‘Palestine from the river to the sea’ has always been a call for annihilation not liberation
By Micha Danzig
Screenshot from Twitter.
On November 28, 2018, Marc Lamont Hill, a well-known anti-Israel activist, frequent CNN commentator and Temple University professor, who previously crowd-funded to help a terrorist convicted of planting a bomb near a Jerusalem hospital that wounded nine Israelis, spoke in front of the United Nations. There, he expressly called for the boycott of the world’s only Jewish state, excused and even encouraged Palestinian Arab violence directed at Jews (which he euphemistically characterized as “resistance”) and also said “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
When numerous Jewish organizations objected to Hill’s endorsement of Palestinian Arab violence against Israelis, and the oft-used Hamas Jihadists rallying cry that plainly refers to the annihilation of the state of Israel, Hill focused on refuting that his use of the “from the river to the sea” refrain is a call to wipe Israel off the map:
Set aside that there was nothing “just” about a speech where Hill completely dissembled about the Arab-Israeli conflict, placed all blame for the conflict on the Jews, romanticized “resistance” terror attacks (which include intentionally blowing up and stabbing Jewish children) and gave a complete pass to the corrupt and despotic Palestinian Arab leadership for the lack of peace (or justice). Hill’s call at the United Nations to “free Palestine from the river to the sea” was a case of a well-known Israel-hater repeating a call to destroy Israel, as well as a chant harkening to a return to a time when all Jews in the Middle East lived as “Dhimmi” second-class citizens (and often much [much] worse) under Arab rule. And it is particularly not credible for someone like Hill to issue this denial, given that he has for years given full-throated support to Antisemitism, and has even buddied up to one of America’s most vicious purveyors of Jew-hatred, Louis Farrakhan.
The reality is that “free Palestine from the river to the sea” is as retrograde racist, and as much a call to violence, as someone who supports the KKK saying “make America White again.”
Hill’s argument is also incredibly dishonest because of those who purport to support Palestinian Arabs, and in particular, their leaders, have never sought to actually “free Palestine” from anything other than Jewish sovereignty.
After World War I, when the Allies carved up the defeated Ottoman Empire, which controlled the entire Levant for most of the previous 400 years, the Allies created the “Palestine Mandate.” At that time, the Palestine Mandate included all of what is today Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. In 1921, however, the British Colonial Secretary created – with the stroke of a pen – a new, never before heard of in history country called “Transjordan” out of 78 percent of the Palestine Mandate in order to give a “kingdom” to a foreign tribe of Hashemite Arabs fleeing defeat and likely death at the hands of Ibn Saud — in what became Saudi Arabia.
Despite it being 78 percent of the original Palestine Mandate (and now having a population that is more than 70% Arabs who identify as “Palestinian”) there has never been a call to “free” the overwhelming majority of the Palestine Mandate from a foreign kingdom transplanted into the region by the British. Because, no Jews, then no need for war-like chants or endorsing violent “resistance.”
Same thing for the areas of the Palestine Mandate west of the Jordan River. When the smoke cleared from the Arab League’s failed effort in 1948 to annihilate Israel and toss the Jews into the sea; the Jews had survived, and had also secured sovereignty and independence in a significant part of their indigenous homeland. However, the Arab countries of Jordan and Egypt had taken control of Judea and Samaria (aka the “West Bank”) and Gaza. Jordan, in fact, annexed Judea and Samaria.
Meanwhile, the first recorded use of the phrase Hill is now defending -“free Palestine from the river to the sea” – was used by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) when it was formed in 1964. Notably, back in 1964, much of the land west of the Jordan River was controlled by an Egyptian dictator in Cairo and a sham Jordanian Hashemite King in Amman. But the PLO’s 1964 Charter specifically excluded both the “West Bank” and Gaza from the territories it sought to “liberate.”
In fact, if anything puts the lie to Hill’s “blame the Jews for everything” narrative, as well as his claim that the call to “free Palestine from the river to the sea” is not about destroying Israel and Jewish sovereignty in every inch of the Jews’ indigenous, historical and religious homeland, it is the fact that the 1964 PLO Charter — and the 1968 PLO Charter — are identical with the exception of only one thing. Article 24 of the 1964 Charter defined the territory the PLO sought to “liberate” as only those under Jewish sovereignty at that time. After the Six-Day War, Article 24 was amended to include the West Bank and Gaza Strip as suddenly new parts of the “Palestinian homeland” needing “liberation.”
Of course, Hill’s claim that his use of the “river to the sea” chant was somehow not consistent with a genocidal call to wipe Israel off the map, because “the phrase dates back to the middle of the British Mandate and has never been the exclusive province of a particular ideological camp” doesn’t make sense for anyone who is familiar with who has used that phrase.
Before Hill even started elementary school, this was how that phrase was used by the PLO leadership, specifically Abu Iyad, the head of the Black September terrorist group, which in the name of “freedom” and “resistance” in 1972 kidnapped, castrated and then murdered 11 Israeli Olympians:
The Jihadist/Islamist Supremacist Hamas Charter published in 1988, when Lamont Hill was barely 10 years old, expressly states in its preamble that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam obliterates it, just as it obliterated others before it.” And, in Article 6, it says that Hamas “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine …” Since then, Hamas leaders, such as Khaled Mashaal, has repeatedly echoed the genocidal and eliminationist “river to the sea” sentiments expressed by Abu Iyad, such as during his speech in Gaza in 2012, when he said: “Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land.”
Hill’s claim that he did not understand the clear meaning of the “river to the sea” chant and that this phrase has had other meanings in the past, is not only wrong, it is irrelevant. It is the equivalent of a Nazi sympathizer using a swastika, and then claiming he did not mean it as a symbol of genocidal hate because at one point the Swastika was used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions.
Nor is Hill saved by the claim some have made in his defense that the Likud party platform founding charter from 1977, provided that “between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.”
Anyone positing this defense, like Hill, is either being remarkably disingenuous about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, or just ignorant. Since 1937, Jewish leadership in the land of Israel has repeatedly accepted partition plans and offered peace plans, which included the creation of the first independent Arab state in history west of the Jordan River. All told, a first-ever independent Arab state west of the Jordan River has been either accepted or offered at least 6 different times by Israeli leaders. The Palestinian Arab leadership, on the other hand, because their goal has always been the elimination of any Jewish state “from the river to the sea,” has always rejected all partition plans and peace plansoffered to them. And it was one of Likud’s all time most conservative leaders, Ariel Sharon, who unilaterally withdrew every Israel soldier and citizen from Gaza, effectively giving the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza the first opportunity to demonstrate to the world what an independent Arab state west of the Jordan River might look like. And what did they do with that opportunity? Elected Hamas, to the legislature, which then promptly – as one would expect of a despotic terrorist group – staged a violent coup, murdered and exiled its PLO rivals in Gaza, and turned Gaza into a terrorist state whose main purpose has always been to destroy Israel, “from the river to the sea.”
Ultimately, this is what Hill is arguing for when he says he wants a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” A land where Jews are once again second-class citizens to the descendants of the colonizing Arabs who conquered the Jews’ indigenous homeland and imposed their Islamist and Arab supremacist rule on the entire Middle East and North Africa.
After all, if anyone wants to see what it would be like for Jews if Hill got his wish, then all one has to do is see what life was like for Jews under Arab rule before Israel’s independence (where, for centuries, Jews were perennially subject to discriminatory laws and frequent massacres) or what life is presently like for other minorities (Yazidis, Copts, Kurds, …) in Arab-controlled lands.
The good news is that it appears that most people, including apparently the bosses at CNN, understood exactly what Hill was advocating for.
Newsflash for Hill: the only Arabs who are actually “free” in the region of the world that was named “Palestine” by colonialist Greeks and Romans, are the ones who are Israeli citizens. If Hill really wants freedom for Palestinian Arabs, then he should be advocating for democracy in Jordan, Gaza and those under the Palestinian Authority.
Mitch Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is active with numerous organizations, including Stand With Us, T.E.A.M. and the FIDF. He is a frequent guest on the One America News Network, where he is called on to discuss matters related to Anti-Semitism, Israel and the Middle East.