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‘From the river to the ocean’: Why a 6-word phrase sparks fury and fervour over the Israel-Hamas struggle

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The Jordan River is a winding, 200-plus-mile run on the jap flank of Israel and the occupied West Financial institution. The ocean is the glittering Mediterranean to its west.

However a phrase concerning the area in between, “from the river to the ocean,” has turn into a battle cry with new energy to roil Jews and pro-Palestinian activists within the aftermath of Hamas’ lethal rampage throughout southern Israel Oct. 7 and Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

“From the river to the ocean, Palestine shall be free,” pro-Palestinian activists from London to Rome and Washington chanted within the risky aftermath of Israel’s bloodiest day. Adopting or defending it may be pricey for public figures, comparable to U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who was censured by the Home on Tuesday.

However like a lot of the Mideast battle, what the phrase means will depend on who’s telling the story — and which viewers is listening to it.

Many Palestinian activists say it is a name for peace and equality after 75 years of Israeli statehood and decades-long, open-ended Israeli army rule over thousands and thousands of Palestinians. Jews hear a transparent demand for Israel’s destruction.

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This a lot is obvious: Hamas fighters killed greater than 1,400 individuals in Israel and hauled a minimum of 240 again to Gaza as hostages within the worst violence in opposition to Jews because the Holocaust. Israel responded with heavy bombardment of Gaza and a floor offensive, that has killed greater than 11,000 Palestinians, in accordance with the Well being Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. The demise toll is for certain to rise. The result’s the deadliest spherical of Israeli-Palestinian preventing in many years.

Within the uncooked afterburn of the Hamas assaults, the mantra appears to place everybody on edge.

“From the river to the ocean” echoes by way of pro-Palestinian rallies throughout campuses and cities, adopted by some as a name for a single state on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

By 2012, it was clear that Hamas had claimed the slogan in its drive to say land spanning Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Financial institution.

“Palestine is ours from the river to the ocean and from the south to the north,” Khaled Mashaal, the group’s former chief, mentioned that 12 months in a speech in Gaza celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of the founding of Hamas. “There shall be no concession on any inch of the land.”

The phrase additionally has roots within the Hamas constitution.

The story behind the phrase is far bigger, and reaches throughout the many years.

Within the months earlier than and through the 1948 struggle, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or have been expelled from what’s now Israel. Many anticipated to return. Israel captured the West Financial institution, together with Gaza and east Jerusalem, within the 1967 struggle. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza, and in 2007, Hamas claimed the tiny strip from the Palestinian Authority after a violent coup.

Even the shorthand, “from the river to the ocean,” echoes by way of pro-Palestinian protests, crackles throughout social media and is out there on quite a lot of merch, from sweatshirts to candles.

Ask Jewish individuals in London what’s so chilled them concerning the present spike in antisemitism, and lots of will cite what looks like the ubiquity of the slogan. It’s a signal, the recommend, that there is a lot to concern.

“Have little question that Hamas is cheering these ‘from the river to the ocean’ chants, as a result of a Palestine between the river to the ocean leaves not a single inch for Israel,” learn an open letter signed by 30 Jewish information shops all over the world and launched on Wednesday.

And within the wake of Hamas’ killing of civilians on Oct. 7, they don’t seem to be shopping for that the mantra is merely anti-Israel. Backed by teams such because the Anti-Defamation League, they are saying it is inherently anti-Jewish.

“Nobody can now say that within the eyes of Hamas, a hatred of Israel doesn’t imply a hatred of all Jews,” mentioned London resident Sarah Nachshen. “The slogans and placards and chants calling for the eradication of Israel and, certainly, all Jews have clearly proven this.”

Tlaib, D-Mich., who has household within the West Financial institution and is Congress’ solely Palestinian-American, posted a video Nov. 3 that featured protesters chanting the slogan.

No stranger to criticism over her rhetoric on the U.S.-Israel relationship, Tlaib defended the slogan.

“From the river to the ocean is an aspirational name for freedom, human rights, and peaceable coexistence, not demise, destruction, or hate,” Tlaib tweeted, cautioning that conflating anti-Israel sentiment with antisemitism “silence(s) numerous voices talking up for human rights.”

Tweeted Yousef Munayyer, head of the Palestine/Israel Program and a senior Fellow at Arab Heart Washington: “There isn’t a sq. inch of the land between the river and the ocean the place Palestinians have freedom, justice and equality, and it has by no means been extra essential to emphasise this than proper now.”

Many of the worldwide neighborhood helps a two-state answer, which requires the partition of the land. To many, although, many years of Israeli settlement enlargement have made the truth of a two-state answer inconceivable.

Proper-wing Israelis have blurred the strains between Israel and the West Financial institution, the place half one million individuals now stay in settlements. Many within the Israeli authorities assist the annexation of the West Financial institution, and official authorities maps usually make no point out of the “inexperienced line” boundary between the 2.

And the unique platform of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s social gathering, Likud, printed a model of the slogan, saying that between the ocean and the Jordan River, “there’ll solely be Israeli sovereignty.”

Utilizing the phrase for public figures might be pricey. Tlaib’s censure is a punishment one step wanting expulsion from the Home.

Final month, Vienna police banned a pro-Palestinian demonstration, citing the truth that the phrase “from the river to the ocean” was talked about in invites and characterizing it as a name to violence.

And in Britain, the Labour social gathering issued a brief punishment to a member of Parliament, Andy McDonald, for utilizing the phrase throughout a rally at which he known as for a cease to bombardment.

“We gained’t relaxation till we’ve got justice. Till all individuals, Israelis & Palestinians, between the river & the ocean can stay in peaceable liberty,” he tweeted.

Then he defined: “These phrases shouldn’t be construed in every other approach than they have been meant, specifically as a coronary heart felt plea for an finish to killings in Israel, Gaza, and the occupied West Financial institution, and for all peoples within the area to stay in freedom with out the specter of violence.” ___

Comply with Kellman at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

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