Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: A “sea” change?

Jul 30, 2020 | Tzvi Fleischer

Jordanian professor Ahmad Nofal
Jordanian professor Ahmad Nofal


Once upon a time, it was not unusual for Middle Easterners who rejected Israel’s right to exist to express openly genocidal intentions – such as calls to “throw the Jews into the sea.” 

According to Dr. Fadhil Jamali, Iraq’s Representative to the United Nations, speaking to the Arab League on February 6, 1955 about how Arab League leaders during the 1948 war were overconfident, “The highest official in the League said that with 300 soldiers or North African volunteers we could throw the Jews into the sea.” And there is indeed evidence some key Palestinian and Arab leaders did use the phrase “throw the Jews into the sea” during the 1948 Independence war – for example, Fawzi el Kaukji, the field commander of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), is documented to have said this. 

There are also numerous examples of Arab leaders and state-owned media during the lead-up to the Six-Day War in 1967 talking about the “annihilation” or “eradication” or “death” of Israel, wiping “Israel off the map” or “blotting out” its existence. While some may argue this could mean politicide without genocide, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) head in 1967, Ahmed Shukairi, was pretty explicit about what would happen to Israelis once Israel was “annihilated” in a sermon on June 1, 1967: “We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors – if there are any – the boats are ready to deport them.”

Since then, most advocates of Israel’s destruction have learnt to use more palatable language, talking about Israel’s replacement with a “democratic” state. Indeed, in 1969, one small Palestinian terrorist faction, the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) published a circular saying the phrase “throw the Jews into the sea” had done the Arab cause great damage and that the demand should instead be that Israel be replaced by a “democratic Palestinian state” in which Arabs and Jews would live in peace. 

Since then, advocates of Israel’s destruction have largely adopted variations of the phrase in the PLO Charter about replacing Israel with a “secular democratic state in all of Palestine.” However, most such claims have a sting in their tail – for instance, the PLO Charter also said the “secular democratic” state could not contain “Zionists”, which was interpreted to mean almost all Israelis Jews would have to leave. 

Even Islamists such as Hamas have mostly learned to get on board, insisting to Western interlocutors that Israel’s Jews could live there happily once the area becomes an Islamic state, just like the Jews of the Middle East did under Muslim rule since the seventh century (never mind that this historical claim is largely a fantasy.)

Yet, even today, 51 years after the PDFLP missive, some have not got the message about how to properly sell the radical and inherently ultra-violent idea of Israel’s destruction. 

Ahmad Nofal, a Jordanian professor affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, gave us a good example on his weekly show on a Jordanian TV channel on July 17. Talking about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to turn the ancient Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul from a museum into a mosque, Nofal not only thought this was a wonderful development, but added this in justification of it:

“If we liberate Palestine tomorrow, will we leave the Jewish synagogues intact? No! We will uproot them, along with their people, and throw them into the sea. Allah willing, it will be soon.” (Quote translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute – MEMRI).

Incidentally, Nofal also insisted that Kamal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey who turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum in 1935, was really a Greek Jew. 

He’s not the only one who hasn’t learnt the “diplomatic” way to demand Israel’s destruction. 

The head of Hamas’ women’s movement in Gaza, Rajaa Al-Halabi, said the following at a rally that aired on July 9 on Al-Aqsa TV:

“These are the Israelites. These are the Jews. They are the ones who slayed the prophets… This enemy, who came from all corners of the world, has no place here, but this is what Allah wanted for them… This is our fate, my beloved sisters – to be Allah’s hand on Earth, the hand that will finish off the Israelites, this Zionist enemy, Allah willing. Allah brought them here in droves, so that Palestine becomes their graveyard, Allah willing.” (Quote translation by MEMRI).

These examples call to mind how, frankly, too many ostensibly well-meaning people have become willing to buy ridiculous claims that a democratic “one-state solution” encompassing both Israelis and Palestinians, could work. Anyone who thinks this way is buying the spin being used to sell an inherently violent idea, and not listening to what Palestinian leaders, and indeed the Palestinian population at large, are saying, either overtly or more subtly, about the Jewish presence in what they regard as “Palestine”. 

Even those Palestinian leaders who do not say the Jews should be “thrown into the sea” or “finished off”, like Nofal and Al-Halabi, are almost all pretty clear that they view the Jewish presence in the land as completely illegitimate. Even putting aside those who openly insist or surreptitiously believe that the Jews must be killed or expelled – and evidence suggests their number is not insignificant – that attitude alone would make a process of peaceful, shared national co-existence, with all the compromises this would require, inherently impossible. 


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