“Palestine, from the Jordan to the Sea, belongs to us!” declared Khaled Meshal last week at the huge victory rally in Gaza.
“Eretz Israel, from the sea to the Jordan, belongs to us!” declare right-wing Israelis on every occasion.
The two statements seem to be the same, with only the name of the country changed.
But if you read them again carefully, there is a slight difference. The direction.
From the sea to the river, from the river to the sea.
Therein lies much more significance than meets the eye. It shows how the speaker sees himself – coming from the East or from the West.
When one says “from the river to the sea”, one sees oneself as belonging to the extensive region known to Westerners as the “Middle East”, a vital part of the Asian continent. The term “Middle East” is, itself, a patronizing expression with colonial undertones – it suggests that the area has no independent standing. It exists only in relation to a far-away world center – Berlin? London? Washington?
When one says “from the sea to the river”, one sees oneself as coming from the West and living as a bridgehead of the West, facing a foreign, and probably hostile, continent.