Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Erasing Palestine From the Map

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:
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail