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Chloe Swarbrick apologises for 'from the river to the sea' chant, Menendez-March declines to comment

Publish Date
Wed, 8 Nov 2023, 12:03pm

Chloe Swarbrick apologises for 'from the river to the sea' chant, Menendez-March declines to comment

Publish Date
Wed, 8 Nov 2023, 12:03pm

Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick has apologised "to those who have felt [offended]" by her use of a controversial pro-Palestinian phrase that academics and political and community leaders have called divisive and inflammatory. But Swarbrick has been coy on whether she'll use it again.  

Online reaction to Swarbrick's apology has been mixed with one X user posting, "worst apology ever" and another posting, "so she's 'sorry, not sorry' then".  Fellow Green Party MP Ricardo Menendez-March failed to respond to questions from Newstalk ZB Plus this morning about whether he would offer a similar apology and whether he would use the controversial phrase again. 

Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters that he would not use the phrase "from the river to the sea" as it was "loaded", and his expectation was that Labour MPs would also not use the phrase. 

This morning the Green Party did not respond to a request from Newstalk ZB Plus to clarify the Green Party position on the use of the phrase or whether the party endorsed and supported the use of it by Green Party MPs. 

Swarbrick told Andrew Dickens on Heather Du-Plessis Allan Drive yesterday that if the phrase made a point about the need for the freedom of Palestinians and the nation was talking about what was occurring in Gaza, then "so be it". 

Video circulating online showed Swarbrick leading a chant of "from the river to the sea”, at the same rally where Labour MP Phil Twyford was forced off the stage and escorted away from protesters by the Police after saying he condemned the violence against civilians by Hamas. 

The full phrase, "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", appears within the Hamas charter and many people believe it means no Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people, according to the Act Party. 

The Jewish Council called the phrase anti-Semitic, and shortly before his X account was deleted on Monday, Wellington-based communications consultant and lobbyist David Cormack posted his belief the chant sounded to Jewish people like calls for annihilation of their people. 

"Those of us on the left who express solidarity with Palestinians can do so without using a chant that genuinely terrifies people," he wrote. 

Swarbrick told Heather Du Plessis-Allan Drive it was abhorrent to suggest she supported the destruction of Israel. 

"I find it fascinating and terrifying that the highest profile coverage of the Palestine fight I've seen in domestic news this week has come from the focus on the words used to call for freedom, not the indiscriminate carpet bombing of 10,000 civilians," she said.  

The MP was challenged on her comments with a question from Dickens that if she watches the 6pm news, the conflict was leading bulletins most nights.  

"I have to make the point that it does not appear to have made any political ramifications," she responded.  

"I have not seen our political leaders - least of all those three parties coming into Government - making any meaningful statement beyond, actually, what we've heard from the leader of the Act Party, which has been more focused on quibbling around the rhetoric used to argue for freedom than it is to call for a ceasefire and a return of hostages." 

When asked if she would apologise for the phrase, Swarbrick said she apologised to those who have felt it offended them.  

"But the point remains that what our focus, and what the spotlight needs to be on is the atrocities unfolding in Gaza," she said.  

"The world largely watches on, despite ample reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, UN agencies and high-ranking officials who have resigned over what is happening, which is tantamount to genocide and ethnic cleansing." 

Swarbrick was asked by Dickens if she intends to use the phrase in the future - to which the MP said she would consult Jewish and Palestinian peace activists on the best way forward.  

"But if what we achieved here, by virtue, is making a point about the need for the freedom of Palestinians, and now we are talking about what is occurring in Gaza, so be it." 

"There's been a systematic de-platforming of not only using terminology like this, but daring to raise your head and say, 'Free Palestine'."  

Swarbrick did not respond to Newstalk ZB Plus this morning when asked to clarify whether she would use the controversial chant again. 

Palestinian protests have been organised throughout the country in recent weeks - hundreds took to the streets in central Auckland two weeks ago calling for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. 

A week later, thousands chanted, waved flags and held placards in Aotea Square.  

New Zealand has called for a pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to create safe areas for civilians and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

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