The Palestinian Journalists’ Forum has denounced Google for deleting the name of Palestine from its maps and replacing it with Israel.
A spokesman for the Forum said on August 4 that the internet giant’s decision to literally wipe Palestine from its maps on July 25 “is part of the Israeli scheme to establish its name as a legitimate state for generations to come and abolish Palestine once and for all.”
“The move is also designed to falsify history, geography as well as the Palestinian people’s right to their homeland, and a failed attempt to tamper with the memory of Palestinians and Arabs as well as the world.”
The Forum said the move was “contrary to all international norms and conventions”, stressing that Google should back track on its actions.
Thousands have signed a petition urging Google to reinstate Palestine on the maps’ service.
Over 180,000 signatories have backed a Change.org petition entitled “Google: Put Palestine on your maps” as of August, accusing Google Maps of “making itself complicit in the Israeli Government’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine” either on purpose or inadvertently.
The petition, drafted by Zak Martin, slams the omission of the UN non-member observer state’s name from the map as a “grievous insult” to Palestinians.
If one tries to type Palestine into Google Maps search, he will be shown a blank space within Israel’s territory marking the areas of Gaza, Judea and Samaria with a dashed line, without naming them.
Palestine was awarded a non-member observer status at the United Nations in November 2012. The General Assembly resolution, passed by a clear majority with 130 countries for, 9 against and 41 abstaining, was hailed as a victory by the Palestinian leadership and regular citizens who took to the streets to celebrate a milestone decision.
Palestinian President, Mahmood Abbas, called the General Assembly’s vote a step toward Palestine’s official statehood, saying that the UN was “called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.”
Following the vote, the PA sent a letter to Google calling on it to include Palestine in its countries’ index. In 2013 the company had satisfied the request changing the tagline on its Palestinian version from ‘Palestinian territories’ to ‘Palestine’.
“We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’ across our products. We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries. In this case, we are following the lead of the UN…and other international organizations,” Google spokesperson Nathan Tyler said at the time.
According to Google there has never been a “Palestine” label on it’s maps, “however we discovered a bug that removed the labels for “West Bank” and “Gaza Strip”. We’re working quickly to bring these labels back to the area. Our basemap data, which includes information like place names, borders, and road networks, comes from a combination of third-party providers and public sources.”
“While this helps us provide a comprehensive map, it also means that the amount of data we have varies from place to place and you can see this reflected in our maps. If there are data sources that we’re unaware of, we’d be happy to take a look and see if they’re of sufficient quality to bring to the map. ”