FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Erasing Palestine From the Map

by ROBERT ROSS

A foreign affairs blogger for The Washington Post recently posted “40 Maps that explain the world.”  Some of the maps are important (“Economic inequality around the world”), some are interesting (“Meet the world’s 26 remaining monarchies”), but others grossly distort the reality they purportedly represent.  Chief among this latter category is “How far Hamas’s rockets can reach into Israel” .

WashPostMap

All about Hamas’s rockets

There are two principal problems with this map.  First, the map attempts to “explain” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by pointing exclusively to the capacity of Hamas’s rockets to reach ever-extensive points within Israel.  Four color-coded, concentric semi-circles spread out from the Gaza Strip, each showing the distance different rockets could travel, the furthest making it all the way to the Dead Sea.  Max Fisher, the Post’s chief foreign affairs blogger, writes in a caption to the map, “This helps drive home why Israel is so concerned about Hamas, the Gaza-based Islamist group, and in particular about its access to Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets.  Those are the ones that can reach into the light-yellow region.”

Erasing Palestine from the Map

The second major problem with this map is that Palestine—both historic and contemporary—is erased from it.  A white dotted line traces the border between the West Bank and Israel but the line is barely visible beneath the yellow-shaded ring.  Moreover, “West Bank” (not “occupied West Bank,” or “occupied Palestinian territory,” or “Palestinian West Bank” or “Palestine,” mind you) appears in font so small that it seems to designate some tiny city northeast of Jerusalem, not the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.  And while Israeli municipalities such as Arad, Ashdod, Holan, and Hrzliya, among others, are included, nowhere can one find the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, or Jericho, much less al-Bira, Jenin, or Qalqilia. Only Jerusalem and Hebron, West Bank cities that are significant to both Israelis and Palestinians, are featured. Even Jaffa, the coastal Palestinian city north of Tel Aviv, has been replaced by the Israeli-Hebrew version, “Yafo.”

So what does this map tell us about the Israel-Palestine conflict?  It’s not apparent what or where Palestine is, or that it even exists, but the map suggests that an ever-menacing, Iranian-supported Islamist group threatens more than half of Israel.  And therefore, Israel is “concerned.”  Presumably, the reader might conclude, that “concern” forces Israel to periodically defend itself, launching its own counter-attacks into the Gaza Strip.  The West Bank, meanwhile, appears for all intents and purposes, part of Israel and in no way related to the Gaza Strip or the cartographically cleansed “Palestine.”  So Israel’s geography is simplified into a need to defend itself and Palestine is wiped off the map.

Concealing more than it reveals

The Washington Post’s map (which is actually just a simple google map lifted from someone named “Gene,” whose cartographic resume also includes google maps of “Richmond Bars/Restaurants” and “Jane Austin’s England”) doesn’t reveal how and to what extent Israel has “defended” itself against the perceived threat of Hamas’s rockets.  The threat is all that is deemed important; a map showing where and with what deadly ramifications Israel’s responses have taken place, such as this one produced by the Alliance for Justice in the Middle East at Harvard University and the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, didn’t make the Post’s list.

Any attempt to cartographically represent the context within which Hamas’s rockets and Israel’s “response” may have been launched, such as this UN map, is also entirely missing from the Post’s compilation.

In addition to nearly erasing the Palestinian West Bank altogether, the Post’s map reveals nothing about the multiple ways in which the territory is occupied by Israel.  Maps of Israeli-only roads, checkpoints, the separation barrier, settlements, and the ethnically-based divisions of the West Bank (such as these from Btselem, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, and The Applied Institute for Research – Jerusalem) don’t, according to the Washington Post, help explain this part of the world as much as Gene’s map of Hamas’s rocket-firing potential.

The Washington Post’s map of choice sheds no light on the Palestinian villages within Israel that were ethnically cleansed and destroyed in 1948-1949.  References to these maps from the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and Visualizing Palestine could have at least begun to cartographically resurrect these erased landscapes.

The Dangers of Distorted Cartography

In sum, The Washington Post’s map explains very little about this part of the world.  But what the map does reveal is The Washington Post’s myopic view of Israel and Palestine.  The ongoing colonization of Palestine by Israel is reduced and reversed, in this map’s representation, to a normal country that must fend off existential threats from its shadowy neighbors.  The effects of this distorted cartography are dangerous—erasing the geographies of Palestine is yet another step in the ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Robert Ross is an Assistant Professor of Global Cultural Studies at Point Park University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His research and teaching focus upon the political-economic geographies of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the United States. He is also a member of the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail