Pro-Palestine activists project 'From the River to the Sea' on London's Big Ben in Gaza protest

Pro-Palestine activists project 'From the River to the Sea' on London's Big Ben in Gaza protest
'From the River to the Sea' has become a slogan for some pro-Palestine activists, who say it epitomises a call for justice for Israelis and Palestinians.
3 min read
23 February, 2024
Protests took place outside parliament on Wednesday evening as a vote on a Gaza ceasefire took place [Getty]

There has been right-wing outrage in the UK after pro-Palestine activists beamed the words 'from the river to the sea' onto Big Ben, which forms part of the Houses of Parliament.

The slogan - which is usually followed by 'Palestine will be free' - was projected onto the iconic London landmark on Wednesday night as MPs debated a call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which saw a Labour motion pass amid chaotic scenes.

Israel supporters claim the phrase calls for the eradication of the state of Israel but Palestinian activists say it is merely a demand for justice for all - Israeli and Palestinian - from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan, which includes the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

London's Metropolitan Police said on Thursday night that while using 'from the river to the sea' might be considered criminal in some instances, but in this case it was not.

"This is a chant that has been frequently heard at pro-Palestinian demonstrations for many years, and we are very aware of the strength of feeling in relation to it," the police said on social media.

"While there are scenarios where chanting or using these words could be unlawful depending on the specific location or context, its use in a wider public protest setting, such as last night, is not a criminal offense."

Home Secretary James Cleverly said that while he views the slogan as offensive, he will not intervene in the Met's decision not to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

“I don’t know where those images were projected from. I don’t know how easy it would have been for the police officers to get there," he told the BBC.

"But the fact is they are deeply, deeply offensive words... The implication is the eradication of the state of Israel."

His predecessor, Suella Braverman, said the protest indicated that "Islamist cranks" had taken over the UK.

"They started with the Jews; there were stern words of disapproval from the top but things only got worse. The Islamist cranks and Left-wing extremists then took control of the streets; the police looked meekly on," he wrote to The Telegraph.

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Israel has launched a devastating assault on Gaza since 7 October attacks, with almost the entire enclave laid to waste and over 29,000 people - mostly civilians - killed.

Pro-Palestine protests have taken place in London almost weekly since then, demanding a ceasefire to stop further bloodshed.

'From the river to the sea' has been used by some protesters, with calls by right-wingers for the police to intervene when the phrase is chanted or displayed at protests.