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Understanding ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free’

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Palestine protest from the river to the sea banner.

On 17 May 2024, the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN), along with numerous other organisations, issued a statement opposing the recent Senate motion that condemns the phrase “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” This condemnation is based on a fundamental misinterpretation of the phrase, which has historically been associated with the Palestinian cause for self-determination and statehood.

The True Meaning of the Phrase

The phrase “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” is deeply rooted in the aspiration for freedom and dignity for all individuals living within the lands stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It represents a vision for liberation and equality, regardless of background, faith, or nationality.

This vision is not a call for violence but peaceful coexistence and self-determination.

Misconceptions and Misuse

The recent Senate motion, spearheaded by Senator Birmingham, uses the words of Palestinians against them, implying that their calls for liberation are illegitimate. This motion not only distorts the meaning of the phrase but also silences the political and cultural expressions of Palestinians. Such actions detract from the actual issues at hand, including the ongoing genocide and humanitarian crises faced by Palestinians in Gaza.

Historical and Academic Perspectives

According to the University of Toronto’s Hearing Palestine Initiative, the phrase should be understood within the context of Palestinian history and culture. It is an expression of the Palestinian people’s collective memory and aspirations, not a political program advocating violence. This academic perspective underscores the importance of recognising the phrase as a call for liberation and equality in the face of colonisation and occupation.

The Impact of Reckless Language

The use of terms like “religiously motivated violent extremism” (RMVE) about Palestinian activism only serves to link terrorism with an entire religion, fostering fear and prejudice. This is not only inaccurate but also dangerous, as it fuels online hatred and increases the risk of hate incidents against the Muslim community. Public officials must use accurate language that reflects the political nature of terrorism rather than associating it with any religion.

AMAN’s Call to Action

AMAN, along with other supporting organisations, calls for an end to the reckless use of RMVE and urges a reconsideration of the Senate’s stance. It is imperative to focus on the real issues affecting Palestinians and to promote a narrative that supports liberation and human rights for all.