by LEO HOHMANN
A Middle East with no Israel?
That’s what students in that region of the world will see when they open their new world atlases as provided by the American-based mega-corporation HarperCollins.
And apparently this batch of maps did not come from the company’s fiction department.
The Telegraph of London has reported the global publishing house sells English-language altlases to schools in the Middle East that show Syria and Jordan extending to the Mediterranean Sea. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are also shown, but Israel is nowhere to be found on the map.
Erin Crum, vice president of corporate communications for HarperCollins, would not say how many of the maps had actually been delivered to customers in Arab countries.
Besides some unflattering media coverage, the HarperCollins atlases also drew sharp criticism from the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which accused the company of “harming peace efforts in the Middle East,” the Telegraph reported.
“The publication of this atlas will confirm Israel’s belief that there exists a hostility towards their country from parts of the Arab world. It will not help to build up a spirit of trust leading to peaceful co-existence,” Bishop Declan Lang, the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, told the Tablet, an international Catholic newspaper.
“Maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of delegitimizing ‘the other’ and can lead to confusion rather than clarity. We would be keen to see relevant bodies ensure that all atlases anywhere reflect the official United Nations position on nations, boundaries and all political features,” added Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews.
Collins Bartholomew, the subsidiary of HarperCollins that specializes in maps, told the Tablet that including Israel would have been “unacceptable” to its customers in the Gulf region and the change incorporated “local preferences.”
The Tablet said it had discovered the customs officers in one unnamed Muslim country only permitting the import of school atlases once Israel had been deleted by hand.
HarperCollins is one of the world’s largest publishing houses and its stable of imprints includes the Thomas Nelson lineup of Christian books, which it acquired in 2011.
Just last year, another major publishing house, Scholastic Inc., was caught selling children’s books that omitted Israel from an illustrated map. Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, was forced to apologize after parents began complaining and negative reviews started showing up on Amazon and Twitter. The company said in a statement it apologized and “regretted” printing a book that “inadvertently omits Israel” on a map.
HarperCollins Publishers is a wholly owned division of News Corp., the global media company overseen by Rupert Murdoch and various family members. It includes news services such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, digital real estate services, book publishing, digital education and pay-TV distribution. Headquartered in New York, the activities of News Corp. are conducted primarily in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.