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House approves resolution condemning Palestinian rallying cry as antisemitic

The House on Tuesday adopted a resolution condemning as antisemitic the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a Palestinian rallying cry.

The chamber voted 377-44-1 on the measure, with 43 progressives and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) opposing the measure and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) voting “present.”

The resolution, which spans five pages, comes months after Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was censured by the House in November for posting a video on the social platform X that included a clip of protesters chanting the same phrase and said President Biden “supported the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

Tlaib voted against the resolution Tuesday. In a post on X in November, after her video drew controversy, Tlaib called the phrase “an aspirational call for freedom” and “not death.”

“From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate. My work and advocacy is always centered in justice and dignity for all people no matter faith or ethnicity,” she wrote.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he thought the resolution was a clear attempt to divide Democrats, but felt he had to vote in favor because he believes the slogan is antisemitic. 

“While I’m not really happy that we have to consider this resolution, I do believe it was brought here, fortunately, by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in an attempt to divide this house,” Meeks said on the floor ahead of the vote.

“I also know the danger of the phrase in question. That is why the resolution actually has my begrudging support. But in this institution you have to do what you think is the best thing to do, the right thing to do, that’s why I support this resolution and encourage colleagues to join in doing the same.” 

While Tlaib has called the phrase “aspirational” in achieving an independent Palestinian state, lawmakers and Israel’s supporters criticize the explanation as a cover for language explicitly calling for the elimination of the state of Israel. 

“If you consider the geographic area of the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea to be exclusively Palestine, you are taking the Jewish state of Israel off the map,” Meeks said.

Dean wrote on X that — despite believing the phrase “has no place in discussing long-term peace for Israel and Palestine — she voted “present” on the resolution because of GOP “games” on the issue.

“Republicans prefer games over bills to support our allies & humanitarian aid. We must be purposeful with our words — and also with our time,” she wrote.

The majority of Democrats and Republicans support a two-state solution, defined as a secure Israel side by side with an independent Palestinian state, likely to be territory in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 

They criticize those who invoke “from the river to the sea” — referring to the territory between the Jordan River on the west and the Mediterranean Sea on the east — as delegitimizing Israel’s existence.  

The Anti Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have labeled the chant as antisemitic. The AJC, which supports a two-state solution, describes it as “a rallying cry for terrorist groups and their sympathizers, from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to Hamas, which called for Israel’s destruction in its original governing charter in 1988.”

Updated at 8:39 p.m. EST.

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