The MP for Middlesbrough used the phrase as he urged peace between Israelis and Palestinians at an event at the weekend.
Some pro-Palestinian protesters have chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” during recent demonstrations in London, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.
Home secretary Suella Braverman has previously branded the slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel but pro-Palestinian protesters have contested this definition.
Andy McDonald said at a pro-Palestine rally: “Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty.”
We say to the UK, American and Israeli governments: Enough!
Enough of the bombardment!
Enough of the siege!
Enough of the occupation!
We won’t rest until we have justice.
Until all people, Israelis & Palestinians, between the river & the sea can live in peaceful liberty. pic.twitter.com/qRfHDreNr0
— Andy McDonald MP (@AndyMcDonaldMP) October 28, 2023
Mr McDonald has since released a statement on his “precautionary suspension” on X, saying he looks forward to fully cooperating with the inquiry.
He said: “I am saddened to have received the news from the opposition chief whip that I have been placed under “precautionary suspension” for a period of three months, which is reviewable pending an investigation from the Labour Party
“Throughout the past two days, there have been a number of misrepresentations of my words in the media.
“In my speech on Saturday, I said the following: ‘Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.’
“These words should not be construed in any other way than they were intended, namely as a heart felt plea for an end to killings in Israel, Gaza, and the occupied West Bank, and for all peoples in the region to live in freedom without the threat of violence.”
My statement on the news that I have been placed under “precautionary suspension” by the Labour Party👇 pic.twitter.com/7b9jpO3IuY
— Andy McDonald MP (@AndyMcDonaldMP) October 30, 2023
Announcing his suspension, a Labour spokesperson said: “The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising antisemitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety.
“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.”
Downing Street has expressed concerns over the chant, describing it as “deeply offensive” to many.
Asked in a briefing with reporters about its use, the PM’s spokesperson said: “We understand clearly this is a deeply offensive chant to many. And again, I think people need to be responsible with their use of language.”
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said it is a matter for the police to decide on the appropriate response when confronted with the use of such chants during public demonstrations.
“Obviously it’s up to the police to make an operational decision about the use of that language if they see fit to do so, but I can understand how the use of that language and others will be of significant concern to many.”
The MP for Peterborough said it “would save lives and allow for a continued column of humanitarian aid [to] reach the people who need it the most”.
The senior Tory was sacked from his role for breaking “collective responsibility”, as Mr Sunak continued to insist that Israel has the right to take military action against Hamas.
It comes as Labour frontbenchers have openly defied their leader by calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as the death toll surpasses 8,000.
Shadow ministers Naz Shah, Paul Barker, and Afzal Khan all challenged Sir Kier’s refusal to support a ceasefire whilst other ministers including Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Jess Phillips and whip Kim Leadbeater all took to X, formerly Twitter, to share calls to end the bloodshed.
Labour MPs told the Independent that at least 100 of Starmer’s parliamentary party want him to shift his stance and support a ceasefire as they warn he could lose mass support and seats since a significant amount of his voters are Muslim
The disagreement has led 31 Labour councillors to quit. Blackburn councillor Suleman Khonat told The Mirror: “What is the point of humanitarian aid if you are going to continue to support the relentless bombing of the Palestinian civilians, to whom you are beginning to provide humanitarian aid to.”
A YouGov survey found 42 per cent of 2019 Labour voters thought Sir Keir had handled his response to the conflict badly whilst just 26 per cent of voters thought he had delivered well.