Slogans Unmasked: A Global Wake-Up Call to Antisemitism's Resurgence
From Uncle Sam’s “We Need You!” to Nazi Germany’s “Sieg Heil,” slogans have historically been utilized as an effective and powerful tool in spreading propaganda, rallying the masses, and imprinting indelible messages onto the collective consciousness of societies around the world.
In the wake of Hamas’s attack on October 7th, the deadliest massacre on Jewish lives since the Holocaust, global support for Palestinians has skyrocketed at a record pace, propelled by slogans at the forefront of the movement. Pro-Palestinian rallies are rife with the use of these catchy, easily memorizable slogans, which, more often than not, are replete with antisemitic implications, calling for violence and the destruction of the only Jewish state in existence.
As use of these slogans has surged in major cities like New York and London, so has antisemitism, which has seen a 388% increase since the Hamas massacre, according to the ADL. These two crises are profoundly connected; they are aided by the world’s decision to turn a blind eye — and ear — to the thinly disguised hateful rhetoric voiced freely during Pro-Palestininan rallies, on college campuses, and in the media.
To help decode these troubling slogans, here is a guide to understanding some of the popular ones being used by supporters of Palestine:
#1 “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free”
Perhaps the most frequently used slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is a call for the establishment of a Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River on Israel’s east coast to the Mediterranean Sea on its west coast, free of Jews. Accomplishing this would require the destruction of the State of Israel.
The chant dates back to the origins of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), founded in 1964. The slogan was primarily a call for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1948 borders of the British Mandate, notwithstanding the Oslo Accords attempt to move towards a two-state solution.
Yet, despite Oslo’s creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a governing body in the West Bank, and the PLO formally recognizing Israel’s right to exist in the 1990s, the chants continue. Today, the slogan continues to represent a call for Israelis to be forced out and for Israel to cease to exist. And in case someone stopped to wonder where the 7.1 million Jewish citizens will go after this mass return, Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, has an answer:
"We do not recognize the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbor, nor to stay (on the land), nor his ownership of any inch of land … Our principles are clear: Palestine is a land of Waqf (Islamic trust), which can not be given up."
Palestinian supporters will often contend that the slogan represents a call for equal rights for all individuals under a unified Palestinian state. In the words of Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, (who was censured by the House on Nov. 7 for her use of the phrase): “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.” Indeed, when put like that, the phrase does seem relatively mild.
However, Hamas, the terrorist organization responsible for the brutal October 7th massacre and kidnapping of thousands of Israeli civilians, interpreted it quite differently in 2012. “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north,” Khaled Mashaal, the group’s former leader, said that year in a speech in Gaza celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas. “There will be no concession on any inch of the land.”
#2 “Globalize the Intifada” / “There is Only One Solution: Intifada Revolution!”
Globalize the Intifada is a slogan that advocates for a global uprising in support of Palestinian resistance against Israel.
The word “Intifada,” which means “shaking off,” refers to the use of violence to “shake off” or eliminate Israeli security or political control. The word has come to represent the series of devastating and deadly Arab attacks against Israeli troops and civilians, first occurring between 1987 and 1993 (First Intifada) and then again between 2000 and 2005 (Second Intifada). These attacks combined resulted in the deaths of over 1200 Israelis, evoking a painful comparison to the October 7th massacre, which too saw an estimated 1200 Israelis brutally murdered in the name of resistance.
“As Palestinians continue to bravely confront ethnic cleansing and genocide, it’s time to globalize the Intifada,” writes Within Our Lifetime, New York City’s leading Palestinian-led organization, on their website. “Globalize the Intifada expands the terrain of struggle by creating new points of leverage for our movements based on the interconnectedness of our struggles … To those who participate in, and profit from, the oppression of people here in the U.S. and around the world–your days of comfort are coming to an end.” Although they may claim that they intend for peaceful demonstrations, the decision to use a word associated with terrorist “resistance” is quite telling.
#3 “Glory to Our Martyrs”
The Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund, often referred to by critics as “Pay For Slay,” is a fund operated by the Palestinian Authority that pays monthly cash stipends to the families of Palestinians killed, injured, or imprisoned while carrying out violence against Israelis. Despite the US passing the Taylor Force Act in 2018 (which significantly restricts non-humanitarian US aid to the PA until it ends this program), it has continued to operate with total impunity.
The fund was introduced in 2004 in order to motivate and support Arab Israelis and Palestinians who were participating in the Second Intifada. “It is the right of all of the prisoners and martyrs who have struggled and sacrificed for Palestine to receive their full salaries from the PA,” said the spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners’ Affairs, Hassan Abd Rabbo, in 2017.
The celebration of terror and violence does not stop there. Glorification of Palestinian “martyrs” extends even to the Hamas terrorists responsible for carrying out the October 7th attacks on Israel. This is whom current protesters are often referring to when they shout slogans such as “Free our martyrs! Free them all! Zionism must fall!.”
This fact was brazenly admitted in many of the statements released hours after the attack, such as that of SAFE UMich, an anti-Israel group at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. “In an unprecedented series of events, the Palestinian resistance has broken out from the siege on Gaza by force and have taken down military stations and settlements alike,” they wrote in a post to Instagram on Oct. 8. “We call on our people in the far diaspora in Detroit and beyond to honor the resistance, honor our martyrs and uplift the call for liberation.”
Slogans possess a formidable ability to distill complex ideas into succinct and simple expressions, wielding the power to shape opinions and mobilize movements. Palestinian slogans may be catchy, easily digestible and enthusiastically chanted by those unaware of their implications, but the sophisticated sentiments expressed in them are dangerous. By educating supporters on how the chants pose a significant threat to Jews and Israelis worldwide, they may be persuaded to stop using them. Or, at the very least, the world may realize the severity of their words and cease to ignore it.
Photo Caption: Bring Them Home Now” posters are raised at the March for Israel rally on November 14
Photo Credit: Minna Katz