Kit Klarenberg & David Cronin
The Electronic Intifada / April 24, 2023
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.
It is a simple message that resonates with everyone who abhors oppression.
It is also inclusive. The demand is not for liberty in the West Bank or Gaza only but throughout historic Palestine – the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
Evidently, the clear and simple message is unpalatable for Israel’s most ardent supporters. Among those supporters is Britain, the state which – through the 1917 Balfour Declaration – sponsored the Zionist colonization project, thereby robbing Palestinians of freedom and other basic rights.
Suella Braverman, the British home secretary, recently complained about “so-called anti-Israel protesters singing anti-Semitic chants like ‘from the river to the sea’ with impunity.”
Contending that aspiring for freedom in Palestine amounts to hatred of Jews is patently absurd. The patently absurd arguments of Israel and its supporters are nonetheless taken seriously by the West’s ruling elites.
So it comes as little surprise that Britain – which has supposedly protected free speech for centuries – is going to war against a slogan.
In an interview with the pro-Israel Jewish Chronicle, Braverman argued that the slogan was “totally unacceptable,” as was “people waving flags of proscribed terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizballah.”
She added that she would expect the police and the prosecution services “to act where they encounter this.”
Notably, Braverman reserved her outrage for expressions of solidarity with Palestinians or support for armed resistance aimed at Israel. She has no plans to restrict speech by Israel’s advocates.
Britain has publicly backed many acts of Israeli state violence over the past few decades, including the 2006 attack on Lebanon and the repeated major offensives against Gaza.
Braverman’s interview with The Jewish Chronicle was designed to promote the formation of the Jewish Community Police, Crime and Security Taskforce.
The taskforce will examine if it is “necessary to review operational policing guidance in light of concerns shared by the Jewish community,” the Home Office – which Braverman currently heads – has stated.
“This could include guidance on specific chants, banners and emblems which are anti-Semitic,” the Home Office added.
The force appears to have a selective attitude toward the Jewish community.
It is highly unlikely that Jews critical of Israel – as numerous British Jews are – will be taking part in its work. So far, the Home Office has merely confirmed that the taskforce will be chaired by Braverman and will be composed of “senior policing leaders, ministers, the Community Security Trust (CST) and other stakeholders.”
The CST is a pro-Israel lobby group.
The case it has made against the “river to the sea” slogan is deceptive.
In 2021, it compiled a dossier purporting to show that the slogan was extremist. According to the dossier, Osama bin Laden of al-Qaeda and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had used the slogan, as had Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Yet the slogan actually refers to the geography of Palestine when it was ruled by Britain between the 1920s and the 1940s.
If the CST’s argument is taken to its logical conclusion, then Britain’s historical understanding of what constituted Palestine was inherently anti-Semitic.
In fact, the British government would be the appropriate target of the CST’s anger if it is genuinely offended by fundamental issues, including the idea that Palestine stretches from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.
Although it would be implausible to describe the map of Palestine as anti-Semitic, Britain’s support for Zionist colonization was indeed motivated by a prejudice against Jews.
Arthur James Balfour, who as foreign secretary signed the eponymous declaration of support for the Zionist movement, regarded Jews as an “alien and even hostile” presence in the West. It was precisely because of his racist attitudes that he felt Jews should be encouraged to settle in Palestine.
Not surprisingly, the Home Office’s recent announcement neglected to provide any context to Britain’s support for Israel or its state ideology Zionism.
In today’s Britain, the government willingly perpetuates the lie that there is something anti-Semitic about wanting freedom for Palestinians.
Suella Braverman is quite fond of that lie.
In her interview with The Jewish Chronicle, Braverman emphasized her support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.
That definition was originally drawn up in discussions between European Union officials and pro-Israel lobbyists. It conflates criticism of Israel’s racism and aggression with anti-Jewish hatred.
Braverman indicated that she wants the Home Office to promote use of the definition by the various bodies which it oversees, including the police.
Until now, the definition’s effects in Britain have mainly been felt on its university campuses. It has been used in attempts to censor and even sack teachers who oppose Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
Encouraging the police to fully embrace the definition could potentially take matters to a new level.
Is Britain on the cusp of making calls for Palestinian freedom a criminal offense?
Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist
David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada