If Israel’s Apologists Insist ‘From the River to the Sea’ Is Genocidal…

by | Apr 24, 2024

The ‘Anti-Semitism’ Canard

Back in early November, with Israel’s genocide in Gaza having been underway for several weeks, Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from Michigan, called for an end to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and shared a video on Twitter objecting to President Joe Biden claiming to speak for all Americans in saying, “We stand with Israel.”

The video showed images of Gaza being bombarded; bloody injured and dead Palestinians; and protestors in the US calling for a ceasefire, an end to Israel’s 56-year occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, an end to Israel’s 17-year illegal blockade of Gaza. “Free! Free Palestine!” protestors chanted at one rally. At other events, protestors were heard chanting “from the river to the sea”.

That chant derives from the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which since the First Intifada that erupted in December 1987 has been a popular rallying call among Palestinians demanding an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime, which encompasses all of the land of the former territory of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Tlaib appeared in the video condemning the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s military assault on Gaza. Near the end of the video, after a clip of administration spokesperson John Kirby expressing the White House’s view that the death of innocent civilians was a tragic but acceptable outcome, Tlaib was shown looking at the camera to say, “We will remember.” Following that, the video displayed the text “JOE BIDEN SUPPORTED THE GENOCIDE OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE”.

In a separate Twitter post, Tlaib explained, “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”

The Israeli embassy in the US posted a reply that said, “No verbal acrobatics can hide the true meaning behind this slogan – namely – the obliteration of the State of @Israel. Hamas’ charter clearly states ‘Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the River to the Sea.’”

Clearly, the government of Israel objects to the idea of the Palestinian people being liberated from its criminal oppression.

Just as evidently, so do most members of the US Congress. After Tlaib posted the video, the House of Representatives passed a resolution censuring her for embracing “a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people”.

Last week, the House went even further in its opposition to freedom and equality for the Palestinians by passing a resolution condemning the slogan as “an antisemitic call to arms with the goal of the eradication of the State of Israel”, a phrase that “seeks to deny Jewish people the right to self-determination and calls for the removal of the Jewish people from their ancestral homeland”.

The resolution cited the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which maintains that those who use the “antisemitic” slogan “seek Israel’s destruction through violent means”, and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which likewise describes it as an “antisemitic” slogan used as a “rallying cry for terrorist groups and their sympathizers”.

A week ago, ZeroHedge and Breaking Points co-hosted a debate on whether Israel’s military assault on Gaza is justified, with Dave Smith and Cenk Uygur arguing the negative and Dennis Prager and Batya Ungar-Sargon arguing the affirmative. The question was put to both sides during the debate of whether the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is anti-Semitic.

Ungar-Sargon, a deputy opinion editor for Newsweek, replied that she has friends who support Palestinians’ rights who tell her that when they use the phrase, they just mean that they want there to be freedom for all.

“But it is a line from Hamas’s charter,” she continued, “and so I think the burden of proof is on the people chanting it that they don’t mean it in an eliminationist way that would wreak havoc and violence on Jews because, like I said, it’s part of the charter.”

She further stated that she wouldn’t comment on whether it’s anti-Semitic, despite having just essentially argued that we must automatically assume the anyone who uses the phrase is advocating violence against Jews.

In fact, there is no iteration of the phrase “from the river to the sea” in Hamas’s 1988 Charter. But we’ll come back to that.

Zionist Congresspersons’ Self-Delusion

Illustrating just how out of touch with reality Israel’s defenders in the US Congress are, the resolution censuring Representative Tlaib claimed in its second paragraph that “Israel has existed on its lands for millennia”.

Actually, as I explained in my article “A Brief History of Palestine, from Canaan through the Mandate Era“, the ancient kingdom of Israel existed from about 1020 BC until 721 BC, a period of about 300 years, and the separate kingdom of Judah, the Hebrew tribe from which the Jewish people are descended, existed until 587 BC, so we could grant the Congress that the Israelites ruled over land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River for a period of less than 500 years, not thousands of years.

That land was known in antiquity, even before the kingdom of Israel was established, as Palestine, which modern name derives from the common name for the region since the end of the Bronze Age (3300–1200 BCE). Ancient Egyptian inscriptions from the 12th century BCE referred to “Peleset”, and ancient Assyrian texts referred to “Palashtu” or “Pilistu”.

Jews and Palestinians also share a common ancestry, both being descended from tribes inhabiting in the land called “Canaan” in the Bible. (The Biblical narrative of the Israelites being foreigners who violently conquered the land, including through the genocide of Canaanite tribes, is unsupported by archeology and contradicted by genetic studies. Tellingly, Hebrew is a Canaanite language.)

After the dissolution of the kingdom of Judah, the area was under the rule of the Babylonian Empire, and then the Persian Empire. After that, it was ruled by the Greeks, then the Romans, then the Muslims, then the Turks. The territory of Palestine was under Turkish rule until the Ottoman Empire was dissolved as a result of World War One, at which time it came under a belligerent British occupation specifically aimed at preventing the Palestinian people from exercising their right to self-determination in order to facilitate the Zionist project of reconstituting Palestine into a demographically Jewish state.

There is a persistent myth that the modern state of Israel was created by the UN, established through some kind of legitimate political process, but the historical reality is that the means by which Israel came into existence was through the Zionists’ ethnic cleansing of most of the Arab population from their homes in Palestine.

Palestinian refugees fleeing their homes in 1948, from the front cover of "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem" by Benny Morris (Public Domain)

Palestinian refugees fleeing their homes in 1948, from the front cover of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” by Benny Morris (Public Domain)

Hamas’s New Charter

While Batya Ungar-Sargon claimed in the recent debate that the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is in the Hamas charter, as did the Israeli embassy in Washington, in fact, it is not contained in “The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement” published in August 1988.

An iteration of the phrase is included, however, in a political document that Hamas published in May 2017, titled “A Document of General Principles & Policies“.

That later document reiterated Hamas’s position since 2004 of being willing to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines (also called the “1967 lines” in the wake of Israel’s invasion and occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June of that year), without prejudice to the right of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 ethnic cleansing to return to their homeland.

Hamas has long maintained that it will not recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” because that would be constitute a tacit acceptance of the Zionists’ rejection of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and ethnic cleansing as having been legitimate. Hamas does not recognize that Israel has a “right to exist”.

Consequently, Hamas has long advocated a single state in all of the land of former Palestine as the ideal solution. But it has also repeatedly expressed its willingness to recognize the reality that Israel exists, and hence to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its subagency the Palestinian Authority (PA) in accepting the political solution of two states.

The full paragraph of Hamas’s 2017 policy document in which the phrase appears is as follows (bold emphasis added):

Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.

So, when the Newsweek editor said that the slogan “from the river to the sea” is in the Hamas “charter”, it is ipso facto the 2017 policy document that she was referring to. Significantly, this document has been similarly described as a new Hamas charter by various other mainstream media outlets, in addition to it being acknowledged as such by the Israeli embassy itself.

Here is another paragraph from the 2017 document that is typically ignored by the media in the usual renditions of the narrative that Hamas opposes the state of Israel for no other reason than hatred of Jews (emphasis added):

Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity.

To be clear, Hamas has deserved its reputation as a terrorist organization. But the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has deserved that characterization, too, and Hamas is correct in its position that Israel has no “right to exist”. No state does. There is no such thing. The very concept is a logical absurdity.

The demand for Palestinians to recognize Israel’s “right to exist” is an ultimatum for the land’s indigenous inhabitants to accede that the ethnic cleansing by which the “Jewish state” came into existence was legitimate.

And why should they do that?

In not doing so, the Palestinians are being perfectly reasonable.

Israel’s “right to exist” is a propaganda slogan aimed at shifting the public discourse away from the proper framework for discussion, which is not the “right” of this or that state “to exist” but the right of all peoples to self-determination.

And it is manifestly Israel that has been denying that right to the Palestinians and not vice versa.

So, contrary to the Newsweek deputy opinion editor’s stupid premise, when protestors of Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza advocate freedom for Palestinians in all of the former territory of Palestine, the default assumption should be that such protesters really do just want Palestine to be free from the river to the sea — and it is instead for the apologists of Israel’s genocide in Gaza to substantiate any accusations against specific individuals that what they really mean by using the slogan in protest is for Israeli Jews to be exterminated.

(During the debate, in the context of Israel’s ongoing military assault on Gaza, Dennis Prager and Batya Ungar-Sargon also stupidly tried to maintain that Israel is doing more to avoid harming civilians than any other country would do, an absurdity that I already thoroughly dissected in my post “The ‘Israel Has the Most Moral Army in the World’ Trope“.)

A "Ceasefire Now - Stop the War on Gaza" protest in London on October 28, 2023. (Photo by Steve Eason/Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)

A “Ceasefire Now – Stop the War on Gaza” protest in London on October 28, 2023. (Photo by Steve Eason/Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)

Did Hamas Plagiarize from Likud?

Members of Congress claiming that “from the river to the sea” is an anti-Semitic slogan advocating a genocide against Jews, apart from overlooking the entire historical origin of the conflict, are also overlooking the fact that Zionists were advocating Jewish supremacy between the Jordan and the Mediterranean well before Hamas ever existed.

In fact, in terms of territorial ambitions, many early Zionists had their sights set not only on the land west of the Jordan but also land to the east of it, in what was called “Transjordan” during the Mandate era.

The Zionist Organization at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference demarcated borders for its proposed Jewish state as including both banks of the Jordan River. All that land was, in the view of the Zionists, Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel to which Jews were entitled, notwithstanding the fact that Palestine was already inhabited predominantly by indigenous Arabs.

The current prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is a member of the Likud party, whose original platform in 1977 stated that “between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.”

Likud’s 2002 party platform reiterated that territorial aim by stating, “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza” — Judea and Samaria being the Zionists’ name for the West Bank — “are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel.”

The document went on to state that Israel “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” Instead, “The Jordan Valley and the territories that dominate it shall be under Israeli sovereignty. The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”

The Likud Party Constitution published on Netanyahu’s website in 2006 stated the party’s purpose of “[s]afeguarding the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel as an eternal, inalienable right” — with “the Land of Israel” again being the equivalent English term for the Zionist dream of Eretz Israel, which is not to be confused with the state of Israel presently recognized by the international community as being confined to the 1949 armistice lines, sometimes also called the “Green Line” for the color with it was drawn on the map.

A “History of the Movement” page of Likud’s website last updated in 2013 (and currently still accessible) explained the party’s admiration for Menachem Begin, who, during the Mandate era, was the commander of a Zionist terrorist organization named the Irgun (also known as Etzel) and later, from 1977 to 1983, was prime minister of Israel.

It was under Begin’s leadership that “the Likud raised the banner of Jewish settlements in Judea & Samaria”. The webpage further explained that the ideological father of the Likud party, before Begin, was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who was among the Zionists viewing the land extending from beyond the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea as comprising Eretz Yisrael.

During the Zero Hedge debate last week, Dave Smith pointed out that Netanyahu had maintained a policy of utilizing Hamas as a strategic ally to block any movement toward peace negotiations with the Palestinians, a fact which both of his debate opponents acknowledged. Indeed, that this was Netanyahu’s policy is uncontroversial — as I pointed out during my own debate on the root cause of the conflict at the Soho Forum in New York City on February 26.

On September 22, 2023, two weeks before the blowback of Hamas’s October 7 “Operation Al Aqsa Flood”, Netanyahu gave a speech at the UN General Assembly in which he held up a map of what he called “The New Middle East” showing no Palestinian territories, only Israel from the river to the sea.

netanyahu unga new middle east

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a map of “The New Middle East” showing only Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea at the UN General Assembly on September 22, 2023 (Screenshot from UN Web TV)

So, if we are to understand any utterance of the words “from the river to the sea” to be inherently a call for genocide, then we must all the more so apply that same standard to the Zionist regime that currently actually controls all of the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean and that actually has been committing genocide for six months now.

And, applying the Newsweek deputy opinion editor’s same standard but with much more solid reasoning, we must assume that anyone willing to try to defend Israel’s ongoing military assault on the civilian population of Gaza intends for Palestinians to be massacred.

As a final point, we must recognize this hateful attitude as anti-Semitism since Palestinians are a Semitic people, too.

Cross-posted from JeremyRHammond.com.

Jeremy R. Hammond

Jeremy R. Hammond

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent journalist and a Research Fellow at The Libertarian Institute whose work focuses on exposing deceitful mainstream propaganda that serves to manufacture consent for criminal government policies. He has written about a broad range of topics, including US foreign policy, economics and the role of the Federal Reserve, and public health policies. He is the author of several books, including Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian Economics in the Financial Crisis, and The War on Informed Consent. Find more of his articles and sign up to receive his email newsletters at JeremyRHammond.com.

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