Google found itself at the centre of a social media firestorm last week, accused of erasing Palestine from its maps. The company said it had never, in fact, used the term “Palestine” in the first place, and promised to fix what it said was a software bug that had removed the designations “West Bank” and “Gaza” from a map that distinguishes those occupied territories from pre-1967 Israel only by a dotted line.
But last week’s demand that Google restore or recognise Palestine on its maps also raises the question of where Palestine begins and ends. The widely recognised right of return of Palestinian refugees to homes from which they were expelled during the Nakba of 1948, for example, refers to homes in pre-1948 Israel – or Palestine, as it was then known. (It is a demand for justice and restitution within what is, today, Israel.) That may be why the majority of Palestinian school text books describe as Palestine everything between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
But Google Maps’ latest “bug” punctures the peace-process illusion. Users of the app will be familiar with “re-entering”, which is what Google Maps does when a turn-off has been missed, as it offers the driver a new route to the desired destination.