Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Google says Palestine was never on Google Maps after claims it had been 'airbrushed' away.


There was outrage online recently after Google appeared to delete Palestine from its Maps service after a glitch caused the West Bank and Gaza to briefly disappear,but the internet giant was forced  to explain that the country "has never been" on the service. 
Palestine, although recognised as a country by the United Nations, has never been on Google Maps. Instead of being demarcated with a solid line that denotes a country border, Google instead defines the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with a dashed border - the mark it uses to outline disputed territories.
Google was forced to explain that it doesn't define Palestine as a country separate from Israel on Maps after a petition signed by 250,000 people described the company's "airbrushing" of Palestine as "deeply offensive" and called for the internet giant to put Palestine on its map.
If you search for Palestine on Google maps, you might be surprised to find that it is not marked on the widely-used mapping tool, Palestine has not been removed because it was never there in the first place. Due to its ongoing conflict with Israel, Palestine was not shown on Google Maps five months ago, when the petition – which has only picked up serious momentum recently – was created.
Despite their misplaced anger, tens of thousands of people have flocked to sign the petition to add Palestine to Google Maps. The petition states that, in failing to recognise Palestine, ‘Google is making itself complicit in the Israeli government’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine’ But if you search “Palestine” in Google Maps today, you’ll get the same result you would have gotten five months ago, when a guy named Zak Martin began the petition on the subject: The map view defaults to a demarcated, but unlabeled, region stretching from Hebron in the south to Jenin in the north, and from Jerusalem to the Jordanian border. if you click on any of the cities in this region, Google does label them as Palestinian, and the Wikipedia-sourced Knowledge Box that pops up describes Palestine as a “de jure sovereign state.” That language has been in effect since 2013, when Google — following the lead of the United Nations —  changed its designation to “Palestine” from “Palestinian territories.”
The Palestinian Journalists Forum (PJF), in a statement released on Friday in the Middle East Monitor, condemned Google’s decision to remove Palestine from its maps, saying it “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 group says the removal of Palestine’s name from the Google Maps was a blatant attempt to undermine Palestinian statehood forever and claims the move is just another attempt to distort history and geography.
“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 statement added.
In addition, the group demanded that Google reverse the name changes made on July 25, noting that the move was “contrary to all international norms and conventions.”
In 1947, after millions of Jewish people were killed and displaced by the Nazis during the Holocaust, the United Nations' member states overwhelmingly voted to create a Jewish state in what was then Palestine. Palestinians resisted the move, but by December 1947, the first clearing' operations were conducted against Palestinian villages by Jewish forces. A bloody and deeply contentious fight over the land between Jews and Arabs has ensued to this day.
While Palestine has been recognised by the UN as its own state since 2012, it is now largely regarded as territories occupied by Israel.Most of the areas claimed by the State of Palestine have been occupied by Israel since 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. Its independence was declared on November 15, 1988, by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Algiers as a government-in-exile.As of September 2015, 136 (70.5%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations and two non-member states have recognized the State of Palestine. Many of the countries that do not recognize a State of Palestine nevertheless recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.The omission of Palestine remains a grievous insult to the people of Palestine and undermines the efforts of the millions of people who are involved in the campaign to secure Palestinian independence and freedom from Israeli occupation and oppression.
This is an important issue, as Google Maps are now regarded as definitive by people around the world, including journalists, students and others carrying out research into the Israel-Palestine situation.While the fact that Google never defined Palestine on Google Maps certainly doesn’t make the situation any better, it is interesting to see how quickly social media can mobilise people towards a cause – even when they aren’t presented with exactly all the facts.Whether intentionally or otherwise, Google is still making itself complicit in the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The internet's indignation is not delegitimized by the misperception that this is a recent change, given the source of it comes from Palestine's exclusion. For these reasons Google Maps decision to never include Palestine in the first place should continually be questioned since as one of the world's top go-to GPS navigations, it holds accountability as to how the world interprets states, nations, and our overall worldview. Google can try to can remove Palestine from the maps but it will never remove it from our hearts.

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