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FA will consult police if players use ‘river to sea’ phrase on social media

The Football Association will consult the police if players use the phrase “from the river to the sea” in relation to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. The governing body’s statement comes after a now-deleted post on X, formally known as Twitter, by Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury.

The phrase, which refers to land between the Mediterranean Sea and River Jordan, is often used in support of Palestine but some interpret it as antisemitic.

‘From the river to the sea’: where does the slogan come from and what does it mean?Read more

The Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group, describes the phrase as: “An antisemitic charge denying the Jewish right to self-determination, including through the removal of Jews from their ancestral homeland.”

Choudhury will not face any disciplinary action from the FA but a spokesperson said: “After careful consideration, we will be writing to all clubs to make it clear that this phrase is considered offensive to many, and should not be used by players in social media posts. The player has apologised and deleted the tweet.

“We are strongly encouraging clubs to ensure that players do not post content which may be offensive or inflammatory to any community.

“If this phrase is used again by a football participant, we will seek police guidance on how we should treat it and respond.”

During a pro-Palestine demonstration in London on Saturday, some protesters chanted the phrase. The Labour MP Andy McDonald has been suspended by his party pending an investigation after saying between the river and the sea Palestinians and Israelis “can live in peaceful liberty” at a protest in London organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at the weekend.

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The anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out said they recognised opinions are divided over the conflict in the Middle East. “We urge caution for those who take to social media where messages can be misinterpreted and can cause offence. As always, we would underline the importance of education.”

Choudhury posted an apology on X on Monday: “I want to address my earlier post which has unfortunately been misinterpreted. It was and is not my intention to cause offence to anyone but simply to show compassion for the innocent people that are suffering.

“I’m sorry for any offence this has caused. I share the hope of people around the world that a peaceful resolution can bring an end to the ongoing suffering of innocent people in this conflict.”

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Meanwhile, a new statement by the Mainz forward Anwar El Ghazi regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict has left his Bundesliga club perplexed. He had been warned and suspended last month for posting about the conflict on social media but was cleared to return to training after showing remorse.

But El Ghazi posted another statement saying: “I do not regret or have any remorse for my position. I do not distance myself from what I said and I stand, today and always until my last breath, for humanity and the oppressed.”

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Mainz said that was “incomprehensible” and they would examine it from a legal perspective.