Alyn Smith MEP has hit out at Google for what appears to be a deliberate and unwarranted omission of Israel’s Separation Wall from Google Maps, a service developed and maintained by Google.
Smith, a Scottish politician and a member of the European Parliament, has launched a #SHOWTHEWALL petition calling on Google to change its policy, adhere to best practice and stop distorting reality in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“Frankly, I am not sure how it is even possible Google Maps have managed to get away with this for so long. I am astonished that there is no sign of the Separation Wall on Google Maps and, after failed attempts to get an answer from Google, I am preparing to launch a campaign to highlight their censorship of the area. If they are not responding to me, maybe they will acknowledge their actions and state their position when many more Google Maps users get in touch.
“This is not a temporary fence we’re talking about. The Wall is 280 miles in length and up to 8m high, and is the largest infrastructure project in Israel's history and has been separating Palestinian areas for decades; its foundations were laid years before the Google Maps service was launched.
“I understand that Israel has very specific security needs, but this goes beyond any explanation of this nature. Google Maps is not showing any images in real time, and we are talking about public areas here, public roads, which in theory should be accessible to anyone. I also appreciate that Google Maps and Google Street View should not be seen as a comprehensive, up-to-date representation of the world. However, we cannot simply pretend that the Wall is not there and hasn’t been there for over two decades.
“Google Maps failure to record the presence of the Wall makes their service useless in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as distances indicated on Google Maps between any places of interest on each side of the Wall are far from correct. This affects locals and tourists alike.
“However, this problem is far, far greater, Google services are used by millions of people around the world to study geography, the service is encouraging everyone to become “arm-chair explorers and cartographers”. The only question is whether we can trust Google to teach us about the world we live in?
“Google should be proud that millions of people use their services to learn about different countries and should aspire to provide as accurate information as possible. Instead, they have applied an unwarranted censorship in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“This is why we must tell Google to show the wall and that this practice is unacceptable. It distorts reality, applies unwarranted censorship and undermines the efforts of millions of people around the world who are campaigning for a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine.”
For more information and to view the petition, please click here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/google_show_the_wall_a/
Alyn’s letter to Google of 4th March can be found here: http://www.alynsmith.eu/letter_to_google_matt_brittin