Nov 16, 2023

Czechia Want to Criminalize Slogan “‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free’

Saying the words “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” may be considered a criminal offence in certain circumstances, Czech authorities informed on Wednesday.

The Czech Interior Ministry, police officers, prosecutors and the Prague city representatives discussed measures to fight anti-semitism during public gatherings at a meeting on Wednesday.

“The conclusion of the discussion is that the use of the slogan From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free is problematic in the context of the Hamas attack against Israel on 7 October 2023 and could fulfil the elements of a criminal offence,” Czech Interior Ministry spokeswoman Klára Dlubalová informed.

According to the ministry, anyone using such a slogan could potentially be guilty of supporting and promoting terrorism, inciting hatred against a group of people, or denying, questioning, condoning or justifying genocide.

“The link to the Hamas movement and other organisations calling for the destruction of the State of Israel is unambiguous, according to the Interior Ministry, and the slogan has historically been used by the majority in conjunction with a clearly stated demand for the destruction of the existence of the State of Israel and the elimination of part of the population by any means, including violent means,” the interior ministry explained.

Czech police will inform organisers of demonstrations in advance of the apparent problematic nature of the slogan.

Whether the slogan is anti-semitic or not is widely debated. In October, a Dutch court gave legal protection to the phrase on the grounds of free speech.

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Thomas Hofland, a pro-Palestina activist used the slogan in a rally in May 2021. But the courts upheld that he should not be prosecuted as the phrase is “subject to various interpretations” and “relates to the state of Israel and possibly to people with Israeli citizenship, but not to Jews because of their race or religion.”

Those against the phrase say it is a call to destroy Israel and a staple of anti-semitic discourse. However, Palestinians say it started in the 1960s as part of a push for a secular, democratic state in all of Palestine.

Today, they say it expresses the fact that nowhere between the Jordan River and Mediterranean sea, including Gaza, the West Bank or Israel, do they enjoy equal and full rights with Jewish Israelis.

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