Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. Isaiah 6 v19
In June 2008 Andre Oboler published an article under the title, "Google Earth : A New Platform for Anti-Israel Propaganda and Replacement Geography", about the misuse of the Google Earth software by Palestinian sympathisers seeking to undermine the legitimacy of Israel. He coined the term Replacement Geography to describe the process.
Dr. Andre Oboler is a social media expert. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Lancaster University, UK and is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Political Science at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He is currently a Legacy Heritage Fellow at NGO Monitor in Jerusalem, and edits ZionismOnTheWeb.org - a website countering on-line hate.
Full article at http://www.jcpa.org and at the foot of this page.
The main points are as follows.
"If you visit Israel on Google Earth, you will find it littered with markers, many of which claim to represent "Palestinian localities evacuated and destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war." Each marker links to the "Palestine Remembered" site, where custom layers (see below) that further advance this politically motivated narrative can be obtained. Thus, Israel is depicted as a state born out of colonial conquest."
"Much of the information you can pick up on Google Earth is misinformation, and 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."
"Google Earth is being exploited by political activists to promote "replacement geography," In the public opinion war, control on Google Earth may be worth more in negotiations than control on the ground."
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.
* Ramat Aviv, the site of Tel Aviv University, appears as Al Shaykh Muwannis.
* Kiryat Yam was wrongly claimed to be built on the Palestinian village of Ghawarina.
* Mt. Scopus and its Hebrew University campus (in Jerusalem ) is said to have been within Jordanian territory prior to 1967, even though it was an area where Israel exercised control during that period, according to the 1949 Armistice Agreement.
Google Earth's core information also includes other problems.
Previously, areas beyond the "green line" were labelled as "Occupied Territories," a phraseology which is sometimes used to justify terrorism, rather than "disputed territories." The area listed as "occupied" also included the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
In March 2008 the Gaza Strip was still listed as "Israeli-occupied," despite Israel's full withdrawal in 2005 and the military takeover of the Strip by Hamas in mid-2007.
The inclusion of virtual Palestine, superimposed on Israel in the core layer of Google Earth, is an example of replacement geography advanced by technology.
"The core layer of Google Earth should be ideology free and not serve as a platform for indoctrination or a campaign to wipe Israel off the virtual map."
With a user base of 400 million, Google Earth uses satellite imagery combined with maps, and other data to present the earth at various levels of magnification. The Google Earth website was the 8th most searched for website in the UK at the start of 2006.
Key features (geography, place details, pictures, etc.) are included with the initial software that the user downloads of Google Earth in what is known as a "core layer."
Users can then download optional "custom layers" created by other users, which provide educational, historical, or special interest information to be accessed by those wishing to take the Google Earth experience further.
Google Earth custom layers have created by campaign groups
One created a layer with information against deforestation.
World Wide Fund for Nature created a layer showing large-scale environmental and socioeconomic shifts;
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum created a layer with information on the crisis in Darfur.
But, somehow, Google incorporated the Palestinians' overlays and their accompanying narrative into its core maps of Israel instead of making tham available as an optional custom layer.
City officials in Kiryat Yam, a small Israeli town north of Haifa, are suing Google for slander because a marker in Thameen Darby’s collection places the town of Arab Ghawarina — which Darby alleges was evacuated and destroyed in 1948 — at the location of present-day Kiryat Yam. The Associated Press quotes an Israeli historian supporting Kiryat Yam’s claim that there was no prior Arab settlement there.http://www.ogleearth.com/2008/02/israels_kiryat.html
"That's simply complete nonsense," Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi of Haifa University told Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. "Kiryat Yam was built on sand dunes, and there wasn't any Palestinian village in the area. The lands were bought in 1939 by the Gav Yam construction company."
The Google Earth community layer is a place where people can tag their knowledge or opinions of a location. Their comments are clearly indicated with the 'I' icon and this layer can easily be switched on and off.
The source of the Palestinian narrative and the destination of the links is the Palestine Remembered web site.
The MOST detailed mapping of Palestine ever via Google's Maps and Earth programs
We have compiled the most complete mapping of Palestine ever (over 5,600 placemarks have been identified), however, to view our presentation Google Earth should be installed. Our presentation includes the following:
- All cities & villages that were destroyed and ethnically cleansed by the Israelis.
- All cities & villages in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- All refugee camps including the camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
- All existing Palestinian towns (including the unrecognized villages) within Palestine-1948 (or the so called "green line").
- All exclusive Jewish colonies (Israeli towns) including the colonies in the West Bank.
- All major highways, railways, roads and junctions.
- Several well known concentrations camps.
- Most, if nor all, of the Israeli military installation inclusive of the Israeli nuclear sites.
As you view our presentation, PLEASE NOTE that your journey will be more enjoyable when you click on each identified placemark, a window will pop-up containing all sorts of information about the town including a picture if one is available, number of refugees, lands sizes, occupation date, ...etc.
At PalestineRemembered.com 's lab, we have built a unique software (currently in beta release) that allows you to add placemarks (via Google maps). Daily, the software compiles all newly added placemarks to the the over all listing, so we appreciate you participation and feedback.
Not all the Palestinian supporters are happy however. Web site palestinethinktank.com says
Haitham Sabbah • Apr 11th, 2008 at 14:02
It was a happy moment when I heard the news that UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched in coordination with Google Earth, a new layer that focus on refugee camps around the world. This should be a great tool to follow the crisis of Palestinian refugees under occupation and expose it to the world through one of the most used Web 2.0 applications (Google Earth claims to have more than 350 million downloads and counting).
In their press release, UNHCR said:
Google Earth's new mapping programme takes you on a virtual reality tour with the UN refugee agency of some of the world�s major displacement crises and the humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the victims. The first use of this geospatial tool focuses on refugees and displaced people located in remote areas of Chad, Iraq, Colombia and Sudan�s volatile Darfur region.
However, Palestine Thinktank are disappointed to see that Palestinian refugee camps in Occupied Palestinian Territories were not shown anywhere.
Reference: and ask visitors to sign a petition asking UNHCR to correct this mistake and add all Palestinian refugees camps within the Occupied Palestinian Territories to their � Google Earth Refugee�s World Layer� Petition:
Palestinian militants are using Google Earth to help plan their attacks on the Israeli military and other targets, the Guardian has learned. Members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group aligned with the Fatah political party, say they use the popular internet mapping tool to help determine their targets for rocket strikes.
"We obtain the details from Google Earth and check them against our maps of the city centre and sensitive areas," Khaled Jaabari, the group's commander in Gaza who is known as Abu Walid, told the Guardian. Abu Walid showed the Guardian an aerial image of the Israeli town of Sderot on his computer to demonstrate how his group searches for targets.
The Guardian filmed an al-Aqsa test rocket launch, fired into an uninhabited area of the Negev desert, last month. Despite the crudeness of the weapons, many have landed in Sderot, killing around a dozen people in the last three years and wounding scores more.
It is not the first time that Google has been accused of unwittingly abetting the activities of militant groups or terrorist organisations. In January, British officials claimed that insurgents sympathetic to al-Qaida were using aerial photography in Google Earth to locate potential targets inside British bases around the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
Those who have recently downloaded Geegle Earth will not be able to find the infamous orange dots. It is not clear whether the Google Earth team has responded to criticism, but the outcome is mostly positive.
What the Google Earth visitor will find now is grey squares which can be clicked to access pictures and/or Wikipedia data boxes.
However, as the enclosed screenshots show, the system is still prone to misuse by those peddling biassed opinion as fact. Google can not be expected to stop this any more than any other media can be held responsible for the use to which it is put.
Clicking on the Gilo button brings up this panel.
Clicking on the "Every Human has Rights" flag brings up this panel.
Notice how an Israeli is used to provide an Anti Israel opinion piece.
This is accessed from within the Jerusalem area - not a Palestinian area!
The lesson of the Google Earth saga appears to be the need to be discerning about every piece of information we are offered and awake to the fact that there is no media that is not usable by those committed to spreading propaganda as fact and rewriting History and Geography and other subjects that we might have assumed were objective and factual.
Dr Andre Oboler who brought attention to the issue has told us that,
"the move by Google Earth and their sensitivity on this matter is welcomed, while there is less user content shown by default than before, the content that is shown is of more uniform quality and relevance to the geographic locations it is placed on. The new change is a general one, not specific to Israel, but is has addressed our concerns as well as improving Google Earth in other ways. The change is welcome."
See an excellent video about Judea and Samaria featuring Danny Ayalon on Land.
Palestinian Authority TV regularly produces music videos about the Palestinian homeland, listing cities that are indisputably part of Israel.
Collected by Palestinian Media Watch - http://palwatch.org/
Click the banner below to go to the site map and choose another page
Full text of the article by Andre Oboler
Google Earth: A New Platform for Anti-Israel Propaganda and Replacement Geography
The influence of the Internet on our lives is increasing. News, advertising, employment, education, and networking are being affected. Israel's security is especially vulnerable to the manipulation of geography. The online world allows the creation of a virtual reality that at times bears only passing resemblance to facts on the ground. The gap between reality and virtual reality is further exploited by political activists promoting what we term "replacement geography," a means of controlling the virtual representation of land in place of controlling the land itself. In an information age, control on the common map may be worth more in negotiations than control on the ground.
With a user base of 400 million,1 Google Earth uses satellite imagery combined with maps, terrain, and 3D buildings to present the earth at various levels of magnification. Key features (geography, place details, pictures, etc.) are included with the download of Google Earth in what is known as a "core layer." Users can also download "custom layers" created by other users, which provide educational, historical, or special interest information to be accessed by those wishing to take the Google Earth experience further.
The Google Earth website was the 8th most searched for website in the UK at the start of 2006.2 The user base in June 2007 was 200 million,3 up 100 percent from reports 10 months earlier.4 The application has broad appeal, with almost a quarter of the visitors to Google Earth over the age of 55.5 Google Earth has been used by campaign groups to raise public awareness; examples include grass roots environmental campaigns that created a layer with information against deforestation; a WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) layer showing large-scale environmental and socioeconomic shifts; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which created a layer with information on the crisis in Darfur. These projects were custom layers which users could add to Google Earth.6
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."7 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.8 The Google Earth initiative is not only creating a virtual Palestine, it is creating a falsification of history.
Google Earth's core information also includes other problems. Previously, areas beyond the "green line" were labelled as "Occupied Territories," a phraseology which is sometimes used to justify terrorism, rather than "disputed territories."9 The area listed as "occupied" also included the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.10 Google Earth places Mt. Scopus and its Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem within Jordanian territory prior to 1967, even though it was an area where Israel exercised control during that period, according to the 1949 Armistice Agreement.
In March 2008 the Gaza Strip was still listed as "Israeli-occupied," despite Israel's full withdrawal in 2005 and the military takeover of the Strip by Hamas in mid-2007. By May 2008 (after press coverage), the label was changed to read "Gaza Strip." A note states: "Many sources still regard the Gaza Strip as ‘Israeli-occupied' despite formal Israeli withdrawal in September 2005."11 There is still no mention of Hamas' control.
"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.12 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.13
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.
Google Earth presents a tremendous challenge by allowing historical revisionism. Maps of the world have changed with evolving historical circumstances everywhere. Yet theoretically, with this tool, organizations seeking to make a claim for Mexican sovereignty over territories incorporated into the U.S. in the nineteenth century could raise such arguments by revising the map of Texas or California. Rather than serving as an educational resource, Google Earth could simply evolve into a website for political warfare.
For those who do not physically visit Israel, the "facts" on this virtual ground are real. It is to be expected that people will form their opinion on issues such as borders, land rights, and historic connection based on sources like Google Earth. The social propagation of a narrative of Israeli aggression and ethnic cleansing - an aspect of "Anti-Semitism 2.0"14 - is spread through Google Earth.
Without a response that includes new information about the historical connection of the Jewish people to Israel throughout the ages, as well as modern Israeli history and the Israel of today, the world's opinion of Israel can only grow dimmer. An increase in content - assuming Google will eventually add it to the core layer, something that is far from certain - would address the vast imbalance, yet do little for the user experience.
A far better solution would be for Google to remove the narrative and treat Israel as it treats every other country on the globe. Both the Palestinian narrative and promotion of Israel can have their place, but this should be in optional layers. The core layer of Google Earth should be ideology free and not serve as a platform for indoctrination or a campaign to wipe Israel off the virtual map.