Labour MP suspended after using 'deeply offensive' phrase 'between the river and the sea' at pro-Palestine rally

30 October 2023, 18:32 | Updated: 30 October 2023, 18:36

Labour MP Andy McDonald has been suspended
Labour MP Andy McDonald has been suspended. Picture: X/Andy McDonald
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A senior Labour MP has been suspended for using the phrase 'between the river and the sea' at a pro-Palestine rally in London over the weekend.

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Andy McDonald, the MP for Middlesbrough, used the phrase as he called for peace amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

"We won't rest until we have justice, until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty," he said.

A Labour spokesperson said: "The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising antisemitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety.

“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.”

A variation of the phrase, 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free', is widely considered to be antisemitic, with Downing Street warning it should not be used.

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The chant has been the subject of criticism by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who labelled it anti-Semitic.

The phrase "symbolises Palestinian control over Israel's borders, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea", according to the American Jewish Committee.

Tzipi Hotovely, Israel's ambassador to the UK, previously told LBC that people sing the chant "either [because] people don’t understand what they’re saying or they understand, and they ignore the consequences".

“From the River to the sea’ only has one meaning: that if you look on the map, Israel shouldn’t exist and Israel should be totally eliminated from the Middle East map. What is that, if not ethnic cleansing of Jewish people from their homeland?," she previously told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

“This is a chant that shouldn’t be heard in the streets of London."