What’s wrong with “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”?


Guest post by Joshua Sampson

What’s wrong with the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” and why is it extremely problematic that Greens MP Ricardo Menendez used it? – an exploration.

Today Greens MPs Ricardo Menendez posted a picture of himself, Golriz Ghahraman and Chlöe Swarbrick at a Sheikh Jarrah / Palestinian solidarity march, along with the caption “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free”

The slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free” refers to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean sea, that is to say it refers to all the land which is currently Israel (with the exception of the Golan Heights) and the Palestinian Territories. The phrase was initially used by the PLO (a designated terrorist organisation) to describe the areas that they believed should be part of a Palestinian state – that is to say they rejected the existence of a Jewish State in any form in the area.

This was their official position from 1964 until the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, at which point they mostly discontinued their use of the phrase. Today the slogan is most popularly used by Hamas, another terrorist organisation, who’s founding charter explicitly calls for the obliteration of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic, Palestinian State in its place.

While the slogan is used by other people, occasionally those who have different intentions, slogans carry the weight and the intention of the people who created them, those who popularised them and those who use the most frequently.

As per David Patterson, the slogan “contains the notion that the land which lies between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea be entirely placed under Arab rule at the cost of the State of Israel”.  It therefore directly calls for the dissolution of the State of Israel and refutes the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in our homeland.


Not only that but the call implies (even if unintentional) the endorsement of the ethnic cleansing of Jew from the River to the Sea, for 2 reasons:

1) As stated, the slogan carries the weight and the intention of the people who created it, those who popularised them and those who use the most frequently. That would be the PLO and Hamas. Their agenda is not (or was not, in the case of the PLO) just the end of a Jewish State but the end of Jewish Presence in the region, and throughout history neither side has been afraid to use or suggest the use of violence (especially against civilians) to achieve that goal.

2) Unlike in Israel (where 20% of the population is Muslim Arabs with full and equal rights (although it has not always been the case) including political representation) it is hard to believe Jews could live in a Palestinian State. The current Jewish population of the Palestinian Territories is 0 (it is expressly illegal to be Jewish in Gaza, and in the West Bank it is de facto illegal, supported by laws that prohibit Jew owning/buying property or working). Jewish treatment would, at best, look like it did in surrounding Arab nations following the 1948 establishment of Israel – either explicit expulsion (for example in Iraq in 1951) or through government persecution (laws confiscating Jewish property, companies, preventing their employment etc.) that forced Jews to flee. These policies led to the reduction of the Jewish population of the Middle East (excluding Israel) and North Africa from 900,000 in 1947 to 8,000 today, and there is no reason to believe a Palestinian State would be dissimilar.

It therefore follows that giving Palestinians full control from the river to the sea would result, at best, in the exile of the 7 million Jews that currently live in the region.



At best this statement diverts from the current Greens (and NZ) official position – one that recognises both the Palestinians and Jews have a right to self determination and supports a two state solution. At worst it suggest support for (even if unintentional) the ethnic cleansing of 7 million Jews in the area. We should hold our MPs to a high standard with what they say and being aware of what it means and any implications that come with it.