Middle East mapsHarperCollins: Israel yok!
HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has just published the glossy Collins Middle East Atlas, which, the publisher says, was designed for use in Middle Eastern schools. The publisher describes the book as “an ideal school atlas for young primary school geographers,” which “enables students to learn about the world today by exploring clear and engaging maps.” There was only one problem: Israel was omitted from the map of the Middle East: A map of the area shows Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean, with Gaza and the West Bank both labeled, but Israel does not appear. “Way to go Collins!” wrote one reviewer. “While we’re at it, let’s delete Sweden from the map of Europe, Venezuela from the map of South America, and Russia entirely. In fact, let’s all design our own maps of the world and leave out all the countries we don’t particularly care for.” Retreating in the face of a wave scathing criticism, HarperCollins said it would withdraw the book from the market and pulp it.
“Malta yok” is Turkish for “Malta does not exist.” In 1565, Turkish fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea saw enemy ships near the island of Malta, and informed the Turkish Sultan. He ordered his navy to chase the enemy ships away, but the Turkish admirals, either because they could not believe that anyone would be brazen enough to challenge Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, or because they were more interested in sailing west to confront the Venetian navy, sent the following message to the Sultan in Istanbul: “Malta yok.”
Since Malta does not exist, there could not be enemy ships near Malta.
The editors of HarperCollins’s Collins Middle East Atlas – which, the publisher says, was designed for use in Middle Eastern schools — are saying: “Israel yok.”
Not for long, though. Following a wave of outrage directed at the publisher for omitting Israel from the map of the Middle East, HarperCollins has said it would withdraw the book from the market and pulp it.
The publisher, in promotional materials and a book catalogue, described the Collins Middle East Atlas as “an ideal school atlas for young primary school geographers,” which “enables students to learn about the world today by exploring clear and engaging maps.” It is also “specifically designed for schools in Middle East countries,” according to HarperCollins.
The Catholic newspaper the Tablet was the first to notice the omission of Israel, noting that a map of the area “shows Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean.” Gaza and the West Bank are both labeled, but Israel does not appear.
HarperCollins’ subsidiary Collins Bartholomew told the Tablet last week that the decision to exclude Israel reflected “local preferences,” and that including Israel in the atlas would have been “unacceptable” to its Gulf customers.
The Guardian reports that the discovery has prompted scathing criticism, with Bishop Declan Lang telling the Catholic weekly that the atlas “will confirm Israel’s belief that there exists a hostility towards their country from parts of the Arab world,” and “will not help to build up a spirit of trust leading to peaceful coexistence.”
Customers on Amazon also expressed their anger with nearly 150 one-star reviews of the atlas.
“Way to go Collins! While we’re at it, let’s delete Sweden from the map of Europe, Venezuela from the map of South America, and Russia entirely. In fact, let’s all design our own maps of the world and leave out all the countries we don’t particularly care for,” one reader. Another added: “Geography is about accuracy, not political views or opinions. A lot of Middle Eastern countries do not like USA, why not leave it out of the map? This map is completely trash.”
HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has issued a statement on its Facebook page, saying that it “regrets the omission of Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas.”
“This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offence caused,” the publisher said.
The publisher’s original decision to show a map of the Middle East without Israel continues to draw rebuke, with Dr. Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews, telling the Tablet that “maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of de-legitimizing ‘the other’ and can lead to confusion rather than clarity,” and calling for all atlases to “reflect the official UN position on nations, boundaries and all political features.”
Alex Brummer, a journalist, HarperCollins author, and vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, described the decision to print a map without including Israel “outrageous.”
“The offending map shows the West Bank marked immediately adjacent to the Gaza strip as if Israel did not exist. In effect, HarperCollins achieved what the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened at the stroke of a pen: wiped Israel off the map,” wrote Brummer.
Brummer pointed to the “strenuous tests for accuracy and legality which publishers go through before releasing any book,” saying he concluded that the choice to exclude Israel must have been “a deliberate decision taken by the publishers purely for commercial reasons.”
“What is comforting is that in the case of the HarperCollins atlas Christians as well as the Jewish community have been anxious to correct an inaccuracy which smacks of anti-Zionism and borders on anti-Semitism. It is welcome that HarperCollins has reversed itself and hopefully it will be on guard against further offensive publications,” he wrote.
“But one would also like to see the diplomatic and foreign policy community fully engaged in combating anti-Semitic tropes and denials of the horrors of the Holocaust that still form part of the curriculum and textbooks in many parts of the Arab world.”