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Monday, June 30, 2008

Replacement Geography: Google Earth replaces Israel with 'Palestine'

Google Earth's virtual map of Israel features dozens of orange dots which purport to represent 'destroyed' 'Palestinian' villages. Each of the dots links to a web site called "Palestine Remembered" which features 'Palestinian' propaganda regarding the villages. Some of the dots represent villages that never existed or were never destroyed.

While Google often allows organizations to create overlays of its maps to promote various (often political) causes, what's different about the Israeli map is that the overlay is done by Google itself. You cannot escape it. If you are trying to find places in Israel, you are automatically redirected to the site with the 'Palestinian' narrative. Andre Obeler, a post-doctoral fellow at Bar Ilan University and an expert in the media refers to this as replacement geography.
Virtual Israel, as represented by Google Earth, is littered with dozens of orange dots. Orange dots represent contributions from the user community, and those appearing by default have been accepted into the core layout by Google Earth. In the case of Israel, most of these dots claim to represent "one of the Palestinian localities evacuated and destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war." For example, Ramat Aviv, the site of Tel Aviv University, appears as Al Shaykh Muwannis. While generally Google Earth does not erase Israeli towns and kibbutzim, it has heavily integrated a politically motivated Palestinian narrative into the map of Israel. As a result, Israel is depicted as a state born out of colonial conquest rather than the return of a people from exile. Each orange dot links to the "Palestine Remembered" site, where custom layers which further advance this narrative can be obtained.

Early press reports portrayed the virtual Palestine initiative as documentation of fact and included Israeli comments that it was "biased but legitimate." Later research showed that many of the claims staked out in Google Earth were presenting misinformation. Kiryat Yam was wrongly claimed to be built on the Palestinian village of Ghawarina. Many sites known to be ruins in 1946 are claimed to be villages destroyed in 1948. Arab villages which still exist today are listed as sites of destruction. The Google Earth initiative is not only creating a virtual Palestine, it is creating a falsification of history.


"Replacement geography" builds on the concept of "replacement theology," a position that spurred anti-Semitism within the church and which, starting with Vatican II, has been removed from Christian doctrine. Indeed, it has been stated that recognition of the State of Israel by the Vatican completed this process. Replacement theology stated that Christians had inherited the covenant and replaced the Jews as the chosen people. The concept of replacement geography similarly replaces the historical connection of one people to the land with a connection between another people and the land.

This was famously applied by the Romans when they renamed Judea to Palaestinia, and Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina in 135 CE in an effort to destroy the Jewish people after the Bar Kokhba revolt. In more recent times, replacement geography has resulted in the destruction of Jewish artifacts at the Temple Mount.

The inclusion of virtual Palestine, superimposed on Israel in the core layer of Google Earth, is an example of replacement geography advanced by technology. Those wishing to find directions, explore the cities of Israel, or randomly wander across this small piece of land are immediately taken to a politically motivated narrative unrelated to their quest. This is the sort of replacement the ancient Romans tried and failed to achieve. The promotion of a replacement narrative works against a compromise solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inspiring absolutist positions rather than a negotiated settlement.


Generally, Google allows all kinds of organizations or individuals to create overlays with their own information on its map. These overlays are only available to those who specifically request them, but they are not automatically incorporated into the core map of Google Earth that every user entering its website can see. Disturbingly, Google has incorporated the Palestinians' overlays and their accompanying narrative into its core maps of Israel. As Google maintains editorial control over its core layer, it has responsibility for its content, which it clearly has not adequately exercised.
Anyone who is not familiar with Israel will likely take the Google narrative at face value. They will be indoctrinated into the 'Palestinian' narrative without even being told there is another side to the story. Even for those who are somewhat familiar with the truth, it is almost inevitable that something along the way will fool them.

It would be different if this were an overlay by a pro-'Palestinian' group that would only pop up at the user's option. But it's not. The overlay has been fixed to the map by Google itself, ostensibly an unbiased purveyor of information. The 'thought control' implications are reminiscent of the Communist regimes of sixty years ago. Of course, this is not the first time that Google has used its status as a dominant news purveyor to make a political statement. In fact, the Israeli town of Kiryat Yam has actually sued Google over the map in question. What's new here is that typically you could opt out of Google's political view. Not now. This is the only map of Israel on Google Earth.

Read the whole thing.


At 5:05 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

Google opened offices in Israel recently. We should send them packing. At least, we should be bombarding them with email.

I wouldn't put it past them to be involved in spying. Our spooks should take a good, hard look at what they're up to.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

I've been thinking about this issue. What alternative services could we be using instead of Google-Earth? Any ideas?

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

NO!!! Very serious correction to Obeler's assertions about replacement theology:

Antisemitic replacement theology most definitely has NOT been "removed from Christian doctrine" and cannot with intellectual honesty be spoken of in the past tense -- it's stronger than ever in Christendom, just the phrase "replacement theology" is not so welcome, but the theology itself is very much alive, no matter how much its adherents (which is most of Christendom, including the Catholic church) deny the label.

Don't fool yourself, most of the Church still hates you.

At 10:04 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I knew they were going to replace Israel on only a map Ahmedinejad could love. Sickening!

At 10:18 PM, Blogger stalepie said...

Hi. This is a great site you have, but like a lot of blogs it puts too many articles on the front page. I only have a gig of RAM and a Pentium M on this machine, so it slows down my browser keeping this page open.

At 2:26 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

It looks like they took the stuff down from the Israel map entirely! Yasher koach!


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