Amazon sales of merchandise with 'pro-Hamas slogan' in the spotlight

T-shirts and mugs for sale on the site bear the phrase 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free'

Amazon refused to comment in response to a request by The National. Reuters
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Amazon sales of merchandise bearing a slogan that last week triggered the suspension of a long-serving MP have come under scrutiny in the UK as the company says it is committed to its procedures on controversial products.

Labour MP Andy McDonald was recently suspended from the Labour Party for borrowing from the phrase as he addressed a rally called in protest at the Israeli-Gaza war.

“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 was quoted as saying.

The phrase, which is enshrined in Hamas’s 2017 constitution but dates back to the 1960s, refers to the land that sits between the Jordan river to the east of Israel and the Mediterranean to the west.

The outbreak of the Israeli-Gaza war has put the spotlight on the use of the phrase, which has now become a political issue. On social media the UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, said the language implies the erasure of Israel. She claims it has become “a staple of anti-Semitic discourse”.

No 10 Downing Street reacted to her intervention by saying the term was “deeply offensive” to many.

Palestinian-American writer Yousef Munayyer has take issue with that perspective, saying the phrase encapsulates a desire for a state where Palestinians can live as free and equal citizens “neither dominated by others nor dominating them”.

Amazon refused to comment in response to a request by The National. Several items available on the shopping site, as first reported by Newsweek, bear the phrase, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, including T-shirts and mugs.

The company instead pointed out its publicly available policy on the issue, which states: “Our offensive and controversial products policies prohibit the sale of products that promote, incite, or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organisations with such views, as well as listings that graphically portray violence or victims of violence.

“We periodically review and update these policies based on experience, current events and other relevant developments, and in consultation with internal and external resources.

“We have a dedicated team that is responsible for developing and updating our policies, refining and maintaining our systems and processes, continuously monitoring our store, and manually evaluating questionable products.”

It added: “To enforce our policies, we have proactive mechanisms in place to prevent noncompliant listings before a customer ever sees them.”

Mr McDonald made the comments at a recent protest in London organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and has since said his words were part of a wider “heartfelt plea for an end to the killings” in Gaza.

In an interview on Newsnight, he urged people to look at the words he used, "calling for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peaceful liberty together".

He said his comments were "a call for peace and a two-state solution".

He added: "I'm not provoking a view to say Israel should not exist or Palestine should be eradicated and settlements expanded, and so on. I am saying the exact opposite. I am saying please, the only way we will resolve this isn't through military means. It's through a peace process that needs to be resurrected."

He has been suspended pending an investigation into his comments.

Updated: November 03, 2023, 1:11 PM