A new report details the ways Google Maps’ mapping process in the occupied territories serves the interests of the Israeli government, while contradicting the company’s stated commitment to human rights.
When Tariq Asedih plans a trip from his village near Nablus to Ramallah, Google Maps “can’t find a way” for the 36-kilometer journey. Instead, he has to navigate from a nearby Jewish settlement, and even then, the available routes direct Asedih to roads that Palestinians are not allowed to use.
Not only does Google Maps not recognize Palestine (the browser instead navigates to an unlabeled area) – its entire user experience ignores the reality of occupation. In doing so, Google is violating its commitment to international human rights, according to a new report by 7amleh (pronounced “Hamleh”), the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media. Google claims its mission is to “organize the world’s information” and make it “useful,” but the report argues that Google Maps advances the interests of the Israeli government, and mostly serves Israeli citizens.
The State of Palestine was recognized by 138 of the 193-member United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2012, but has never been labeled as such on Google Maps. Israel is not only identified as a country, but Jerusalem, which was granted international status in UNGA Resolution 181 and remains a final-status issue, is marked at its capital. While a “West Bank” label does exist, Israeli settlements there appear as if they are located inside Israel.
Meanwhile, Palestinian villages unrecognized by Israel, both in the occupied territories and within the Green Line, are either misrepresented or entirely left out, while the names and locations of Israeli settlements are clearly noticeable. Even relatively small Jewish-Israeli communities appear on the map, but Palestinian villages are only visible when extremely, almost intentionally, zoomed in on.
Unlike other cities or villages, Bedouin communities in the Negev, which existed before Israel was established, are marked by their tribal designation, rather than the actual names of their villages. Considering that these villages are under the constant threat of demolition by Israeli authorities, their misrepresentation or omission from the map becomes “a method of enforcing the eradication of unrecognized Palestinian villages,” the report argues.
In addition to biased mapping, 7ahmel says Google prioritizes Israeli citizens when offering routes. The map ignores the segregated road system in Israel-Palestine and the resulting movement restrictions, such as checkpoints and...Read More