MapQuest.com obscures status of occupied territories

THE PROBLEM

A Jewish friend of mine left the congregation to which he belonged because the members refused to remove a map from their synagogue wall which he found offensive.  The map showed Israel as including all the occupied territories. Conversely, many Israelis have complained that maps used in some schools in the West Bank and Gaza have shown the occupied territories plus what is now Israel, as Palestine.  In both cases the maps demonstrate, advocate and promote a political position which is antithetical to any just and possible political solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Recently, I was quite surprised to find that the map of Israel on the popular Internet site MapQuest presents the area of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights (Syrian Heights) as undifferentiated from Israel proper. In other words, as opposed to depicting Israel delineated by its internationally recognized borders, MapQuest displays the “Greater Israel,” which is the dream of many in the Israeli right wing.  The realization of this “Greater Israel,” of course, precludes any possibility of the Palestinian people realizing their national aspirations.

MapQuest view of “Israel”, that does not depict the West Bank, Gaza Strip or Golan Heights as occupied territories, and which includes a non-existent international border separating Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula.


It is interesting to note that as the MapQuest user zooms out to display a wider view of the region, the borders of the West Bank and Gaza appear. However, the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which like the West Bank and Gaza was conquered by Israel during the 1967 Israeli Arab War, is not differentiated from the Jewish state even in this wider regional view.

Wider regional view on MapQuest showing the borders of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, but failing to depict the Golan Heights as occupied territories and missing the incorrect Sinai border.


Although the Israeli government de facto annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 by enforcing Israeli law there, this annexation is not recognized by the nations of the world and it is still considered occupied Syrian territory under international law. 

Map on the official Israeli government website, showing occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories.

Even the maps on the official government of Israel’s website (see right) depict the areas which Israel conquered in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, including the “annexed” Golan Heights as clearly dissimilar from the State of Israel that existed before the war.  

In addition, the above map delineates a border (which runs south from Bur Said) between the Sinai Peninsula and the rest of Egypt when no international border should be present.  This was the border that indicated the land that was conquered by Israel from Egypt in the 1967 Arab- Israeli War.  The Sinai was returned to Egypt as a result of the Camp David Peace Accords in 1979.   Israel completely withdrew from this territory in April 1982.  

As with the West Bank and Gaza, in a wider angle view (see map above) which shows a greater area , the map gives the correct rendering.  In the case of Egypt, the correction is removing the mistakenly delineated border instead of drawing a correct border where one is appropriate. 

To view the maps pictured above click here and then use the buttons on the left to zoom in. Zoom in one level (level 3) for the regional map above or two levels (level 4) for the view of Israel/Palestine at the top of this page. This view can be accessed by choosing Israel from the drop down menu on Outside the US and Canada maps page.

Note: An alternative MapQuest view of Israel which depicts the occupied territories correctly can be seen by choosing Israel from the drop down menu in the Where in the World box on the main map page.

Thinking that reporting all these problems may be a bit much for the folks at Mapquest, I decided it would be both prudent and more effective to limit my advice.  I wrote to MapQuest informing them that the occupied territories are not part of Israel and this fact should be reflected in all their map views. Their response was,

[w]e appreciate you taking the time to make us aware of this issue. At MapQuest, we are always in the process of improving our mapping and routing data. Currently, we are updating the data used by our Web site every calendar quarter but we cannot guarantee when a update will include the issue reported.
Source: Personal correspondence from MapQuest, received August 29, 2005.

THE SOLUTION

Please see the follow-up to this action item: MapQuest sidesteps requests to correct blatantly inaccurate map of Israel, Ira Glunts (25 October 2005)

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.