December 4, 2023 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 549

Ask Hamas: 'From The River To The Sea' Is A Call For The Destruction Of Israel And Killing Jews

December 4, 2023 | By Steven Stalinsky, Ph.D.*
Palestinians | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 549

Less than 24 hours after launching its attack on October 7, Hamas representative in Tehran Khaled Qaddoumi gave an interview in English to Iran's Press TV about the "historic event [that] took place in the holy land of Palestine... the Al-Aqsa Flood battle to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea, in order to expel the Zionist regime." The following day, he added, in another interview with the IRGC-affiliated Fars News: "We will witness the liberation of the dear homeland of the Palestinian people from the river to the sea, as well as the destruction of the Zionist regime."

Though the tens of thousands of anti-Israel protestors worldwide chanting "From the River to the Sea" fully understand its true meaning, many insist that this phrase is merely an expression of support for the Palestinians and want the world to believe that it is not a call for the destruction of Israel and for killing Jews.

They are playing a disingenuous "wink wink" game – much like those played by other antisemites to hide their true beliefs. This is similar to antisemites' online use of coded language to prevent removal or shutdown of their online accounts. Examples are the use of the triple parentheses – the so-called "echo" – highlighting names of individuals and organizations thought to be Jewish, and, on TikTok, the use of "the Austrian painter" to refer to Hitler. New "codes" like these are emerging all the time.

In the U.S., the most prominent use of "From the River to the Sea," and manipulation of its true meaning, was by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), with her November 3 tweet of a video attacking President Biden for his pro-Israel stance and warning that Arab and Muslim Americans would not support his reelection bid.

The video included scenes of pro-Palestinian marches with participants chanting "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free." In response, the House of Representatives voted to censure Rep. Tlaib for her rhetoric, with some House members labelling the phrase as a "call for the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews."

Attempting to extricate herself, Rep. Tlaib clarified her tweet: "From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate..."

It is interesting, then, that Germany considers the phrase a symbol of Hamas and banned it in early November, and countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic, and others have followed suit. Online platforms, including X and Etsy, have begun removing posts containing it.

For Hamas and other jihadi groups, the phrase is a way of life and part of its ideology. It is a fundamental part of a May 2017 Hamas policy document about the organization's vision of a Palestinian state: "Hamas rejects any alternative to the complete liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea... Palestine in its borders from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the West, and from Ras Naqura [Rosh HaNikra] in the north to Umm Rashrash [Eilat] in the south is a complete unit and the land and homeland of the Palestinian people."

Underlining this, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk said on August 8, 2023 that the Palestinian people want a Palestinian state "from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, and from Rosh HaNikra to Aqaba and Rafah. This is the territory of Palestine that we want." In 2021, Hamas leader Yahyah Al-Sinwar called for "the full liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river... the heart of Hamas's strategic vision." Hamas political bureau chairman Ismail Haniyeh explained during the 2018 Gaza "March of Return [into Israel]," "We shall never forget Palestine from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River" – as the crowd chanted "Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return" and "Death to Israel."

Other enemies of Israel who use the phrase in its true meaning include the Iranian regime and its proxy militias. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi explained after October 7 that "the only solution" for the Israel-Hamas war is "the establishment of the Palestinian state from the river to the sea."

Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has also made it clear in his speeches that "Palestine from the river to the sea is the property of the Palestinian people" and that "the elimination of Israel" is "the interest of the entire Muslim world and the entire Arab world." He has stressed for years that "what the Arabs have wanted for 60 years is... for the land from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea to be returned" to the Palestinian people, and has also said that "Israel must be wiped out of existence."

Highlighting how the term is now universally used by antisemites of all stripes since October 7, neo-Nazis have joined Hamas supporters worldwide, both online and in protests on the ground, in the use of "From the River to the Sea." By way of illustration, recent comments on a neo-Nazi Gab account included simply "From the river to the sea!!!!!" stressing that this "does mean ...KILL EVERY JEW IN ISRAEL AND WIPE OUT ISRAEL. That is like saying someone on twitter telling others to go out a kill every person in the USA."

"From the River to the Sea" is a call for the eradication of Israel. Those who obfuscate about this are simply dishonest. It is but one of the many manifestations of the deliberate misinformation emanating from the anti-Israel camp since October 7 that has persuaded media and other policy shapers that Israel is the aggressor in the current Israel-Hamas war.

* Steven Stalinsky, Ph.D. is Executive Director of MEMRI

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