Tempers flared last week and anger is still boiling in the corridors of the headquarters of the Israeli government after global Internet giant Google replaced ‘Google Palestinian Territories’ in its search engine by ‘Google Palestine’, thus ‘recognising’ the shadow Arab nation in line with the United Nations. The search page now looks like this: www.google.ps.
The California-based tech company said in a statement on Friday that it does consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries, and in this case it said it has followed the lead of the UN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the International Organisation for Standardisation, among others.
While the Palestinian government is over the moon about the move, Tel Aviv is incensed and surprised by the ‘little love’ being shown to its sworn-enemy. “This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private Internet company in international politics, and on the controversial side,” Yigal Palmor, spokesperson for Israel foreign ministry was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.
Israeli media has also entered the fray, with the online publication Israel Hayom saying last week: “It is the not the first time the search engine giant has taken a stance against Israel in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In 2010 the company’s translation services decided to define Israel as the Palestinian state.
“In the past Google had announced that it recognises Israel only up to its 1967 borders, a stance which has been expressed in the exclusion of the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria from the company’s advertising platform AdWords.”
The Arab media, in particular Al Arabiya English, called the change a ‘small but politically loaded step’. Now, the government of Palestine wants Google to go as far as what it did last week. Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the BBC that he would like to see the change also reflected in Google Maps. He said: “We hope Google maps will also show the fact that Palestinian land has been stolen from Israel’s colonisation.”
Will Google go that far and further provoke the Jewish state, and stroke tensions in the Middle East? Nobody knows because technology companies are very much unpredictable.
Watch this space!