Czechia considers criminalizing pro-Palestine slogan amid rising tensions

Officials say that Hamas and affiliated groups use the saying "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" to promote the destruction of Israel.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 16.11.2023 10:22:00 (updated on 16.11.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

A host of Czech officials have determined that the use of the pro-Palestine slogan "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" might constitute a criminal offense in specific circumstances. The Czech Interior Ministry, police, top state prosecutor's office, and Prague City Hall officials all agreed on this fact. 

Czech Interior Ministry spokeswoman Klára Dlubalová said that using the slogan could lead to charges of supporting and promoting terrorism, inciting hatred against a particular group of people, or denying, questioning, approving, or justifying genocide.

The saying dates back to the 1960s and originates from the Palestine Liberation Organization’s attempts to make Palestine fully independent. Since then, commentators say that various nationalist and terrorist groups have used the saying as a means to call for the destruction of Israel.

Czech Police Chief Martin Vondrášek said on Czech Television Wednesday that this statement could be interpreted by some as a call for the destruction of the Israeli state and violence against Jews. As a result, the police will address the chanting of the slogan and its promotion on banners, including proactively informing demonstration organizers about the controversial nature of the saying beforehand.

Vondrášek explained that in individual cases, the police would evaluate the circumstances in which the slogan is used. He remarked that the Czech police have already initiated legal proceedings on charges of anti-Semitism in 14 cases connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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German authorities have outright banned the saying at large-scale public events, and Austria recently banned a pro-Palestine protest based on the saying being used, international news outlet Al Jazeera writes.

In late October, the police investigated a Pilsen kebab shop owner who had displayed an inflammatory sign against Jews, but all charges were eventually dropped.

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza war, the Czech government has taken a definitive pro-Israel stance, with Prime Minister Petr Fiala attending a pro-Israel demonstration at Prague’s Old Town Square. 

The police will monitor the slogan’s use during demonstrations and inform demonstration organizers about its controversial nature. The Czech Republic does not perceive an imminent threat due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the ongoing rallies in the country have not exhibited extremist tendencies, authorities say.

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