The White House rejected the use of the phrase “from the river to the sea” just one day after the House voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her comments on the Israel-Hamas war, including the use of the phrase.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment directly on the move against Tlaib, but she said the administration has been clear in denouncing similar language.
“We’ve been, you know, we’ve been clear,” she said. “You’ve heard from members of [the National Security Council] … that when it comes to the phrase that was used, ‘From [the] river to the sea,’ it is divisive. It is hurtful to many — many find it hurtful and also many find it antisemitic. And so obviously, we categorically reject applying the term to this conflict.”
Tlaib posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, over the weekend saying President Biden “supported the genocide of the Palestinian people” and included clips of protesters chanting “from the river to the sea,” which the Anti-Defamation League characterizes as antisemitic.
She later doubled down on her use of the phrase but said it was “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”
The pro-Palestinian slogan refers to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which includes Israel. It is seen by many as advocating for the removal of Israel to make way for a free Palestinian state.
White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer pushed back Sunday on the remarks made by Tlaib.
“Look, we strongly disagree with some of that messaging and with some of the terms used to describe this conflict,” Finer told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
The House voted to censure Tlaib on Tuesday night for her criticism of Israel in the days and weeks following Hamas’s deadly attack on the country. The censure resolution, introduced by Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), accused Tlaib of “promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”
Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), one of the 22 Democrats who voted to censure Tlaib, also circulated a statement Tuesday condemning Tlaib’s recent use of the phrase “from the river to the sea.”
“We reject the use of the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ — a phrase used by many, including Hamas, as a rallying cry for the destruction of the State of Israel and genocide of the Jewish people,” Schneider and a group of lawmakers wrote in a statement.