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‘From the river to the sea’ is just fine so long as it’s Israel’s sovereignty

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments

A lot has already been said about the prompt firing of CNN host Marc Lamont Hill last week after pressure from Israel apologists, basically for uttering the words “from the river to the sea” at the UN, in his hope for Palestinians to be free.

I stand in solidarity with Marc Lamont Hill. In fact, I stood in a somewhat similar situation on the day. That day was the 29th of November, the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I was in Copenhagen, and was asked to deliver a speech at the local marking of the day outside the town hall. I spoke alongside some rather prominent officials and former officials – like former minister and chair of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, former head of UNRWA Peter Hansen, General Secretary of Amnesty Denmark Trine Christensen and others. And my speech was about how Israel has basically overtaken Palestine, from the river to the sea, and how it had always meant to do that. I didn’t use the precise phrase “from the river to the sea” though, that’s the only difference.

The classical historical connection of the date November 29th is the UN ‘Partition Plan for Palestine’ (UN Resolution 181) from 1947. But I decided to start a decade earlier – 1937.

I referred to David Ben-Gurion’s letter to his son Amos from that year. He was addressing an early partition suggestion of the British Peel Commission, and wrote:

“My assumption (which is why I am a fervent proponent of a state, even though it is now linked to partition) is that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning. When we acquire one thousand or 10,000 dunams, we feel elated. It does not hurt our feelings that by this acquisition we are not in possession of the whole land. This is because this increase in possession is of consequence not only in itself, but because through it we increase our strength, and every increase in strength helps in the possession of the land as a whole. The establishment of a state, even if only on a portion of the land, is the maximal reinforcement of our strength at the present time and a powerful boost to our historical endeavors to liberate the entire country.”

That “land as a whole”, that “entire country”, is Palestine from the river to the sea.

I explained how Israel used the legitimacy granted to it by the UN as a jumping-board towards further expansion, in stages – just as Ben-Gurion had described in his letter. Till 1967, when Israel conquered all the land between the river and the sea.

In the 1980s, the “2-state solution” was considered an extremist and nefarious plot by the Palestine Liberation Organization. In fact, the PLO had accepted partition: it was ahead of Israel in terms of reducing its goals to seeking a Palestinian state merely on 22% of historical Palestine, rather than 100%.

Then the idea of a “2-state solution” became mainstream after negotiations officially began in Madrid in 1991. And Israel embarked upon the famous “peace process”. Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir coined the ‘teaspoon policy’: endless negotiating sessions at which countless teaspoons amounting to mountains of sugar would be stirred into oceans of tea and coffee, but no agreement would ever be reached.

And that’s basically how it’s been. Even when many were under the impression that Palestinians were finally getting a state, like in the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, the reality was that they were getting Bantustans, always “less than a state”, as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had assured the Knesset just before he was murdered in 1995.

That’s been the orthodoxy. The Palestinians should get “less than a state”, and the Israelis should get more than their state: a non-demarcated, ever-expanding area, growing through “facts on the ground” – settlements built on occupied territory, in flagrant violation of international law.

And what happens when Netanyahu’s Likud says “from the river to the sea”? Do they get fired, like Marc Lamont Hill? No, they get elected. The original party platform on which the Likud was first elected in 1977 stated that “between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty”. 

The 1999 Likud party platform, never rescinded, repeats this:

“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”

Netanyahu confirmed just before his last election victory in 2015 that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch.

It may be that the right is more overt about its intentions, while the left is more ambiguous. But it leads to the same result. And the result is that one state, from the river to the sea, under Israeli Apartheid control in various degrees from 2nd class citizenship to being incarcerated in an unlivable concentration camp (Gaza).   

There’s no real issue for Israeli apologists concerning the notion of “from the river to the sea”, as long as it’s Israel. But when the phrase is uttered in relation to Palestine and Palestinian rights, that’s immediately framed as terror, destruction and genocide.

Several are making this point in the wake of the Hill drama.

Gideon Levy:

What would have happened if Hill had called for the establishment of a Jewish state between the Jordan and the sea? He would have safely continued holding down his job. Rick Santorum, the former senator, said in 2012 that “no Palestinian” lives in the West Bank. Nobody thought of firing him. Even Hill’s critic, Shapiro [Ben Shapiro, an analyst on Fox News who labeled Hill anti-Semitic], has called in the past for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the territories (he backtracked on it a few years later) and nothing happened to him.

Miko Peled:

The call “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be Free” brings out the worst in the Zionist spokespersons. From CNN and Fox News to the various Zionist trolls and spokespersons around the world: “Aha!” they say, “The true face of these anti-Semites has been exposed.” Panic seems to strike as they assert that this is “a call for genocide of the Jews.” But the assumption that a free Palestine calls for the expulsion or killing of Jews is one that is made mostly by Zionists who can see Palestine only as a place where one side rules over and kills the other, but never where all people live in peace. Furthermore, it has become basic strategy to always cry “anti-Semitism” when the Zionist narrative is challenged.

Maha Nassar:

Most troubling for me, the belief that a “free Palestine” would necessarily lead to the mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis is rooted in deeply racist and Islamophobic assumptions about who the Palestinians are and what they want.

This is a discussion that Zionists simply do not want to have. As Israel is now reaching the final stages in the takeover of the whole of historical Palestine, from the river to the sea, it cannot but censor any mentioning of the naked emperor, lest it be noticed that there is just one, apartheid state, from the river to the sea. Such a recognition would inevitably lead to a demand for equal rights under that one state, rather than further talk of partition, when there is no cake left to divide, only crumbs. Israel ate the cake, and now it wants to have it too.

It may yet be that Marc Lamont Hill’s firing will prove to be the spur for a serious opening of this discussion, which is really the elephant in the room. And the elephant’s name, by the way, is Zionism.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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19 Responses

  1. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    December 5, 2018, 12:49 pm

    Zios have been totally predictable in the creation of the 2 state myth and the maintenance of the two state myth but aruably since Oslo have not been the main culprits. No IMHO that accolade belongs 100% to Abbas and the Vichy collaborators of the PA who have known arguably from the start of the”peace process” and the creation of the so called Palestinian “Authority ” that it was an ongoing blatant Zioscam.They have gone along with it simply to maintain their own positions and lifestyle and arguably line their pockets all the time facilitating the degradation of their “own” people. The good news is that Zionism is increasingly being driven and directed by looney tune biblical fairytale fanatics who are now used to getting absolutely their own way because of the desperation of the Yahoo and his fellow right wing schemers in the Knutsett to stay in power or gain power. Sooner rather than later the Ziolooonies will feel that all`s fair game in the “River to the Sea” fairy tale – first item on the agenda likely to be a takeover of the Al Asqa with the most moral standing idly by or actively helping. Can`t seriously have a “River to the Sea” with that Muslim “monstrosity” smack bang in the middle. Then the brown stuff will really hit the fan in the Middle East and throughout the world and the demographic reality of being little more than a tiny bunch of brutal foreign land thieves bankrolled by the US will hit home.

    Tick tick

  2. Marnie
    Marnie
    December 6, 2018, 2:48 am

    What is it called when the zionist reaction to the proposition of palestinian freedom is that it is a call to genocide of the ‘jewish state’? PROJECTION.

  3. Nathan
    Nathan
    December 6, 2018, 2:10 pm

    The slogan “to free Palestine from the river to the sea” means the undoing of the State of Israel. It’s really very obvious. And, yet, in an anti-Israel website there seems to be an inability of just saying what is the clear agenda of anti-Israel activism. Jonathan Ofir brings to our attention a letter of Ben-Gurion from 1937, and he quotes the Likud party platform from 1999 – instead of just stating his position (that he believes there shouldn’t be the State of Israel).

    Jonathan then brings us a quote from Miko Peled in which he claims that “it has become basic strategy to always cry ‘anti-Semitism’ when the Zionist narrative is challenged”. Ironically, this quote is followed by a quote from Maha Nasser in which we hear about “Islamophobic assumptions about who the Palestinians are and what they want”. Actually, it’s really funny: To raise a grievance of antisemitism is quite silly, but to raise a grievance of Islamophobia is absolutely normal.

    Jonathan Ofir would have us believe that the discussion at hand is all about Zionism (“the elephant in the room”). Well, no, it’s not so. The issue is ending the conflict. There is a call for a single state from the river to the sea, but there is never any promise that the realization of this demand means that the conflict would be over. It wouldn’t, of course, and we all know it. You would think that (even from a tactical point of view) an anti-Israel activist would like to convince the supporters of Israel to give up on the Jewish state by promising them that a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” would bring about harmony and good will and an end of the animosity. Read again the quote from Maha Nasser: The notion that a “free Palestine” would mean the “mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis” is supposedly a type of racism – and yet he doesn’t actually deny it either.

    • eljay
      eljay
      December 7, 2018, 7:36 am

      || Nathan: The slogan “to free Palestine from the river to the sea” means the undoing of the State of Israel. It’s really very obvious. … ||

      I agree. And while colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” should be undone I think Israel should be reformed into:
      – the secular and democratic state of and for all Israelis living in and up to n-generations removed from it;
      – that respects the Partition borders it accepted and within which it was recognized as a sovereign state; and
      – honours its obligations under international law.

      This – in conjunction with the establishment of an equally secular, democratic and law-abiding Palestinian state – would “free Palestine from the river to the sea”.

      || … Read again the quote from Maha Nasser: The notion that a “free Palestine” would mean the “mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis” is supposedly a type of racism … ||

      I don’t know if it is “a type of racism” but it certainly is offensive to suggest that what Palestinians would want most upon liberation is to “mass annihilate” Jewish Israelis.

      If someone were to make a comparable suggestion about Jews there would be no end to the accusation of “blood libel” and “anti-Semitism” and “Jew hatred”.

    • Tonja
      Tonja
      December 7, 2018, 9:09 am

      Nathan brings to our attention that Jonathan Ofir brings to our attention a letter of Ben-Gurion from 1937, and he quotes Jonathan Ofir quoting the Likud party platform from 1999 – instead of just stating his position (that he believes there shouldn’t be a State of Palestine but the state of Israel from the river to the sea without a single palestinian within)
      Works just as well doesn’t it?
      What is stated without proof can be denied without proof.

  4. Jonathan Ofir
    Jonathan Ofir
    December 6, 2018, 3:46 pm

    Nathan has just framed Maha Nasser as a potential genocider – because Nasser didn’t “deny” the “mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis”. Should Nasser have explicitly written that she is against genocide for Nathan to believe her? But this was Nasser’s own point: “Most troubling for me, the belief that a “free Palestine” would necessarily lead to the mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis is rooted in deeply racist and Islamophobic assumptions about who the Palestinians are and what they want.” And I don’t think Nathan would believe her even if she shouted it out loud.

    • catalan
      catalan
      December 6, 2018, 4:29 pm

      “the belief that a “free Palestine” would necessarily lead to the mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis is rooted in deeply racist and Islamophobic assumptions about who the Palestinians are…” Jonathan
      The belief is grounded in introspection and common sense. If I were a Palestinian, especiallly from Gaza, that’s exactly what I would want. The Palestinians are human, like me, and presumably want the same things as I do. Sadly, they don’t have the ability to annihilate the Jews; they can however call for the boycott of Starbucks and Victoria Secret. Why not just admit that both sides would not cry too hard if the other side were annihilated. Rather thank humanizing them, Jonathan, you are making them into saints, which actually is a form of condescention at best. Why not instead put yourself in their shoes and admit that their dreams of annihlation are not beastly but rather a normal response to being the loser?

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        December 6, 2018, 6:54 pm

        So the Palestinians are to be likened to those thousands of ethnic Germans ethnically cleansed (“transferred” in the vernacular of 1945) from their Eastern Europe homelands on the heels of the end of WW2?

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        December 8, 2018, 4:56 am

        ‘The belief is grounded in introspection and common sense.’

        The belief is grounded in paranoia and guilt and the fear that keeps certain people awake at night wondering if they (the injured, the disenfranchised, the humiliated, the harmed beyond what mere words can describe) ever got a chance, they’d kill us (because that’s what we did to them). PROJECTION.

        It’s that zionist mentality, that of a master criminial – a thief, rapist, murderer, sociopath and liar, to assume that everyone he or she deals with is afflicted with the same corrosive disease of the soul. And that’s been the zionist game plan for 100 years.

  5. Jonathan Ofir
    Jonathan Ofir
    December 7, 2018, 3:06 am

    Catalan: “Jonathan, you are making [Palestinians] into saints, which actually is a form of condescention at best”.

    No, Catalan, I am trying to recognize them as human.
    In 1967, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told his party that they must tell Palestinians that “we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes, may leave.”

    One can forever treat humans like dogs, and rationalise that once they are released from the inhumane captivity, they are bound to lash out against their former masters. But if that’s the logic, then slavery should never have been abolished, because who knows what those people would do.

    • catalan
      catalan
      December 7, 2018, 10:50 am

      “No, Catalan, I am trying to recognize them as human” Jonathan
      Humans are a very aggressive ape; just look at what we have done to earth in our mere 40 thousand year existence. If I was a Gazan, and a human as you say and I lived with no money, in polluted air, with barely any water and electricity, well I would wish the death of all Israelis. I don’t see how that’s not normal. Now, I happen to think that demanding the 1947 borders and he return of all refugees as BDS does is not the way out of this sad and tragic predicament. And that the dream to lol the Israelis is just that, a dream. Nonetheless, it is very human for the Gazans to hate the army which has them defeated, isolated and hopeless.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        December 8, 2018, 5:01 am

        So then by your explanation, israel should kill every Gazan because of what they’d normally do to ‘israelis’ if they had the chance? Preemptive genocide, just in case?

        Some people are more evolved and able to distinguish between friend or foe.

        Thanks for posting probably the most honest picture of the machinations of your thinking. Very enlightening. Saves me from reading anything further from you.

      • catalan
        catalan
        December 8, 2018, 9:58 am

        “It’s that zionist mentality, that of a master criminial – a thief, rapist, murderer, sociopath and liar, to assume that everyone he or she deals with is afflicted with “ marnie
        But if the Zionists are indeed rapists, sociopaths, etc, wouldn’t annihilation (or at least kicking them out) be their just reward? I mean, if you have that much hatred for a guy in New Mexico who has nothing to do with Israel, imagine how the Gazans feel towards the “Zionists”. Or you want good things to happen to “murderers and sociopaths” ? You object to my point but then restate it.

      • eljay
        eljay
        December 8, 2018, 12:43 pm

        || catalan: … If I were a Palestinian, especiallly from Gaza, [the mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis is] exactly what I would want. The Palestinians are human, like me, and presumably want the same things as I do.
        . . .
        Sadly, they don’t have the ability to annihilate the Jews …

        … If I was a Gazan … I would wish the death of all Israelis. …

        … imagine how the Gazans feel towards the “Zionists”. … ||

        So…according to you, Palestinians “especiallly from Gaza” want to “mass annihilate” Jewish Israelis, all Israelis, “the Jews” and Zionists. Impressive.

        || … But if the Zionists are indeed rapists, sociopaths, etc, wouldn’t annihilation (or at least kicking them out) be their just reward? … ||

        You Zionists have a disturbing obsession with death and retribution. (War) criminals can be held accountable through imprisonment.

        || … I mean, if you have that much hatred for a guy in New Mexico who has nothing to do with Israel … ||

        Alleged hatred. This is what actual hatred looks like:

        … I am however interested in doing evil, but not unto all others, but just you. … It’s people like you I truly wish I could do evil unto. That, sadly, would feel good. …

      • catalan
        catalan
        December 8, 2018, 1:45 pm

        “You Zionists have a disturbing obsession with death and retribution. (War) criminals can be held accountable through imprisonment.”Eljay
        Isn’t imprisonment a form of retribution? How many people do you want to imprison? As a side note, who are “you Zionists”? If Zionists are all those who believe in two states somewhere along the 1967 lines, that makes virtually the whole world Zionists. I mean conceivably even Hamas would accept that arrangement. Are Hamas and Iran also Zionists? How are my views of a two state arrangement similar to the international consensus “Zionist”? The Saudi peace initiative envisioned two states along the 1967 lines (not the Partition borders). Is the Saudi peace initiative “Zionist”?

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        December 8, 2018, 1:57 pm

        @catalan “I mean, if you have that much hatred for a guy in New Mexico who has nothing to do with Israel, imagine how the Gazans feel towards the “Zionists”. Or you want good things to happen to “murderers and sociopaths” ?”

        I don’t hate you and as far as what may happen to you makes no difference to me. Again, thank you for clarifying your POV.

      • eljay
        eljay
        December 8, 2018, 2:08 pm

        || catalan: Isn’t imprisonment a form of retribution? … ||

        Imprisonment isn’t vengeance – it’s a non-murderous form of accountability.

        || … How many people do you want to imprison? … ||

        How many people are guilty of (war) crimes?

        || … As a side note, who are “you Zionists”? … ||

        People like you who believe that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to hold it the right:
        – to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
        – to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

        || … Are Hamas and Iran also Zionists? … ||

        Sure, if they believe in the above.

  6. catalan
    catalan
    December 8, 2018, 2:41 pm

    “People like you who believe that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to hold it the right: – to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; “ Eljay
    I don’t believe a word of what you said. I don’t know what religion based means. I don’t believe that identities give any rights. I have no opinion on the size of “a Jewish” state. I am though afraid of Ustashi.

    • eljay
      eljay
      December 8, 2018, 5:52 pm

      || catalan: … I don’t believe a word of what you said. … ||

      I couldn’t care less.

      || … I don’t know what religion based means. I don’t believe that identities give any rights. I have no opinion on the size of “a Jewish” state. … ||

      Of course you do.

      || … I am though afraid of Ustashi. ||

      I, too, would be afraid of Ustashi if Ustashi threatened me the way you did:

      … I am however interested in doing evil, but not unto all others, but just you. … It’s people like you I truly wish I could do evil unto. That, sadly, would feel good. …

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