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From The River To The Sea

Alternative Jewish Voices has been thinking about that
phrase, “from the river to the sea.”

Several weeks
ago, Wellington had a series of big, many-lingual
demonstrations seeking justice and safety for Palestinians.
One was on the steps of Parliament, urging our government to
stand up and protect the endangered people of Gaza. Then MP
Golriz Ghaharaman tabled a motion calling for Aotearoa-NZ to
recognise the State of Palestine. 138 countries have done
that already. We spoke at both rallies, and we thank
everyone present for their warm welcome. We closed by
wishing for “a just peace for everyone who lives between the
river and the sea.”

Meanwhile the NZ Jewish Council
has repeatedly called Green MPs antisemitic for using
exactly the same words. Hmm. Several American rabbis have
launched an initiative for Gaza, calling for “a just peace
that guarantees equality, justice and freedom for all who
live between the river and sea.”

Is the NZ Jewish
Council calling these rabbis antisemites? Inciters of
hatred? Have they undermined the security of the NZ Jewish
community? Jeff Halper’s new book is called
Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine: Zionism,
Settler Colonialism and the Case for One Democratic
. He uses the term “river to the sea” when he
discusses people’s fears about co-existence with
Palestinians. Does that make Jeff Halper (an Israeli) a
Jew-hater? From the river to the sea is geography –
there’s a river on one side and the sea on the other.
Governments, political parties and popular movements Israeli
and Palestinian have at times used expansionist, excluding
slogans in their politics. We condemn that because it takes
further from a just solution – but not every reference
to geography is hateful. We have been at, spoken at,
Wellington’s rallies and we have heard no hatred.

As a
term of liberation, the phrase may be politically
threatening because it unifies a space that successive
Israeli regimes have fragmented. It unifies national
consciousness, population counts and resistance – as in the
national strike by Palestinians. It is not a term we fear,
because we don’t view freedom as a zero-sum business.
Power may be finite, or privilege – yours may necessarily
be at the expense of mine. But freedom? Freedom belongs in
that wonderful economics of abundance – the more we have,
the more we can make.

‘From the river to the sea’ may
indeed rub some people the wrong way, but the term is in
wide use, including mainstream Jewish use. Rather like

We contend that the Jewish Council is
policing language much as Israel polices its special
divisions to preserve its privilege and power. We have
expanded on the language of protest in a recent article, Not
Just Antisemitism: A Language That Neither Hates Nor Falsely

We wish a just peace for all who live
between the river and the sea.

Alternative Jewish
Voices of New Zealand

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