We recently reported that Google had removed Palestine from its Maps service. Palestine was displayed as a part of Israel to users around the world. There was huge backlash from people around the world. Today, Google has explained the reasons behind it.
The company says that their Maps app has never had the Palestine label and that there was a glitch which removed the Gaza and West Strip labels from the maps service. They say that they are working to bring back these labels as soon as they can.
Google shows the West Bank and Gaza areas with dashed border lines and defines these areas as Palestinian when you click on any one of them. If you use the web service, you get a Wikipedia knowledge box stating that the area is Palestine, a “de jure sovereign state”. The term was selected by the United Nations in 2013.
The issue was discovered by a Gaza city Journalism group which soon became news and several publishers shared the news. The Forum of Palestinian Journalists said “[Our group] condemns the crime carried out by Google in deleting the name of Palestine, and calls for Google to rescind its decision and apologize to the Palestinian people.”
Media from all Muslim states, along with people using Twitter and Facebook from around the world, started demanding that Google rename the region or even rename Israel as Palestine. This made way to a popular hashtag #PalestineIsHere on both Twitter and Facebook. A large number of people reportedly deleted Google service accounts as part of their boycott and stopped using the search engine and the maps service.
Google argues with its statement that the term Palestine has never been a part of the Maps application, however the two regions of Palestine were removed by mistake. It doesn’t matter if their statement is true or false, when a country is accepted by 136 UN members, which means it is a separate sovereign nation with its own identity no matter the political situation of the region. Hence, it should be labelled as a separate country as well.
At the moment, some international media is standing with Google that the outcry was misplaced since the country was never mentioned so it can’t possibly have been removed. Google uses internal, third-party and public additions to create maps but still ignores when it comes to the Palestinians.
Companies calling themselves global technology providers should refrain from politicising themselves and offer unbiased services especially when the matter is this sensitive. First, it was Facebook silencing Kashmiris and now it’s Google removing Palestinians from global existence.