No, “from the river to the sea” means Jewish genocide, not coexistence

May 2021 Palestine rally in Birmingham

by Larry Brook

No, “River to the Sea” is about Jewish genocide, or at best ethnic cleansing, not coexistence.

If one attends an anti-Israel — er., “pro-Palestinian” rally, it generally takes mere moments for the chant to start: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”

Sounds good. After all, who opposes freedom? But when one looks further, this kumbaya statement is fraught with peril. The river, of course, is the Jordan. The sea is the Mediterranean. The territory in between is not only what is referred to as the West Bank and Gaza, but also all of pre-1967 Israel.

Liberate Palestine? What does that mean?

Many activists will insist that there’s no genocidal intent — when they talk about liberation, they mean a bi-national state where Israelis and Palestinians — er, Jews and Muslims — live side by side as equal citizens in the same state.

As the saying goes, from your lips to God’s ears, or as they say in Arabic, inshallah.

Unfortunately, the rest of us have to live in the real world, and that means asking a very serious question — what are those people smoking? Do they really think that an open, democratic state will spring up, bringing harmony and unity?

Not unless a completely different, uncharacteristic leadership suddenly takes over among the Palestinians, and there is a cultural shift of massive proportions.

Let’s take Hamas first, as they rule Gaza with an iron fist and would also be ruling the territories if the Palestinian Authority wasn’t being propped up by duct tape and chewing gum. The Hamas charter insists on liberating the entire land and getting rid of all the Jews. That leaves plenty of room for negotiating.

The Palestinian Authority ultimately has the same goal, they just aren’t as blatant about it. Mahmoud Abbas, head of the PA, has repeatedly insisted that no Jew would be permitted to reside in a Palestinian state. Generally, that has been in the context of the West Bank, but it bodes ill for any cooperation and coexistence beyond there.

Last month on official Palestinian television, it was noted that “Jerusalem is Arab, Islamic and Christian,” and there was a call for confronting the occupation from the river to the sea, in “Palestine which is Arab and Islamic.” Can’t you feel the love and unity?

A recent post by Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi reminds that the entire land is waqf land — “an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law” and it is forbidden to cede any of that land to non-Muslims.

Why else is it illegal, punishable by death, for a Palestinian to sell land to a Jew? And wouldn’t that be carried over to the “liberated” land?

For over two decades, Palestinian youth in Gaza and the territories have been brought up to believe that their highest calling is to kill Jews, and Israelis have been well aware of that. While Israel tries to teach coexistence against the odds, the Palestinians teach that Jews have no historical connection to the land and are foreign invaders with no right to live there.

But hey, they’ll forget all that when it comes to living side by side in a single bi-national state.

In addition to the question of Jews being allowed to stay in this bi-national utopia, what do all of these human rights activists believe will happen regarding, say, human rights?

The same people who accuse Israel of “pinkwashing” because of its openness to the LGBTQ community will quickly find out that under the new arrangement, they are not welcome — and there won’t be an Israel for them to flee toward. Surveys show over 90 percent of Palestinians believe LGBTQ should be societally unacceptable. If you think Southern legislatures are a tough crowd…

Both Hamas and the PA routinely intimidate and imprison journalists who write the “wrong” stories. Same thing for anti-regime demonstrations. Are they suddenly going to discover the First Amendment in a bi-national state?

And what of the decree in Gaza that a woman has to have a male relative with her when she travels? How will that translate to the new bi-national state? Will Western pro-Palestinian feminists care?

Israel, of course, exists as a refuge for Jews who have nowhere else to go, so that the Jewish people, after 2,000 years, no longer are subject to the whims of others and have a viable Plan B should the world fall apart.

If unicorns start flying and Jews are allowed to stay in the new bi-national state, would that state be as enthusiastic about rescuing imperiled Jews around the world? If 20,000 Jews in Ethiopia suddenly needed to be whisked away, as was necessary in 1991, would the bi-national state drop everything to do so? What about the Jewish community of France, which has been looking at Israel in greater numbers as antisemitism continues to spiral?

Would the Palestinians really say “sure, go ahead, bring them in”?

And isn’t it ironic that the same people who insist that in the 21st century, the Jews don’t need an Israel, life is perfectly fine in Europe, the U.S., what have you — are the same ones who are now taking to the streets and forcefully demonstrating to Jews why Israel’s existence is necessary?

But there is one last protest against calling “River to the Sea” a call for genocide. It’s not a call to kill the Jews, just for the colonialist occupiers to go back to where they came from — which the activists will insist is Europe.

There are two problems with that. First, that’s the same Europe that has welcomed millions of Muslim refugees in recent years, where they are refusing to assimilate into their new countries and have been making life very difficult for the Jewish communities of the countries where they land, France and Sweden being prime examples. Lots of European Jews have been fleeing to Israel, are they going to turn around and go right back?

What about America? In today’s anti-immigration climate, is the U.S. suddenly going to welcome an influx of a couple million Israelis? And what would that do to Jewish-Latino relations if the Israeli immigrants are greeted with open arms while Latino immigrants have to fight for everything they get? A lot of Jewish advocacy groups will not want to see that play out.

The other problem is that the majority of Israel’s Jews were forced out of Middle Eastern countries, not Europe, and their properties confiscated. Iran, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen — they’re going to welcome the Jews back with open arms and equal rights?

And notice that the chant refers to just 20 percent of British Mandate Palestine. Nobody ever chants about the other direction, the 80 percent that was lopped off to become Jordan — “from the river to Iraq, Palestine will come back.”

The Middle East is a vastly complicated place, and simplistic slogans might feel good, but they are often incredibly unhelpful. And this slogan in particular is nothing but a sugarcoated call for genocide or ethnic cleansing — the very thing those same activists falsely accuse Israel of doing. It’s gaslighting you can feel good about.

The sad part is, some of them don’t even realize the implications of what they are saying.