|• Langue originale : anglais
“From the River to the Sea” is not merely a slogan — it is an undying promise and demand for national liberation. Attempts to vilify it are only meant to undermine the movement against Zionism and silence calls for Palestinian freedom.
Over the past five weeks, we have seen millions, if not billions, of people around the world mobilizing for Palestine. On November 4, history was made in the heart of the United States empire with the largest Palestine march in U.S. history. On November 11, over a million people took to the streets of London in another record-breaking march. We have also seen protests regularly organized across the globe. These demonstrations are protesting the Zionist entity’s genocide which this month alone has claimed over 11,000 Palestinian lives, over half of them children. Amidst this genocide, and the building of a historic global movement in support of the Palestinian people, Zionist institutions and the Western nations that finance Israel’s savagery have earnestly attacked a central slogan and chant heard at these historic actions: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free.”
Through this attack, the forces of Zionism and imperialism are attempting to delegitimize the movement for Palestinian national liberation and distract from Israel’s genocide. The attempts to vilify and criminalize this chant are part of a broader effort to undermine the movement against Zionism and to silence the calls for Palestinian freedom, which can be heard in every corner of the world. The thousands of people joining the movement each day are living proof that efforts to undermine our calls for freedom are failing and that we, and our supporters, will remain steadfast in our vision for Palestinian liberation from the river to the sea.
This chant for freedom is currently being smeared as hate speech or incitement to violence. U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was censured for saying it. Harvard’s President condemned the use of the phrase by student organizers, announcing the creation of an antisemitism advisory group in response. A Palestinian organizer in Calgary, Canada was charged by police for leading the chant during a protest. In Britain, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman penned a letter to the Metropolitan Police encouraging them to “consider whether chants such as ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ should be understood as an expression of a violent desire” and even insinuated the criminalization of the chant. The mainstream media has painted the slogan in a similar light, either suggesting it calls for the genocide of Jewish people or attempting to both-sides it by painting the history of the call for Palestinian liberation as “complex.” In response, some have defended the phrase by decontextualizing it from its ties to a struggle for national liberation, suggesting that it is “a call for Israel to extend citizenship and legal and political equality to every single human being residing within its current borders.” What this kind of analysis fails to grasp is that Palestinians do not chant this phrase in a plea for citizenship within a nation built on our genocide, but rather as a demand for national liberation and freedom.
Of course, for Zionism, Palestinian freedom is an existential threat to the project of creating a colonial ethno-state on top of Palestine. This is a state that has no official borders and, over the past 75 years, has occupied Egyptian, Syrian, and Lebanese land (and continues to violate Syria and Lebanon’s sovereignty). Netanyahu, two months ago in the United Nations General Assembly, held up a map of “the New Middle East.” This Zionist geographical imaginary eliminated Palestine from the region and absorbed the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, reflecting the Likud party’s charter, which steals our call for freedom and demands that “between the Sea and Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.”
The reality is that Zionism’s brutal violence against the Palestinian people extends across all of historic Palestine: from the West Bank’s Jordan River to Gaza’s sea. No Palestinian life is sacred amidst its genocidal blockade, in the presence of its settlements and checkpoints, nor within its prison walls where thousands of Palestinians are held and tortured, and 2.3 million Gazans are held hostage. Palestinian freedom necessitates total liberation: not only from the river to the sea, but beyond the borders of historic Palestine, where millions of Palestinians await return. Palestinian liberation necessitates liberation from Zionism.
But why is there now a heightened attempt to equate Palestinian calls for liberation with genocidal hate speech? There is an actual genocide that the Israeli regime and its Western backers are undertaking between the river and the sea. This smear campaign is a strategy that works to keep the Palestinian movement on the defensive as we attempt to stop a genocide that Western governments are greenlighting and funding. It aims to distract from the genocide unfolding and promote doubt and fear among the increasing numbers of people who are growing conscious of their institutions’ and governments’ complicity in it. It intends to obfuscate the question of violence: simultaneously painting violence as the words of the occupied and detracting from the violence of the occupier’s genocide.
In response to these claims, Palestinians in Western countries and those who stand with them are having to (at best) spend their time explaining the meaning of “From the River to the Sea,” or (at worst) defend themselves against backlash, suspensions, and repression for using the phrase. The fixation on discourse and the scrutinization of our chants aims to sow uncertainty into the hearts and minds of those new to the movement while providing institutions such as universities, the media, and workplaces with new tools to continue justifying their repression.
Such strategies make invisible what is happening in Palestine, that is: over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed by bombs funded by imperialist powers like the U.S., Canada, and Britain; patients in the ICU of Al Shifa hospital have died due to power outages; children are collecting water pooled up in the streets to drink; people are dying from lack of food, medical care, and water; hospitals are collapsing; 10,000 Palestinians are held hostage in Israeli prisons, being tortured to death; hundreds of Palestinians have been murdered in the West Bank; and hundreds of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have been arrested in the 1948 territories since October 7. Israel’s horrific crimes cannot even be fully documented because they have cut off Gaza’s communications infrastructure and killed more than 40 Palestinian journalists and media workers. Alongside this, there is clear discursive evidence of Israel’s ambitions in Gaza: politicians, officials, and media personalities have repeatedly called for genocide in Gaza and even Israeli doctors, those who have taken the Hippocratic oath of ethics, have greenlighted the bombing of Gaza’s hospitals. These are the material facts of genocide happening on the ground.
How is anyone to believe, amidst a genocide that has taken over 11,000 Palestinian lives, that a chant for freedom is what incites violence? How dare anyone fear the call for liberation recited by the masses instead of the bombs raining down on Gaza? This is precisely what this focus on discourse aims to achieve: a vehicle through which to further the projects of Zionism and Western imperialism. It is true, however, that Zionists know very well that Zionism is incompatible with Palestinian life and that its foundation is premised on the expulsion, exploitation, and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. This is precisely why a chant for Palestinian freedom and national liberation is met with such hysteria and repression. This is particularly evident in a moment where this march for Palestinian freedom grows stronger, with millions across the globe joining our struggle. All over North America and Europe, people are waking up to the role of their governments in this genocide. From protests to blocking the transport of weapons to shutting down media outlets and political offices, the masses are calling not only for a ceasefire but for an end to the siege on Gaza and the halting of aid and weapons to the Zionist state.
For over 75 years, the Zionist project has aimed to destroy and eliminate the Palestinian people. And for 75 years, the Palestinian people have continued to maintain their presence and struggle to stay on and return to their lands.
“From the River to the Sea” is not merely a slogan — it is an undying promise. Each day, the Palestinian revolution grows stronger, the calls for freedom are louder, and we are one day closer to total liberation: from the river to the sea.
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.
From the sea to the river, Palestine will live forever.
Source : article publié sur le site web Mondoweiss
Source de la photographie d’en-tête : Palestinian Youth Movement
Palestinian Youth Movement activists holding the banner that lead the march of 300,000 pro-Palestine supporters in Washington, d.c., on November 4, 2023.