The Real Meaning: “From the River to the Sea”

Those who support Palestinian Arabs in the conflict with Israel, often use the saying, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free.” That slogan has been a rallying cry for political mobilization and military resistance of Israel for more than 40 years. From the river to the sea means the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. The word ‘Palestine’ is often used to describe the whole of the area, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The slogan has two essential meanings, depending on the audience. The phrase itself was born in a Palestinian uprising in Gaza, along the Mediterranean in South East Israel in 1987. The loudly shouted slogan meant to proclaim that from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, Palestine will be free from Jews. The meaning was clear, to declare the intent of erasing the State of Israel and its Jewish people.

The meaning of the slogan has evolved. The blatant anti-Semitic, genocidal roots of the saying has brought a certain modern political correctness in its use. On May 19, New Yorker Union tweeted, “Solidarity with Palestinians from the river to the sea who went on a 24 hour strike yesterday for dignity and liberation.” They were immediately called out for implicitly calling not only for the dismantling of the State of Israel, but the cleansing of the entire region of its Jewish population.

Trying to un-moor the saying from its historical roots, modern-day activists suggest that it refers to standing for Palestinian basic rights “throughout their homeland.” These basic rights, they say, are being denied because of Israeli oppression, ignoring that the reason for such Israeli control has everything to do with the intent to destroy the State of Israel “from the river to the sea.”

By Pastor Rich Jones