Spanish museum changes name of ‘River to the Sea’ events after complaints

After backlash from Jewish community and Israeli embassy, Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum renames program: ‘Critical Thinking Gatherings, International Solidarity With Palestine’

People watch as Greenpeace activists hang an illustration by US visual artist Shepard Fairey "Obey" outside the Reina Sofia museum with an image taken by Gazan photojournalist Belal Khaled, which shows a Palestinian child crying for help, Madrid, Spain Wednesday January 24, 2024.(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
People watch as Greenpeace activists hang an illustration by US visual artist Shepard Fairey "Obey" outside the Reina Sofia museum with an image taken by Gazan photojournalist Belal Khaled, which shows a Palestinian child crying for help, Madrid, Spain Wednesday January 24, 2024.(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

MADRID, Spain — Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum said Thursday it had changed the name of a pro-Palestinian program that the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community said furthered a narrative calling for Israel’s extermination.

The museum, one of Spain’s most visited, which is home to Pablo Picasso’s historic Guernica painting about the horrors of war, had controversially called the program “From The River To the Sea” — the first line of the rallying cry “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” commonly heard at pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests.

The slogan refers to the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which encompasses Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Jewish groups have condemned the slogan as antisemitic, arguing that it calls for the destruction of Israel in its entirety.

In a statement, the museum said it had renamed the program “Critical Thinking Gatherings, International Solidarity With Palestine” since the original name was considered “offensive to certain communities.”

The program includes lectures, conversations and meetings with Palestinian artists as well as two art installations, all aimed at demanding “an end of the war and genocide,” according to the museum’s website.

Spain’s FCJE, an umbrella body representing the Jewish community, had denounced the original title of the program.

“This slogan, considered antisemitic by the US House of Representatives, implies the elimination of Israel and its inhabitants… it also appears on maps at various rallies where Israel is erased,” it said in a statement.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past the closed Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid on April 23, 2020. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP)

The US House passed a bipartisan resolution in April to condemn the chant as antisemitic in a vote of 377 to 44.

Spain has been one of Europe’s most critical voices about Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group in Gaza, and is working to rally other European capitals behind the idea of recognizing a Palestinian state.

War erupted on October 7 when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern communities, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 252 hostages. It is believed that 128 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a toll that cannot be independently verified.

Israel says it has killed some 15,000 terror operatives in battle and some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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