Google blames bug for removing ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza’ from Israel/Palestine map

Israel/Palestine
on 34 Comments

Google blames a malfunction for removing the terms “West Bank” and “Gaza Strip” from its map of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

“There has never been a ‘Palestine’ label on Google 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,” said a Google spokesperson in an email to Mondoweiss.

The bug Google blames for the erasure of the labels set off a wave of outraged Tweets and Facebook posts in the last several days, although the deletion reportedly occurred as early as July 25th. The Palestinian Journalists Forum issued a widely circulated denouncement of the removal.

“The move is also designed to falsify history, and 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 PJF said, according to Turkish Radio Television (TRT).

Andrew Kadi, a co-chair of the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation, told Mondoweiss that he feels Google is part of the problem when it comes to recognizing the occupation. Although the United States and United Nations have repeatedly in the past declared Israel’s military to be an occupying force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, that obvious declaration has fallen out of style. Google’s omission of the word makes this amnesia possible.

“I just searched Palestine on Google Maps and it brings up Israel basically. Israel is labelled like Israel, like lots of different parts of what is now recognized as Israel, but you do not have a label that clearly states that the Golan Heights is occupied. You don’t have anything that clearly states that the West Bank is occupied. Although you have the Green Line you have nothing that indicates that East Jerusalem is militarily occupied. And these aren’t my definitions, these are the international definitions, recognized by every country including the U.S. So it’s odd,” Kadi said.

The debate over Google’s alleged bug “overlooks that Google has not been correctly labelling these areas correctly anyway.”

Kadi said that for someone unfamiliar with the history of the region, then these dashed lines, labelled in fine print “1949 Armistice Line,” don’t mean anything. If you wanted to fact check whether the Palestinian territories are occupied or not, Google’s map wouldn’t tell you much.

“If they want to be treated as a geographical information resource, then they have to take that more seriously. At a minimum, of meeting the international community’s definition of the Occupied West Bank, Occupied East Jerusalem and the Occupied Golan Heights,” he added.

Kadi also expects that Google’s investment in Israel, and its purchasing of Israeli navigation app Waze, might have inspired the “bug” to happen.

Bug or not, “Google is benefiting from the country that’s erased us,” said Kadi, who is Palestinian-American.

Waze, and human error, was at least partially to blame for a deadly incident this winter, when two Israeli soldiers wandered their vehicle into the Qalandia refugee camp, between Ramallah and Jerusalem, and ended up pinned down by a firebomb, Newsweek reported. In rescuing the wayward soldiers, Israeli forces killed a 22-year-old Palestinian man Iyad Amr Sajdiyeh. Citing a report in Haaretz, the March, 1 Newsweek article details how the Israeli military put in force “Hannibal” orders that allow for commanders to place Palestinian civilians in danger to prevent the capture of Israeli troops. Waze said the soldiers were not using the feature that prevents accidental navigation into Palestinian areas.

“Waze has and is continuing to work directly with the relevant authorities to decrease such mishaps from occurring, but unfortunately there is no ability to prevent them altogether as ultimately some prudence is in the driver’s hands,” Julie Mossler, a representative for the company, told the magazine.

The blindness of the tech industry to the mortal danger of occupation can endanger Palestinian and Israeli lives in other ways, the Daily Dot reports. Some roads are restricted to settlers solely. The author, Jonathan Brown, explains:

“If you’re Palestinian, to travel on Google-endorsed roads, you’ll need to secure a series of permits and agreements, which the Israeli authority now hands out less frequently with each passing year,” Brown wrote in 2014. “Exceptions might be made for a journey to Jerusalem, for prayers at Al Aqsa, but probably only during Ramadan. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) calls some roads in this network ‘sterile roads.’ For Palestinians, use [of] these are prohibited entirely.”

Imagine taking your Google Maps app back in time, to Mississippi in the 1960s, and driving as an African American person through a “sun down town,” where police would arrest people of color if discovered outside after dark. Unless Google wrote the grim reality of Jim Crow into your phone, you could be driving into a lynching. The same thing applies in for Palestinians under Israeli occupation, and living near settler neighbors who threaten them.

As Google labors to fix the bug, some observers of Israel/Palestine have noted that the erasure of the words “West Bank” and “Gaza” inadvertently reflect a reality that hardly gets mentioned in American discussions of the region: the huge degree of control Israel exerts over the West Bank and Gaza. The fact of military domination renders talk of a “two-state solution” divorced from the fact that Israel and its Occupied Palestinian Territories operate as an effectively single but deeply dysfunctional and unequal political entity.

Kadi said that one of his first reactions to seeing the words removed was how much it made Palestine/Israel look like a single country. The Oslo-mandated Palestinian Authority failing to coalesce under military occupation into a sovereign government, quelle surprise, has lead to a the popularity of a “rights-based” approach becoming more popular, Kadi said.

One prominent social media figure appeared to endorse a single, equitable state as the solution to Israel/Palestine’s woes.

Dena Takruri, a correspondent for AJ+, Al Jazeera’s digital first, Facebook news reel, reshared a previous video piece about the immensity of the Separation/Security/Apartheid Fence/Barrier/Wall, with this telling take:

“If only it was one state with equal rights for all, as Google’s maps suggest…” Takruri wrote.

About Wilson Dizard

Wilson Dizard is a freelance reporter and photojournalist covering politics, civil rights, drug policy and everything else. He lives in Brooklyn with his bicycle, camera and drum set.

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34 Responses

  1. Citizen
    August 10, 2016, 10:06 am

    Yeah, it was a glitch, a technical “bug.” Everything about Israel is “buggy,” it seems.

    Wonder if the main media will ever discuss that lawsuit just filed, claiming Israel has to cough back all the foreign aid we gave it since 1976, when a law was passed forbidding our government to give aid to any country with nuclear weapons who is not a member of the NNPT? If the claim was won in court, every taxpayer would get back about $2,000.

    Also noticed State Dept has come out strongly against the settlements, home demolitions.

    And Obama set to give Netanyahu a nice $45 billion or $50 billion aid package.

    • CigarGod
      August 13, 2016, 9:53 am

      Remember those awesome wanted posters of Israel war criminals?
      I think we should add a potrait of “The Bug” once he/she is identified. Until then, a graphic of a bug will do just fine.

  2. Ossinev
    August 10, 2016, 10:12 am

    “If only it was one state with equal rights for all, as Google’s maps suggest…”

    Exactly. The ones who behind the scenes must be panicking most over this are Zionist JSILis who are desperate to maintain the increasingly ludicrous sham of two state peace negotiations and the mythical two state solution.

    Google`s faux pas is in fact a positive step in the right and only viable direction = one state between the river and the sea which will initially given the facts on the ground be an openly apartheid state but with time and the inevitable international opprobrium will become a single state with equal rights for all.

    Wishful thinking ? Any other alternatives other than the world turning a blind eye to blatant apartheid. I don`t think so. South Africa got away with it for a time but the guilt generated by the exposure of Western ( and JSILi ) complicity in the SA saga , the Internet News age and a more generally attuned younger generation will IMHO make the JSIL Apartheid timeline much shorter.

    • echinococcus
      August 10, 2016, 11:03 am

      Ossinev,

      which will initially given the facts on the ground be an openly apartheid state but with time and the inevitable international opprobrium will become a single state with equal rights for all

      Counting on time and opprobrium is a little like faith in progress, the arc of justice, or gods.

    • Boomer
      August 10, 2016, 3:08 pm

      I don’t know whether one state or 2 would be better, but when I see people advocate one state, they don’t always make it clear what kind of state they anticipate. I’ve never been to Israel, so I don’t know, but my guess is that a lot of people there agree with this fellow, who (among other things) says that Israel needs to:

      “Encourage and provide aid for Arab emigration. Instead of the nearly trillion shekels that Israel has invested to date in the Oslo two-state solution, we can invest in an emigration basket to allow the Gazans to relocate with financial security. Financially secure immigrants are welcomed in most countries.”

      http://www.jewishisrael.org/make-gaza-israeli-riviera-middle-east-4-point-plan-gaza-safe-israel-moshe-feiglin/

      • Annie Robbins
        August 10, 2016, 3:21 pm

        boomer. Moshe Feiglin is a fanatic. i wrote about him and this very idea of his back in 2014, same year of that link. http://mondoweiss.net/2014/12/million-palestinians-feiglin/

        Bribing Palestinians with money to leave Palestine is not a novel concept. And yet the idea is as plausible as sauntering down to the local elementary school and offering to purchase the children. Listen to the casualness in the voice of Knesset deputy speaker Moshe Feiglin as he discusses this and other disturbing concepts during this presentation about Gaza last July 14, a few days after last summer’s slaughter in Gaza began. This talk (published in the last month) seems to fly in Israel; many people are normalized to it by now, even though they may not agree with him. Feiglin:

        (includes partial transcript)

      • Mr.T
        August 10, 2016, 3:41 pm

        ““Encourage and provide aid for Arab emigration.”

        Genocide by Shekel. How disgusting.

      • MHughes976
        August 10, 2016, 4:48 pm

        It may be disgusting, Mr.T, but I’m sure that that a grand population ‘transfer’ is being planned, with the balance between the apparently consensual ‘with comoensation’ and the nakedly coercive under discussion. The next presidency, Trump or Clinton, might look like an ideal,opprtunity, though either way, consensual or coercive, it would cost a mountain of money which it is not clear that anyone has. But we have to be ready for the accompanying propaganda onslaught about final and humane solutions.

      • Mr.T
        August 10, 2016, 5:26 pm

        “but I’m sure that that a grand population ‘transfer’ is being planned, with the balance between the apparently consensual ‘with comoensation’ and the nakedly coercive under discussion.”

        No doubt you are right. Nothing about the entire Zionist series of crimes — starting in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries with the conspiracy in Europe and elsewhere in planning and carrying out the invasion and destruction of Palestine; through the acts of genocide which the Zionists committed in the 1940s in connection with the establishment of the wicked JSIL; to the nurturing of its Apartheid nature to this day — has occurred in a way in which the rights or desires, let alone consent, of the Zionists’ victims was a consideration.

        Indeed, I’d say that history has shown the Zionists are either bereft of the smallest speck of human decency or follow and ideology which leads them to act in a way that makes it appears to be the case.

        I’ve little doubt that when this final solution to the Palestinian question is inflicted upon its victims, three things are certain: Palestinians will be murdered en masse, the Zionists of the world will be complicit by lying about the Israeli’s villainy, and the US will do nothing.

      • Boomer
        August 10, 2016, 7:33 pm

        Thanks Annie. Your prior discussion and the comments were informative and still highly relevant.

      • inbound39
        August 10, 2016, 8:00 pm

        It doesn’t take much common sense to realise the Zionist Israeli’s are painting themselves into a corner. Even if they succeed in stealing all of Palestine they are as good as isolating themselves from the World. Few people like them now…..and continuing on their current path will see them eventually become persona non grata in many nations. People on the streets have little time for their arrogant and pious natures.

      • Boomer
        August 11, 2016, 7:34 am

        re “it would cost a mountain of money which it is not clear that anyone has.”

        Clearly, he assumes that Americans would pay for it. Actually, as an American, having paid so much to help Israel steal the Palestinians’ homes from them and oppress them, I feel that we do owe them something.

      • James Michie
        August 11, 2016, 10:51 am

        Well, Boomer, that certainly is a far more polite way of fascist Zionist Israel getting rid of the rest of the Palestinians so that the Zionists can steal what little remains of Palestine. Brilliant, Boomer, absolutely brilliant!

    • xanadou
      August 10, 2016, 10:31 pm

      Ossinev,
      you may be right re Israel panicking. A short while ago I had stumbled on an article referencing Denmark’s FM, Lidegaard, calling for sanctions if Israel will not get with the program, but put in more diplomatic language:
      https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20140923-danish-fm-threatens-israel-with-sanctions/
      When I tried to add my comment that the the statement was made in 9/2014, and that Lidegaard was out of his job by June 2015, after 16 months in office, the hackers kept erasing my comment. I wonder why? (rhetorical)

      Those sanctions are way overdue and, likely, the much needed dose of reality that the zios urgently need, lest they self destruct.

  3. Kay24
    August 10, 2016, 11:50 am

    Yeah, it must be that well known zio bug. We know how that one works.

    • Marnie
      August 10, 2016, 12:04 pm

      Or a Zombie cherry tomato? Either way, it reeks of israeli ‘ingenuity’ imho.

      • Kay24
        August 10, 2016, 2:34 pm

        Yes, Israel is wiping Palestine off the map ( proof: shrinking map of Palestine), and Google is helping them along by trying to blaming these so called strange “bugs”.

  4. Boomer
    August 10, 2016, 2:58 pm

    I initially mentioned a recent poll in a comment I made about the IRmep lawsuit. When I saw this item about Google Maps, however, I realized it is relevant here. According to this poll, more Americans believe that Palestinians occupy Israeli land than believe the opposite. Clearly, the Zionist narrative has triumphed, if this poll is correct (but only in the United States). Google isn’t helping.

    (Note, the lead sentence in the article linked below incorrectly uses the word “majority” instead of “plurality.”)

    Gullible Americans Duped into Believing Palestinians Occupy Israeli Land Rather than the Reverse

    http://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2016/03/24/most-americans-believe-palestinians-occupy-israeli-land/

  5. Henry Norr
    August 10, 2016, 3:34 pm

    Searching for “Palestine” in Google Maps brings up not only the map with no labels on the West Bank, Gaza, or the Golan Heights, but also a sidebar that says:, quoting Wikipedia

    The State of Palestine, also known simply as Palestine, is a de jure sovereign state in the Middle East that is recognized by 136 UN members and since 2012 has a status of a non-member observer state

    The Zionists can’t be happy about that! Now that Google’s handling of “Palestine” is getting so much attention, what do you bet the Zionists will force Google to change that text?

  6. Darcha
    August 10, 2016, 7:41 pm

    Searching for ‘Palestina’ in the Czech version yields one of those red arrow thingies with a black dot in the middle saying ‘Palestinian Territories’ in Czech. The location is zero degrees south by zero degrees east.

    Wow! A ‘bug’ that can spit in your face!

    • Boomer
      August 11, 2016, 7:28 am

      re “The location is zero degrees south by zero degrees east.”

      !

      • James Michie
        August 11, 2016, 10:42 am

        In your dreams, Boomer, in your dreams!

      • Boomer
        August 11, 2016, 2:29 pm

        @ James Michie, “In your dreams, Boomer, in your dreams!”

        I’m not sure whether I was too cryptic, or am missing your humor. In any event, for the record, it isn’t my dream. According to Darcha, it’s where Google locates Palestine for Czech speakers. 0 degrees by 0 would put Palestine in the Atlantic ocean, far from land. Zionists have long complained that the Arabs (or sometimes its the Iranians, who aren’t Arab), want to “push them into the sea.” Perhaps Google harbors a similar ambition for Palestinians. Of course, it’s the Zionists who have been doing the pushing.

    • James Michie
      August 11, 2016, 10:43 am

      You Zionists are such good neighbors.

  7. DaBakr
    August 11, 2016, 3:41 am

    oh.. Idea: ..get a little old special match box and take the tiny violin out. now twist the teeny strip of bamboo with a hair plucked off you kitten.

    Now play. Play a sad and lamenting tune. Have somebody write lyrics that instill equal amounts of militaristic or perhaps a resistant or even violent feelings to avengeance

    When done–place tiny violin back in box and loosen kitten hair on toothpick bow and carefully place back in perfectly stud vintage match box form, oh, what a coincidence, the

    • eljay
      August 11, 2016, 7:57 am

      Much too wordy to be a “zinger”.

    • John O
      August 11, 2016, 1:39 pm

      Nurse! He’s outta bed again!

    • Mooser
      August 11, 2016, 7:11 pm

      “get a little old special match box”

      Exactly, “DaBakr”! It’s like the Ark of the Covenant!

    • Talkback
      August 12, 2016, 8:55 am

      The correct term since the UN upgrade is State of Palestine . The fact that it is occupied doesn’t alter its statehood.

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    August 11, 2016, 9:26 am

    Yeah sure…always blame something/someone else.

  9. James Michie
    August 11, 2016, 9:27 am

    “LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM”!

  10. pianoteacher
    August 11, 2016, 12:53 pm

    Saw a national geographic map with Gaza labeled as “Western Israel “.

  11. Boo
    August 12, 2016, 9:36 am

    Google’s claim stretches the definition of “bug” past the snapping point. given the fact that the labeling was apparently correct prior to approximately July 25 and went missing thereafter. A bug is an inadvertent programming error. The deletion couldn’t have occurred inadvertently any more than Yonkers would suddenly disappear from the map as the result of an inadvertent error. Underneath Google beats the heart of an immense database, and data don’t just vanish from it.

    This was either an inside job or an outside hack. In any event, not a “bug”.

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