Allow me to translate the “river to the sea” slogan for progressives.

When you chant “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” what those within Israel or externally supportive of the country hear is similar to what you would hear if a large group of conservatives marched in the street chanting: “White people will be free, from Bar Harbor to San D.”

You would infer an insinuation that “freedom” in this context means expulsion of the Other and that this prohibition must span from one border of a region (i.e., the United States) to the other.  And you’d be correct to object to a group’s shouting chants that ignore the reality of representative democracy and the rule of law.

I suspect many progressives’ thought process is that Hamas’s recent atrocities were horrific, but the solution is to allow Palestinians, more broadly than Hamas, their area of autonomy.  I’d be surprised if most don’t think “the river to the sea” means the borders of Gaza.  Alternately, they may be using the apartheid framing, imagining that non-Jews are oppressed in Israel, in which case “freedom” means their enfranchisement throughout the country.

They should learn that those responses are not captured by the “river to the sea slogan.”  Rather, the people chanting it are responding to the terroristic slaughter of Jews in Israel by endorsing their expungement from the region, which the rest of us understand as genocide, indeed.

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