MapQuest sidesteps requests to correct blatantly inaccurate map of Israel

25 October 2005

THE PROBLEM

Changing the map of the Middle East is difficult even in a literal sense. Last month the Electronic Intifada informed its readers of the blatantly inaccurate map of Israel which currently appears on MapQuest.com (see MapQuest.com Obscures Status Of Occupied Territories, 23 September 2005).

Among other errors, this map omits the borders which distinguish the occupied territories from the State of Israel. By leaving out these borders, MapQuest has made a virtual Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, territories which hopefully will one day become an independent Palestinian state. The map of Israel on MapQuest presents the distorted political vision championed by the Israeli right wing and is anathema to all who support a just political solution to the conflict.

As a result of our call to action, MapQuest received hundreds of e-mail messages (many of which were cc-ed or forwarded to EI) requesting that they update their maps. MapQuest initially sent out a boiler plate reply thanking one and all for their input and promising to look into the matter in due course. After hundreds of responses containing the same pre-formatted e-mail EI finally obtained a response, forwarded by a reader, which included information about the map vendor that supplies MapQuest with its incorrect maps of Israel and the Occupied Territories. We were given the address of AND, a company in Holland, and informed that any issues concerning the map of Israel should be directed there.

Since the owners of any website are ultimately responsible for misleading content they offer to visitors, they should be willing to take proactive measures if the content on their site is inaccurate, insensitive or offensive. Thus, we find the redirecting of our corrections by MapQuest to its map vendor inappropriate and inadequate. However, on October 5, in the hope of a quick resolution to this issue, we wrote Dutch map vendor AND, explaining the problem with the Israel map and requesting that the borders of the occupied territories appear on all their maps.

The last statement we received from AND, on October 12th, said,

“I would like to inform you that I’ve forwarded your inquiry to the production department for investigation with a copy to the main office. I’ve requested that one of my colleagues … contact you with the authority to make a statement regarding the status of the inquiry…”

We are still waiting for the statement.

THE SOLUTION

To challenge this insufficient response, please e-mail Tom Pouwelse at AND’s International Support Desk, AND@hecc.com, or write via postal mail to Tom Pouwelse, AND Head Office, Scheepmakersstraat 13, 3011 VH Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Reference our case number: 249069-10136. Also, please send a copy to MapQuest at info@MapQuest.com or via postal mail to MapQuest, Inc., 1730 Blake Street, Denver, Colorado 80202:

  • asking the company to review the maps it offers for Israel and the occupied territories;
  • noting that MapQuest.com does not differentiate between territories within the Israeli state and the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights, which are territories occupied by Israel;
  • noting that MapQuest.com continues to show an international border that separates Egypt from the rest of the Sinai Peninsula, when this formerly Israeli-occupied area was officially handed back to Egypt in 1979 and from which Israel fully withdrew in 1982;
  • noting that an alternative MapQuest view of Israel depicts the borders correctly (as in this example from the standard geopolitical reference text, the CIA World Factbook.
  • asking MapQuest to clarify whether and how its depictions of these territories will be updated to reflect their correct international status.

    Please compose letters politely and BCC or forward a copy to info@electronicIntifada.net. Please forward any response you receive from AND or MapQuest to EI.

    Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992. Currently Mr. Glunts lives in Madison, New York where he and his wife own and operate a used and rare book business.