Why the Slogan “From the River to the Sea . . . ” Is a Call for the Destruction of Israel

At an event at the UN last week dedicated to lamenting the creation of a Jewish state, the Temple University professor and regular CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill gave a speech condemning Israel. He concluded by declaring, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Those familiar with this popular slogan know it to be a call for Israel’s violent destruction. Hill—who has since lost his job at CNN and issued a public apology—insisted that his words were innocuous: what could possible be objectionable about advocating liberty for the people who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea? Quite a lot, replies David Schraub:

All [the slogan’s defenders] want, in Hill’s articulation, is a secular . . . state—not a “Jewish” state or a “Palestinian” state, but a state for all its citizens where all those permanently residing between the river and the sea enjoy the same rights. Just as America didn’t stop being America when it passed the Fourteenth Amendment or the Civil Rights Act, neither would Israel cease to be Israel if it changed its laws to provide for that vision of secular liberal equality. It would simply be an Israel with better laws and institutions than Israel has now. . . .

One interesting feature of this rejoinder, however, is that it suggests that the slogan . . . could just as easily run “from the river to the sea, Israel will be free.” Indeed, on a purely semantic level, that would seem to be the more accurate expression. The state that currently exists, and where the objectionable unfreeness currently obtains, is Israel. . . .

Nonetheless, I suspect that most of those who chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” would reject the substitution. This suggests that there is a replacement going on: Israel-with-better-laws is not viewed as the same thing as a free Palestine. . . . The [tell] is that the slogan does not refer to freeing Palestinians. It speaks of freeing Palestine—a territory, not a people. . . . When we speak of freeing a territory, we usually are speaking of a land that is under foreign dominion. . . . And this also explains why a slogan saying “Israel will be free” rings so odd: free from whom? . . .

If the entire presence of Israel anywhere from the river to the sea is an alien imposition on Palestine, then the net result is that Jews are deemed foreigners everywhere from the river to the sea. [In other words], the goal isn’t the creation of a Palestinian state but the elimination of a Jewish homeland.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Debate Link

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 

The Military Perils of Ceding Israeli Control of the West Bank

April 24 2019

In the years since the second intifada ended, no small number of retired high-ranking IDF officers and intelligence officials have argued that complete separation from the Palestinians is a strategic necessity for Israel. Gershon Hacohen, analyzing the geography, the changes in warfare—and Middle Eastern warfare in particular—since the 1990s, and recent history, argues that they are wrong:

The withdrawal of IDF forces from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will constitute an existential threat to Israel. The absence of an Israeli military presence in the West Bank, especially along the Jordan River, will enable the creation of a terrorist entity, à la the Gaza Strip, a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland. This withdrawal will box Israel into indefensible borders, especially in light of the major changes in the nature of war in recent decades that have made the astounding achievements of 1967 impossible to replicate, not to mention the stark international response [that would follow Israel’s] takeover of a sovereign state.

The deployment of international forces in the West Bank will not, [contrary to what some have argued], ensure the demilitarization of the prospective Palestinian state, let alone prevent the entry of Arab forces into its territory (with or without its consent) and/or its transformation into a springboard for terrorist attacks against Israel. . . .

Israel [now] maintains control of some 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory, . . . which is mostly empty of Palestinian population but includes all of the West Bank’s Jewish communities and IDF bases, as well as main highways, vital topographic areas, and open spaces descending eastward to the Jordan Valley. The retention of this territory constitutes the absolute minimum required for the preservation of defensible borders and meets two conditions necessary for Israel’s security: the Jordan Valley buffer zone, without which it will be impossible to prevent the rapid arming of Palestinian terrorist groups throughout the West Bank; and control of intersecting transportation arteries, which, together with control of strategic topographical sites, enables rapid deployment of IDF forces deep inside Palestinian areas.

It is the surrender of such conditions in Gaza that has transformed the Strip into an ineradicable terrorist entity. Uprooting the West Bank’s Jewish communities will also make it difficult for the IDF to operate in the depth of the Palestinian state, especially if it is forced to fight simultaneously on a number of fronts, [since] simultaneous fighting in Gaza, which will be an integral part of the future Palestinian state, is a foregone conclusion.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Palestinian statehood, West Bank