'Palestine' tagline appears on Google to Israel’s disapproval
The search engine’s Palestine site, google.ps, now displays the
word “Palestine” in Arabic and English underneath Google’s
“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 in a statement.
The decision has been warmly accepted by the Palestinian Authority (PA).
“This is a virtual victory for Palestine - a step in the right direction that has to be followed by others, including Google Maps and Google Earth,” Sabri Saidam, IT consultant to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, told The Telegraph.
He added that many Palestinian villages with thousands of residents have been erased on Google Maps and replaced with Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.
But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor criticized Google’s decision, saying it holds no real meaning.
“Google is not a political or diplomatic entity, so they can call anything by any name, it has no diplomatic or political significance,” he told the Times of Israel. He added that “many questions can be raised by this change, regarding Google’s policy and the meaning of all that.”
The UN General Assembly upgraded the PA from observer entity status to non-member observer status last November. The move was met with disapproval from Israel and the US.
Following the November victory at the UN, the PA issued letters to Google and other global corporations, requesting that they change their drop-down menus to include Palestine among their index of countries.
“In most online menus you won’t find Palestine or even Palestinian territories among the national options. Palestinian users are still forced to choose between either Israel or Jordan,” Saidam said. He said that he hopes Facebook, Microsoft and other websites will follow Google’s lead.
It’s not the first time Google has made a statement regarding international politics. During the Egyptian revolution in 2011, the company listed three phone numbers that could be used by protesters to make tweets through voice mails even if internet connections were down.
The search engine also publicly criticized China in 2010 over what it called illegal surveillance. Google shut down its Chinese edition and said it was not possible for it to keep its services running because in China “self-censorship (was) a non-negotiable legal requirement.”