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Solving the "from the river to the sea" debate
In what sense does it "mean" anything?
Since Americans love to do semantics instead of politics, we’ve decided to have an important national debate on what “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” actually means. Politics aside, the logic of the debate is completely bizarre. Consider this exchange between Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Wasserman Schultz:
TLAIB: From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.
DWS: This phrase means eradicating Israel and Jews. Period. Dressing it up in a new PR plot won’t change that.
Who’s right? It’s hard to say. But if anyone is interested in moving past semantics, there’s a simple solution that Matt Bruenig and I have been using to get out of this sort of pickle: add a superscript. (Matt prefers a subscript, but follow your heart.) Moving forward, let’s say that from the river to the sea¹ means something like “freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence,” while from the river to the sea² means something like “eradicating Jews.”
If we do this, I think it’s obvious that Tlaib and DWS would both reject From the river to the sea, Palestine should be free², even though I should hope we all agree that From the river to the sea, Palestine should be free¹. I imagine adopting this simple convention would end the controversy really fast. It would just be silly if Tlaib explicitly said “1” and WS decided to pretend that she actually said “2”, right? How mind-bogglingly stupid it would be if she were actually doing something like that.
Despite her (I should hope) pro-1 anti-2 stance, I suspect that DWS actually does believe that the United States should continue to provide the government of Israel with billions of dollars in weaponry, even though they are dropping thousands and thousands of bombs upon innocent civilians. If she thinks this is a good idea, and if Zionists think this a good idea, then they should just say that plainly, and then we can argue about it. I happen to agree with a lot of Americans who believe that it’s an absolutely monstrous idea, and that the war criminals carrying this out need to be tried before the Hague. This is an actual disagreement, and I can only think of one reason why anyone would rather argue semantics about slogans instead.
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