What does “From The River To The Sea” mean?

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” echoes through pro-Palestinian rallies across campuses and cities.

Israel map, 1949-1967

The expression “From the river to the sea” was first used by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. In its founding charter, the PLO demanded the establishment of a single Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, decisively rejecting the UN’s 1947 partition plan for Palestine. This was three years before Israel gained control of the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt in a defensive war. The intent of the PLO wasn’t to liberate the West Bank and Gaza; it was to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people. The genocide of Jews is still the goal of Hamas.

In 1966, the Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, the father of Iraq’s current dictator, said: “We shall only accept war and the restoration of the usurped land … to oust you, aggressors, and throw you into the sea for good.”

The PLO was replaced by the Palestinian Authority in 1993. Yasser Arafat was the leader of both; he also founded the Fatah political party and its terrorist wing. Fatah terrorists have perpetrated many terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings against Israelis. Now, the PLO, Palestinian Authority and Fatah are led by Mahmoud Abbas, who is a known Holocaust denier and financier of the 1972 Munich massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Olympics. He is considered a “moderate” Palestinian leader.

By 2012, Hamas adopted the slogan in its drive to claim land spanning Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north,” Khaled Mashaal, the group’s former leader, said that year in a speech in Gaza celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas. “There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” The phrase also has roots in the Hamas charter that calls for the annihilation of the state of Israel.


Palestinian activists who say it’s a call for peace and equality ignore the facts:

  • Arab Israelis live in an integrated society with equal rights. Many opt to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Claims that they are living under apartheid are simply false.
  • Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and it has been under Hamas control since then. Within Gaza, Hamas oppresses Christians, gay people, and women who will not submit. They enforce their form of Islam on all residents.
  • Palestinians live in self-imposed statelessness after torpedoing at least eight opportunities.

Protesters who believe that their idea of Palestine will be either peaceful or equal are deluded. “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate,” U.S. Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib tweeted. When they insist, against all evidence of the evil intent of Hamas, they are gaslighting you.

Not only does the founding covenant of Hamas explicitly call for the destruction of the Jewish state; Its control of Gaza is marked by authoritarianism, human rights abuses and a disregard for the welfare of Palestinians. Hamas is incapable of making Gaza thrive because it dedicates its resources to the destruction of Israel and not the construction of Gaza, and the betterment of its citizens.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said, “I don’t know how you can have a ceasefire, a permanent ceasefire, with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the State of Israel. I think what the Arab countries in the region understand is that Hamas has got to go.”

Denying the Jewish right to self-determination, including through the removal of Jews from their ancestral homeland, is inherently antisemitic, and it can make diaspora Jews with ties to Israel believe they are unsafe in both countries.

“Have no doubt that Hamas is cheering those ‘from the river to the sea’ chants, because a Palestine between the river to the sea leaves not a single inch for Israel,” read a November, 2023 open letter signed by 30 Jewish news outlets around the world.

Ask Jewish people in New York or London what’s so chilled them about the current spike in antisemitism, and many will cite what seems like the ubiquity of the slogan. It is a sign, they suggest, that there’s much to fear.

And in the wake of Hamas’ killing of civilians on Oct. 7, 2023, they’re not buying that the chant is merely anti-Israel. Backed by groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, they say it’s inherently anti-Jewish. The rise of violence against Jews worldwide shows the intent.

“It is a feeling that the conflict has been exported and that Hamas is on the doorstep, that they are unsafe,” a London Jew said.

“Probably it is true that most American college students, for example, who chant ‘from the river to the sea’ do not mean to evoke this idea of ethnic cleansing, do not mean to call for the erasure of Israel or the destruction of all Jews in that land,” said Julie Rayman, managing director of policy and political affairs for the American Jewish Committee. “But unfortunately they are echoing that exact trope,” she added.

Instead of building a thriving nation, Hamas divested the billions of dollars of foreign aid, towards building a terror machine, which culminated in the October 7th massacre, during which approximately 1,200 Israeli citizens were slaughtered, 240 kidnapped and almost 5,000 were injured.

This is what they mean by “Free”, when they chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

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