Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have swept across the world, with thousands taking to the streets to condemn Israel’s ongoing bombing of Gaza from Las Vegas and Rome to Beirut and Tunisia.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” became an outcry to denounce the occupation, but has sparked Western criticism from foreign officials who consider it “anti-Semitic.”
Where did it come from? What does it mean?
The slogan ultimately expresses the desire to establish an independent and unified Palestinian state extending from Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
This phrase is deeply rooted in Palestinian folklore and revolutionary songs, and includes various Arabic versions, the most common of which is “from water to water” – a poetic reference to the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River.
Experts say that the phrase carries profound cultural significance and plays a pivotal role in shaping the Palestinian identity and nation, which emphasizes the connection to the land.
It calls for freedom and an end to the Israeli occupation by establishing a comprehensive state that represents the Palestinians and guarantees equal rights for all.
But pro-Israeli occupation groups often describe this phrase as a pro-Hamas slogan and interpret it as a “call to destroy Israel.”
Countries supporting occupation link the slogan to violence
Following pro-Palestinian protests in London, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman issued a warning to police chiefs on Tuesday about displaying Palestinian flags and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans.
Braverman also warned in her letter that the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” could be interpreted as a reference to a violent desire to eliminate Israel.
Vienna police took a similar stance on Wednesday, preventing a pro-Palestinian protest due to the inclusion of the slogan in their calls, describing it as a call for violence as they feared it implied erasing Israel from the map.
Is the slogan linked to Hamas?
Historians say that the historical roots of this slogan extend beyond the founding of Hamas movement, which is as old as the Palestinian resistance against Zionism.
They say that the call for freedom in the slogan can be traced back to previous efforts to establish a Jewish state in the Palestinian territories about 76 years ago.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to divide Palestine into two separate states: a Jewish state and an Arab state.
While the Jews in Palestine celebrated this decision, the Arab population strongly opposed it, as they viewed all of Palestine, “from the river to the sea,” as an indivisible homeland.
Many Palestinians see the slogan as a prelude to a state of their own where they can live as free citizens without facing Israel’s oppression.