The ten-agora coin: map of Greater Israel
During the early 1990s, Yasser Arafat is said to have carried around Israel's ten-agora coin in his jacket pocket. Not in case of parking emergencies but to offer "proof', as he would put it, of an Israeli conspiracy to colonize the entire Middle East. On May 25, 1990, he even spoke to the UN Security Council on the issue, showing the coin to representatives specially assembled in Geneva. The coin is engraved with the image of an ancient coin dating back to the Roman siege of Jerusalem, in the reign of the last Hasmonaean king, Mattathias Antigonus II. It is stamped with the image of a seven-branched candlestick, the Jewish menorah, and its shape is distinctive, with a broken left-hand edge curving out to a point on the lower left side (for more information on secret money codes, see www.truthlieswithin.com).
Suspicious-minded Palestinians saw a familiar outline in that edge - it was the profile of the eastern Mediterranean shore! If the rest of the coin was superimposed on a map of the Middle East, then the right-hand side of the coin would cover half of the Middle East, stretching from the Red Sea three quarters of the way across Iraq and Saudi Arabia - almost to the Gulf. This coin, then, was nothing less than a coded reference to "Greater Israel". As Arafat put it, it was "a glaring demonstration of Zionist aspirations".
This "Greater Israel" notion didn't spring from no¬where. Early Zionists had indeed planned a much larger Jewish state. Theodor Herzl, for instance, believed the Jews should settle in Palestine and Syria, and even considered settlements in Mesopotamia - modern-day Iraq. This was on the basis of two Biblical passages: in Genesis 15:18 Abraham is told "Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates", while at Deuteronomy 11:24 Moses declares "Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the utter¬most sea shall your coast be". From the Euphrates to the sea? Or to the "river of Egypt" - the Nile? Jewish scholars may explain that these vague ter¬ritorial claims are superseded by later, more precise Biblical delimitations of the land of Israel (and that in any case the river called "Euphrates" may in fact be a small river in Syria, while the so-called "river of Egypt" is probably another minor watercourse in the north of Sinai) but Palestinians aren't much comforted. Israel's sudden seizure of the West Bank, Gaza and, for a time, Sinai, in the wake of the Six-Day War, and the actions of Jewish settlers, seem to tell a different story - of expansion not defence.
And then there's the issue of the Israeli flag, which shows the state of Israel, represented by a blue Star of David, standing between two blue stripes. Officially, these stripes are taken from the tradi¬tional pattern of Jewish prayer shawls. According to conspiracy lore, however, they show how Israel has designs on all the land "from the river to the river" - from the Euphrates to the Nile. Exactly as depicted on the ten-agora coin.