What Does Free Palestine Mean to Palestinians?
We should know what “free Palestine” means to Palestinians before calling for a boycott of Israeli products. From the river to the sea. There would be no checkpoints, no settlements, and no borders. The slogan is a political statement that should not be confused with anti-Semitic or racist rhetoric. Instead, we should aim to educate our Western college students and understand what the Palestinian people mean.
From the river to the sea
The phrase “From the river to the sea in free Palestine” has been used by both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It refers to the disputed area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Different pro-Israeli and Palestinian stances have spawned many interpretations of the phrase. Initially, the area was occupied by the Jews in the early 1900s. The Zionist movement has supported finding a permanent homeland for the Jews.
The phrase “From the river to the sea in free Palestine” was coined by Hamas as a parody of the slogan, “Free Palestine from the river to the ocean.” It was a nostalgic cry for a time when the region was under British Mandate, which was anything but free. Sadly, the phrase has come to mean “free Palestine from the sea.” It is an absurd slogan because only one people is genuinely free.
It is important to note that citing Hamas leaders as sources for the slogan shows a shocking lack of knowledge about the Palestinian viewpoint and a deliberate attempt to smear the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Furthermore, the assumption that a “free Palestine” would lead to the mass destruction of Jewish Israelis reflects profoundly racist and Islamophobic assumptions about the Palestinians. As a result, such claims have little basis in reality.
A similar slogan was coined in Hebrew, “Chofshi b’ar-tiny.” It means “free in our own land” and is incorporated into the Israeli national anthem. However, the Arabic version, “hora min al-Nahr ila al-bahar,” is used by pro-Palestinian activists. The Israelis, on the other hand, react with dismay at this ambiguous slogan.
This slogan is used by pro-Palestinian groups who want a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. However, this slogan reflects the anti-Zionist stance of many Palestinian organizations. Hamas, the Palestinian nationalist group, uses the slogan in calls for the destruction of Israel. This slogan is echoed in the Likud charter, the leading center-right party in Israel.
There would be no checkpoints.
If Palestine were free, there would be no checkpoints. However, the barrier and checkpoints are spatial political technologies and a daily exercise for Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation. The Israeli government has designed Terminal checkpoints as “neutral border crossings,” including metal detectors, turnstiles, and x-ray machines. Palestinian commuters also have to pass through these checkpoints with iris and finger-scanning devices.
Palestinians suffer daily from the presence of checkpoints, which hinder everyday life. Hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints are scattered throughout the West Bank, destroying territorial contiguity and preventing everyday life for Palestinian residents. Roadblocks are a deterrent to the development of the Palestinian economy and society. Checkpoints are an obstacle to economic growth and can also be a source of terror.
While physical conditions have improved in Gaza,’ security’ forces can still be present and activate checkpoints within a short time. Fortunately, many checkpoints have been removed from Gaza, though some can be activated again within days. Despite the improvements in physical conditions, open physical violence by security forces has decreased. Women no longer give birth at checkpoints. Several extensive checkpoints have also been upgraded. Electronic identification systems are installed in the checkpoints to reduce wait times. These upgrades, however, cost hundreds of millions of shekels.
Moreover, Israeli soldiers bark orders in Hebrew to Palestinians, who cannot understand them. When Palestinians ignore these orders, they face abuse and punishment. Yet, despite their desperation, Palestinians are resilient. Despite the difficulties, the Palestinian lifestyle is diverse, contradictory, and complex. The reality is that the Palestinians suffer from a severe lack of fundamental human rights and opportunities. In a free Palestine, these things would be gone.
The first author, a Dutch citizen, engages with the machines at Checkpoint 300. She describes the disciplinary regime she had to endure at the checkpoint. Her experience changed the way others were treated. The first author, who was treated, says: “I had a bad experience there, but now I know better.”
There would be no settlements.
The consequences of this impasse are not particularly dire. Israel will continue to control the West Bank and Gaza from within and receive more US military aid than any other nation. Meanwhile, Israel has the highest subjective well-being in the world. But the question remains, will the Palestinians accept this situation? To answer this question, one needs to understand the history of Palestinian statehood. How could they?
The argument that partition is impossible is often based on the fact that Israel has absorbed over one hundred and fifty thousand settlers. However, the truth is that Israel absorbed many more Russian immigrants into its society in the 1990s than it did settlers. Moreover, settlers have already assimilated into Israeli society, have a network of friends and relatives, and have a command of Hebrew. Hence, they could be considered the most reliable source of information when it comes to settling on the West Bank.
If we are genuinely interested in achieving justice for Palestinians, we must stop enabling Israel and the settlers to settle in the West Bank. In the end, the Palestinian people deserve justice within their lifetimes. The international community has a moral obligation to protect the human rights of Palestinians. Without it, Israel and the Palestinians will continue to be victims of terrorism. Our responsibility is to act now.
During the Six-Day War, the Israeli army killed seventy-five Palestinians and injured several hundred others. About five hundred and sixty Palestinian villages were depopulated. Many of these villages were later demolished. The number of such incidents increased to two hundred and eighty in the first half of 2021 and nearly tripled in the first and second half of 2019. There are no legal measures against the Israeli army for using excessive force against Palestinians.
One option is the two-state solution. In this scenario, Palestinian refugees would be allowed to stay in Israel, but the Jews would be given the right to return to their homes and lands in the West Bank. Furthermore, Israeli and Palestinian leaders could also grant citizenship to Jewish settlers in the West Bank in return for removing the Israeli military installations. The idea would be an important one because it would allow for the return of Palestinian refugees to their pre-1948 lands and homes.
Hamas is the oppressor and the oppressed.
In their 2005 election platform, Hamas called for creating an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the rights of all Muslims in the Holy Land. These principles and their demand for an independent Palestinian state have not changed since the election. The organization also calls for the restoration of the historic borders of Palestine and the recognition of the Palestinian state as a part of Arab and Islamic land.
In 2018, the Hamas de facto administration of Gaza passed laws that enacted severe restrictions on the movement of people and property. In addition to these laws, the de facto administration of Hamas passed a law in which the Israeli military used excessive force and torture on the people of Gaza. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights also reported the torture of prisoners under the Hamas administration.
The document also notes the struggle of the Palestinian people against the oppression of their government by the Israelis and their Zionist allies. This prompted Israel and its western allies to impose tough sanctions on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. When Hamas overthrew Fatah forces from Gaza in 2007, Israel tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip and began airstrikes. Meanwhile, Egypt closed the border with Gaza, which allowed Hamas to retake some territory.
Hamas’s communications shifted from jihad to resistance. In the past, Hamas’s communications highlighted the jihad aspect of their ideology. The term “jihad” was defined in Hamas communications as violent resistance against the Israeli military occupation. It was also interpreted as a religious duty for all Muslims.
The new communications focus on resistance. However, the Hamas leadership has abandoned this approach in favor of resistance.
The Israeli government claims that the conflict in Gaza is rooted in Arab hatred. However, the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to deliver a better life for their people and is thus the oppressor. The Palestinians are the oppressed in Palestine, and the oppressor is Hamas. So, what are the rights of Palestinians? The oppressed are the Palestinians. So, how do they justify their oppression?