#PalestineIsHere: Online outrage after Google ‘erases’ Palestine from the map

© Marko Djurica
Palestinian journalists have slammed Google for allegedly removing Palestine from its maps. After reporters accused the American tech giant of "falsifying history and geography," thousands have noticed the absence from Google Maps.

UPD: After Google issued a response to the allegation, it turned out the angry journalists and activists got it wrong – the name Palestine has never been erased or replaced. It was never on Google Maps to begin with.

Over 150,000 signatories have backed a Change.org petition entitled “Google: Put Palestine on your maps” as of Monday, 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 on the map as a “grievous insult” to Palestinians. 

The petition, launched months ago, saw a dramatic rise in the number of signatories in the past few days after a statement by the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum [PJF] triggered an online campaign against Google.

“[This] 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 statement, cited by the Middle East Monitor, reads. 

The group claimed that Google removed Palestine’s name completely from its map application by designating all Palestinian territories as Israel. The journalists argued such a policy was “contrary to all international norms and conventions," denied the Palestinians “right to homeland” and was merely “designed to falsify history and geography.”

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. 

The anger of people who noticed Palestine's absence from the map inspired the Twitter hashtags #BoycottGoogle and #PalestineIsHere, with people accusing Google of apparently taking sides in the protracted conflict.

“Google Now you make fake history. Aren't you ashamed. You are siding with a country. You are a moteur de recherché,” wrote @MlleNerdy.

Some even threatened to switch to other search engines or stop using some of its services if the US tech giant sticks to its decision.

Palestine was awarded a non-member observer status at the UN in November 2012 despite vehement opposition from Israel and its ally US. The General Assembly resolution, passed by the absolute majority with 130 countries for, 9 against and 41 abstaining, was hailed by the Palestinian leadership and regular citizens who took to streets to celebrate a milestone decision.

Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas called the General Assembly’s vote a step toward the Palestine’s official statehood, saying that the body “called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.” 

READ MORE:'Palestine' tagline appears on Google to Israel’s disapproval

Following the vote, the PA sent a letter to Google calling on it to include Palestine into 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.

While saying that "there has never been a 'Palestine' label on Google Maps," the company told Al Jazeera's AJ+ that it had discovered another bug "that removed the labels for 'West Bank' and 'Gaza Strip. '" Google was "working quickly to bring these labels back to the area," the company said.