‘River to Sea’ chanting is a police matter, says Zahawi

Education Secretary says adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is 'essential not optional'


GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 05: British Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi speaks during the "Together for Tomorrow" event on day six of the Cop 26 Summit at the SEC on November 05, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Today COP26 will focus on elevating the voice of young people and demonstrating the critical role of public empowerment and education in climate action. The 2021 climate summit in Glasgow is the 26th "Conference of the Parties" and represents a gathering of all the countries signed on to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Climate Agreement. The aim of this year's conference is to commit countries to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Universities should alert the police whenever student protesters chant the Hamas rallying cry: “From the river to the sea”, the Education Secretary has said.

Speaking to the JC after he hosted an antisemitism summit on Wednesday, Nadhim Zahawi said universities should get tough following the government’s proscription of Hamas in its entirety.

The chant is frequently heard at pro-Palestinian rallies, despite it being widely understood as a call for the destruction of Israel.

Under the government’s ban, supporting any arm of the Hamas terrorist network is a criminal offence.

Asked whether universities should investigate students who join in this chant, the
education secretary replied: “Absolutely. This is a proscribed organisation. And I think any proscribed organisation should be reported to the police and authorities.” 

But specifically those who sing the rallying cry? Mr Zahawi said: “That is the kind of, in my view, antisemitic, intolerant, murderous attitude of the organisation that’s proscribed.”

Should those who are signing this particular rallying cry be investigated by universities? "As I said, any form of antisemitism, of prejudice, of promoting the murder of Jewish people, Jewish students, is in my book antisemitism and therefore universities should act on it.”

Mr Zahawi told vice chancellors attending the summit that adoption of the international definition of antisemitism was “essential not optional”.

He welcomed the growth in universities taking up IHRA over the last year from 28 to 95. He also warned the 10 universities yet to sign up that the Office for Students regulator was considering possible sanctions.

Mr Zahawi also said IHRA was not a “tick-box exercise” and urged universities to share best practice on driving the “real evil” of antisemitism off campus.

Asked by the JC whether the anti-Israel BDS boycott movement had any place on campus, Mr Zahawi replied: “Absolutely not.”

Speaking after the summit, Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, praised the Education Secretary for his “steadfast support for Jewish students” but said it was clear that more work needed to be done to stamp out hatred on campus.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive