedicates its resources to the destruction of Israel and not the construction of Gaza, and the betterment of its citizens.

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