Calling for Ceasefire Should Be Obvious and Uncontroversial. One Thing It’s Not Is Antisemitic

By Ahmed Twaij
Dec 17, 2023

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” exclaimed Patrick Henry at the second Virginia Convention in 1775. Henry was calling for freedom from British colonial rule in America. The words of the Founding Father have since been immortalized, taught in schools nationwide. Henry is seen as a hero for demanding freedom. What he was not calling for is genocide.

I never thought I would see the day that calls for freedom or for a ceasefire would be considered controversial, let alone antisemitic. Simply put, they aren’t.

Millions of pro-Palestinian protesters around the world have been chanting the famous “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” slogan. Since my own childhood, I’ve heard this chant at protests worldwide and not once have I interpreted it as a demand to murder all Jews in the region.

This year, however, has been different. Pro-Israeli groups have attempted to mar the slogan for liberation as being an antisemitic call for the genocide of all Jews in Israel. Freedom is never contingent on mass genocide. But it is these calls that have led to Rep. Rashida Talib, the only Palestinian in congress, to become one of only 25 members of congress to ever be censured. Talib was labelled as supported a “rallying cry for the destruction of the State of Israel and genocide of the Jewish people” by 70 of her House Democratic colleagues. Similarly, in the UK, Labour Party member was suspended for using the phrase.

The river in question is the Jordan River and the sea is the Mediterranean Sea. Despite Israel’s attempts to erase Palestinian identity from the region—from weaponizing museums and removing the dome and crescent from the minaret of the Jerusalem Citadel to literal mass expulsion and the building of illegal Israeli settlements—there can be no denying that Palestinians are present in the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Calling for their freedom should be a basic human right as chartered by the United Nations, and one that should echo globally. It does not equate to killing all Jews between the two bodies of water.

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Palestinians in the West Bank have for decades lived under what human rights organizations have referred to as “apartheid” and the U.N. as an illegal occupation. Although Britain granted Jews the right to establish a state in British Mandate Palestine and enjoy self-determination, the same rights have since been denied to Palestinians in the West Bank who have farmed those lands for centuries.

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