Into-the-Sea Framing in 2020 USA

by Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess



This post is part of the Constructive Conflict Initiative Blog


A long time ago Guy invented the term "into the sea framing,"  named after former Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat's vow to "push Israel into the sea."

This kind of framing (i.e., thinking) is being used anytime someone thinks about a desired conflict outcome as one in which their opponent or "enemy" somehow simply disappears.  How this disappearance might occur is sometimes evident, but often it is not. In family conflicts, the answer is often a divorce. In a business setting, someone might get fired, might quit, or the business might break up. 

In the community or nation state settings, such splits become much more difficult.  Many Palestinians are still, after over 70 years, trying to figure out how to get Jews "off of their land."  Many Jews are trying to figure out how to do the same, in reverse. The problem is, neither side is willing to leave—they both think the land is "theirs."  And so the conflict goes on...and on...and on.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans are using Into-the-Sea Framing with respect to living with the other in the U.S.

We are doing the same thing now in the United States.  Some aspects of this are pretty obvious.  Donald Trump and many of his Republican supporters think that immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, but sometimes legal immigrants too, should not be in this country and he is trying everything he can do to deport those who are here and prevent more from coming.  That some of these immigrants are accomplished, law-abiding people, who were brought here as young children and, hence, know no other home, is irrelevant to Trump. That our economy needs them also doesn't matter.  He still wants to throw them out.  His image of a good future is an America without immigrants.  That is classic "into-the-sea framing."  

The statement "The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat," tweeted by Trump on May 29, 2020 is even worse than into-the-sea framing, as it opens the door to "genocidal framing."

Read more about into-the-sea framing--what it is, what its effects are, and how to respond to it in the Conflict Fundamentals article of the same name. 

But Democrats are also using into-the-sea-framing when they push their liberal agenda to the max, without at all considering the legitimate interests or concerns of the other side. While it is perfectly reasonable for progressives to advocate for progressive policies with respect to abortion, marriage equality, immigration, police reform, etc., that advocacy becomes problematic when the so-called "cancel culture" tries to ostracize and Twitter mob people in ways that deny them opportunities to speak, or to pursue educational or employment opportunities. In addition, by refusing to listen to alternative views, or even allowing such alternative views to be publically stated, they are essentially trying to create an  America that doesn't have conservatives (visibly) in it. It is equivalent to making convservatives "disappear." They are not drowned in the sea, they are just silenced, ostracized, and made unemployable. While this is a step short of advocating outright violence, the extrajudicial damage that such "cancellations" can do to people is enormous. The result of such thinking, and the policy proposals that stem from it, is likely to be very much the same as the result we are seeing in Israel—continued bitter, destructive conflict.

This black/white, "there's only room for one of us in this space and the others best disappear" mindset is not a recipe for peace or justice.  It's a recipe for war.

Read more about into-the-sea framing--what it is, what its effects are, and how to respond to it in the Conflict Fundamentals article of the same name. 

Metagraphic: Dunkirk where Allied forces were literally being pushed into the sea by the Nazis in World War II. Source:; Permission: Public Domain