FRESH AIR

“Pro-Palestinian” slogans often amount to advocating terrorism or calling for genocide

Nov 2, 2023 | Oved Lobel

Pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney, October 21, 2023 (source: Steve Tritton)
Pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney, October 21, 2023 (source: Steve Tritton)

Pro-Palestinian – or rather, anti-Israel – activists have a suite of stock phrases and euphemisms they chant at many of their rallies or post online.

These may not be as bluntly offensive as the chants of “F**k the Jews” that occurred at the Sydney rally on Oct. 9, but they still need to be recognised for what they really are.

Australia has multiple federal and state laws, including Division 80 of Australia’s Criminal Code Act 1995 as well as Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, to prevent racial vilification or advocating terrorism or genocide against an ethnic group. Unfortunately, many of the slogans used by pro-Palestinian activists are barely disguised forms of just that. If they are not illegal under the aforementioned laws, they at the very least place severe strain on Australia’s multicultural society by flying in the face of core values.

The following are common euphemisms and phrases chanted or written on posters at some “pro-Palestinian” gatherings and their actual meanings:

“Ending 75 years of occupation”

Nearly every Muslim organisation of note in Australia signed onto an abhorrent four-page statement following the Hamas massacre of October 7, giving an Islamic theological underpinning to calls to destroy the Jewish state. The statement calls for an end to the occupation, which it defined as having begun 75 years ago. For those who find arithmetic difficult, this date refers to the establishment of Israel, not to the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967. This phrasing is a call for genocide, treating the very Jewish presence in the land of Israel as “occupation”.

“From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” and “Free Palestine”

The “River to the Sea” chant, which is also used by Hamas, and sometimes mindlessly repeated by well-meaning people who don’t think deeply about anything, is genocidal. It simply means that all territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea must become exclusively Palestinian and cleared of Jews by violent means. October 7 was a vision of how those who originated this phrase meant it.

The phrase “Free Palestine”, often chanted as “Free free Palestine”, falls under the same category. What these people – those who are not simply chanting mindlessly – are calling for is “freeing” all of the territory that was part of Mandatory Palestine of Jews. Some, however, disingenuously argue they are using the phrase to mean establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital. Few of them mean anything of the sort, of course, and given how most people use the phrase, those who do actually want a two-state solution need to find a new chant.

“Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud, Jaish Muhammad Sauf Ya’ud”

This antisemitic Arabic chant translates as “Khaybar Khaybar oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return.” It refers to the alleged massacre, expulsion or subjugation of Jewish tribes in 628 CE in the Khaybar Oasis in modern-day Saudi Arabia. It is a theological call for genocidal violence against Jews.

“Birruh Biddam Nafdika, Ya Aqsa”

This chant translates to “By our spirits, by our blood, we will redeem you, O Al-Aqsa”.

The al-Aqsa Mosque has long been at the core of conspiracy theories and overtly antisemitic lies used to incite mass Arab violence against Jews in Israel, dating back to well before the establishment of the State of Israel.

Almost every single violent massacre of Jews, both before and since the establishment of Israel, is directly tied to conspiracy theories about Jews plotting against al-Aqsa and the need to protect it from them. This includes the October 7 pogrom, which Hamas dubbed “Al-Aqsa flood”. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stressed that the primary motivation of this massacre was “the criminal Zionist aggression against the sacred al-Aqsa Mosque.” The Second Intifada (2000-2004) was also called the “Al-Aqsa Intifada”, and was similarly linked directly to events at al-Aqsa, as was the 2015-2016 “Knife Intifada”.

The phrase is straightforward even without the historical context, and with the historical context, it must be recognised for what it is: a call for mass violence against Jews.

“Resistance”

This euphemism is a form of terrorism advocacy. When someone says, “I support Palestinian [or Lebanese] resistance”, they are invariably substituting the word “resistance” for what the rest of the world defines as “terrorism” or war crimes, such as firing rockets into Israeli towns or shooting and stabbing attacks against Israelis. Supporting “resistance” implies support for listed terrorist organisations like Hamas and their attacks against Israelis and Jews. This includes the common slogan “Resistance is justified when Palestine is occupied” and variations thereof.

“Jihad” and “Intifada”

Any public calls for Jihad or Intifada – common variations include “globalise the Intifada” and “There is only one solution: Intifada, Revolution!” – must be recognised as incitement to genocidal violence. These words in the context of Israel need no further explanation.

Our governments need to act

The Federal Government and state governments need to be aware of the public racial and religious vilification of Jews and Israelis as well as the pervasive genocide and terrorism advocacy occurring at some of these allegedly “pro-Palestinian” rallies. Those of good faith who do genuinely care about Palestinians and support Israeli-Palestinian peace should separate themselves immediately from the crowd when they hear such chants – those who shout them do not want what you want.

While the Government can’t force people not to be antisemitic, it must be aware of and should combat expressions and actions that violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Australia’s racial vilification and incitement laws and undermine Australian multiculturalism.

It would be prudent for Australian institutions and state governments to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism to help them understand and ideally combat what is fairly open racism and terrorism advocacy by some activists. It is important in this context to keep in mind that both Hamas and Hezbollah are listed as terrorist organisations in their entirety under Australia’s Criminal Code.

The Government also ought to outlaw vigils for terrorists, such as those held at the Al Rahman and Al Zahra Mosques in Sydney for six Hezbollah operatives killed attacking Israel, likely the first of many such vigils to come. Counterterrorism laws need to be tightened if hundreds can openly gather to celebrate terrorist groups and their actions and mourn their members, not as individuals who might be related to people in the Sydney community, but specifically as fallen terrorist “martyrs”. The gatherings should also be investigated to clarify whether any funds were raised for Hezbollah or Hamas as part of the commemorations.

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