Gefen Bar-On Santor

From the Atlantic to the Pacific: the Jew-hate drug is free of charge

Source for image: iStock: ClarkandCompany
Source for image: iStock, ClarkandCompany

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is an ear worm.  The slogan is so catchy that I have found myself chanting it around my home as dark humour.

As Israeli comedians have noted, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is true because it rhymes:

And because “river to the sea” sounds good, we become open to interpretating it as we do poetry—with appreciation for the rich ambiguity and nuance of language.

On Amazon, there is a children’s book called From the River to the Sea that is described as follows:

“PALESTINE LIVES WITHIN US, FROM OUR HISTORY, TO OUR CULTURE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN…”  From Al-Quds to Nablus and many more cities, Alia and Ayman explore what it means to be Palestinian as well as highlighting the beautiful sights and symbols that their home is known for.  A TRUE CELEBRATION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE PALESTINIAN.”

I did not read the book, which is not available for fast delivery or as an e-book.  I am thus citing the book not for its content but for the heart-warming connotations that the phrase “from the river to the sea” can evoke—depending on how the phrase is presented and on how much the reader knows or believes about the desire to annihilate Israel.

Many people in the West tell themselves that “from the river to the sea” is about truth and reconciliation—a celebration of justice, Palestinian identity and the desire for peaceful coexistence.

Never mind that many Israelis have been educated for truth and reconciliation their whole lives and that many attempts at peace agreements have failed (ask the peace activists who are now hostages in Gaza).

And never mind that some people who chant “from the river to the sea” cannot even identify the sea (the Mediterranean) and the river (the Jordan river)—which roughly define the boundaries of Israel.  One of the first accomplishment of Israeli children in school is to be able to chart the map of Israel with these iconic markers.  On the West: the curvy Mediterranean.  On the East: the Jordan river flowing into the Sea of Galilee and then into the Dead Sea and finally into the Red Sea.

Several generations of Jews and non-Jews alike have been born on this land that we love, so we have the obligation to ask—free to do what from the river to the sea?

Language, after all, can be used as an instrument of communication and connection—but also as a tool for manipulation, smoke-screening or bullying.

In Palestine, there is no freedom in the Western sense (ask any LGBTQ person living in Gaza).

The comedians told us best what “will be free” means when they observed at the conclusion of the above video that “will be Jew free” sounds even better than simply “will be free.”

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is no nuanced poetry.  It is a genocidal slogan.  As Douglas Murray has explained, it means at best the displacement and at worst the eradication of Israeli Jews (and I don’t think that Arab Israelis would fare so well either in a “free” Palestine):

“From the river to the sea” is about freedom somewhat as much as “arbeit macht frei” is about freedom—the fantasy of enslaving the Jews and exploiting their labour while also systematically murdering them.

“From the river to the sea” is about freedom in the same way that Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost says that he would rather “reign in hell than serve in Heaven.” I believe that most of the over 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian understand that it would be pandemonium, not heaven, to live in a “free Palestine” under Hamas rule.

If DEI educators have taught us anything, it is that the outcomes of behavior should matter more than intentions.  A number of people have pointed out that this is something that those who ignorantly chant “from the river to the sea” or who enjoy the chants from the comfort of their own homes should keep in mind.

When it comes to freedom fighters for Palestine, we should turn to Matthew 7:16: “By their fruit you will know them.  Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?”

In the same way, do you get empathy from the freedom lovers who convince themselves that they are screaming for justice?

On October 7, the greatest act of psychopathy against the Jewish people since the Holocaust—and against many non-Jewish victims—and against anybody who cares about crimes against humanity—was committed.

In response, Israel is forced to fight a tragic war in which it targets the Hamas but many civilians are heartbreakingly also killed or injured because the Hamas deliberately uses civilians as human shields and wants as many civilians as possible to die.

But the outpouring of Jew hate under the mask of “free Palestine” started as soon as the horrors of October 7 were known—and before Israel’s military response began.

An observer from outer space would note the following sequence in their travel blog:

  • October 7: The Hamas commits the worst atrocity against Jewish people since the Holocaust.
  • October 7, a few seconds later: More Jew hate erupts (and grows with increasing momentum) around the world from people who want you to believe that they stand for justice—just as a thorn bush stands for the production of grapes and figs.

On October 15, Russel Rickford, Associate Professor at History of Cornell University, enthused about feeling “exhilarated” as a result of October 7:

Thank you, Professor Rickford, for reminding us of what is truly free in the “free Palestine” protests—the drug of Jew hate is distributed free of charge.

Throughout the centuries, Jew hate has provided “mood altering” benefits to those who have consumed that non-chemical drug.  To survive, the drug, like a virus, had to mutate—and today it focuses on the demonization of Israel.  Who needs tales about the Jews killing Jesus (who was himself a Jew) or about the Jews being a race when you can believe in fictitious or exaggerated ideas about Israel?

If the people who chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” genuinely cared about Muslim lives, they would have respected the roughly 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Muslim—and who in almost all cases want to continue to live peacefully as Israeli citizens, not to live in a “free Palestine” under Hamas rule.  They would have respected the majority of Muslims around the world who want to live their lives peacefully.  The “free Palestine” protesters would have taken to the streets when hundreds of thousands of Muslims were murdered in Syria and in Yemen.  And they would have taken to the streets in response to the expulsion of Afghanis from Pakistan.

But the problem with these “other” causes is that they do not provide a supply of what some of the protesters likely really want—the exhilaration and other mood-altering effects made possible, free of charge and with the illusion of no harmful consequences, by the non-chemical drug of Jew hate.

Ultimately, the victims of Jew hate are not only Jews but also the Palestinians who are caught in the cycle of “supplying” the “free, non-chemical drug” to those around the world who want to keep Jew hate alive.  Therefore, those who care about peace must understand the addictive potential and harmful consequences of Jew hate: Jew hate is not free.

About the Author
Gefen Bar-On Santor teaches English at the University of Ottawa, as well as adult-education literature courses at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa, Canada. She is an enthusiastic believer in life-long learning and in the relevance of fiction to our lives. She also writes at
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