TEL AVIV – An Israeli town is suing Internet giant Google after surprised municipal officials discovered Google Earth, the popular, user-driven satellite map, labels their city as stolen Palestinian land.
“[The label] is simply complete nonsense,” Yossi Ben-Artzi, a history professor at Israel’s Haifa University told Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s leading daily. “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 professor was responding to a criminal complaint filed by the northern Israeli coastal town of Kiryat Yam, which a Google Earth user mapped as stolen by Jews when Israel was founded in 1948.
About 600,000 Arabs fled Israel after surrounding Arab countries warned they would destroy the Jewish state in 1948. Some Arabs also were driven out by Jewish forces while they were trying to push back invading Arab armies. At the same time, over 800,000 Jews were expelled or left Arab countries under threat after Israel was founded.
The Google Earth user, identified as Palestinian physician Thameen Darby, inserted a note on the map saying Kiryat Yam was built in 1948 at the location of a former Arab town called Ghawarina.
Ghawarina, though, is widely thought to be about 10 miles south of Kiryat Yat, in an Arab village currently named Jisr el-Zarka.
“This is one of the Palestinian localities evacuated and destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war,” Darby posted above Kiryat Yam.
Darby’s claim is strange since Kiryat Yam was founded in the 1930s and not in 1948, when he claims Jews expelled Arabs from the site.
An official Google response e-mailed to WND explained Google Earth is user driven:
“Content reflects what people contribute, not what Google believes to be true. … While we recognize that some may find the user-generated content objectionable, we are careful to balance the integrity of an open forum with the legal requirements of local governments. If an overlay does not breach our Terms and Conditions and is not in any way illegal, it is our policy not to remove it.”
A Google spokesman told the Associated Press Darby’s posting on the map doesn’t violate Google policy and that the Palestinian label would not be removed.
Google marks Temple Mount Palestinian
This is not the first time Google Earth drew controversy alleging pro-Palestinian bias.
WND reported last year while Jerusalem serves as Israel’s capital, and the Temple Mount is located within Israeli sovereignty, Google Earth divides the city and places the Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – within Palestinian territory.
Interactive Google Earth maps still mark eastern sections of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as “occupied territory,” set to become part of a future Palestinian state.
The United Nations considers eastern sections of Jerusalem, recaptured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, to be “disputed” and not “occupied.” The Israeli Knesset officially annexed the entire city of Jerusalem as its capital in 1980.
“Google Earth is reinforcing lies,” Rabbi Chaim Richman, director of the international department at Israel’s Temple Institute, told WND.
“The Muslims have engaged in a systemic campaign to re-write history and erase any traces of Judaism from the Temple Mount in total disregard to all actual archeological and historic evidence,” he continued. “Now Google Earth has given in to this campaign.”
Jerusalem first was divided into eastern and western sections when Jordan invaded and occupied the city and the Temple Mount area in 1947, expelling all Jewish inhabitants. Israel originally built its capital in the western part of the city, while the eastern quarters remained under Jordanian control until Israel regained them in 1967.
‘Racist Israel stealing Palestinian water’
Google Earth does not limit its input in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Jerusalem and Kiryat Yam.
The Gaza Strip is labeled by Google Earth as “Israeli occupied,” even though the Jewish state withdrew from Gaza in August 2005.
TotallyJewish.com, a UK-based Jewish website, pointed out an interactive Google Earth map of an Israeli community in the northern West Bank features integrated user comments implying Jews are stealing water from neighboring Palestinians.
A posting on a Google map next to the town of Kiryat Arba, near the ancient city of Hebron, states: “Note the well-tended lawns in a region deprived of water.”
Clicking on a Web link in the posting brings the user to a site stating, “The principal reason for the water shortage is an unfair distribution of water resources shared by Israel and the Palestinians.”
The posting decries Israel’s purported water-confiscation practices as “illegal” and “racist,” even though dozens of major Israeli aquifers, many run by the Jewish National Fund, purify water running through Palestinian cities and return the cleaned water to the Palestinian towns.
Comments on other Google Earth images claim Israel plans to divide parts of Bethlehem, even though no such plan exists and the city is already under Palestinian control.
Google Earth is also accused of showing falsified images. Visitors to Google Earth who click on an area just outside Jerusalem can view a computer-generated image claiming to depict an Israeli missile factory.
Israeli defense officials told WND the “missile factory” is a fabrication.
Terror leader: ‘Congratulations to Google Earth’
Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, accused Google Earth of encouraging terrorism when it allowed Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to be labeled Palestinian.
“When the Arab terrorists see Google Earth’s falsification of geographic realities, they will be appeased and encouraged, because these kinds of lying maps send the message that their disinformation campaigns and their terrorism work,” Klein told WND.
Indeed, Abu Nasser, second-in-command of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, said he was “thrilled” by Google Earth’s depictions.
“Congratulations to Google Earth,” Abu Nasser told WND.
“We congratulate Google and the American people in making this very important change in the Middle East. The Al Aqsa Mosque (located on the Temple Mount) is part of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is part of Palestine. If such a big institution like Google corrected these historical mistakes on maps, maybe we can bring about a change in the depictions of Palestine by the American media, which is controlled by the Zionists.”
According to Abu Nasser, whose terror group says it is trying to liberate the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Jewish Temple “never existed.”
“At least not on the area Jews now call the Temple Mount,” he said. “Maybe a Temple existed somewhere but not in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount exists only in the imaginations of the Jews and Americans.”
Abu Nasser’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the declared “military wing” of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. The Brigades, together with the Islamic Jihad terror group, has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861.