Middle East

Google recognizes Palestine on homepage

Israeli border police officers fire rubber bullets towards Palestinians during clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers near the West Bank village of Deir Jarir near Ramallah, Friday, May 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM/STOCKHOLM: Internet giant Google has recognized the Palestinians’ upgraded U.N. status, placing the name “Palestine” on its search engine instead of “Palestinian Territories,” the U.S. company said Friday, raising the ire of Israel.

The domain name, Google’s search engine for the territories, now brings up a homepage with “Palestine” written underneath the Google logo. The change took effect Wednesday, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said in a statement.

“We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’ across our products. We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries. In this case, we are following the lead of the U.N. ... and other international organizations,” he said.

The U.N. General Assembly on Nov. 29 upgraded Palestine to a nonmember observer state with 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.

Palestinian authorities have since begun to use the “State of Palestine” in diplomatic correspondence and issued official stamps for the purpose.

Israel questioned Google’s decision.

“This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private internet company in international politics – and on the controversial side,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s telecommunications adviser Sabri Saydam said Google’s move was “a step in the right direction.”

“We hope Google maps will also show the fact that Palestinian land has been stolen from Israel’s colonization,” he told AFP.

The Palestinians’ bid for U.N. observer status angered Israel and the United States, who were among the few countries to vote against it, with top U.S. diplomats warning the Palestinians that they had essentially achieved nothing.

“Today’s grand announcements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow to find little of their lives has changed, save (that) the prospects of a durable peace have receded,” said Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, on the day of the vote.

And in an apparent response the following day, Israel announced plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which were condemned internationally as a setback to peace.

Palestinians demand a cessation of Jewish settlement building in Palestinian territories as a condition for any return to the negotiating table.

Google’s move was followed Friday by Finland and Denmark becoming the latest European countries to upgrade the status of Palestinian diplomatic missions. Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja and his Danish counterpart Villy Soevndal made the announcement after a meeting of the Nordic foreign ministers in Stockholm.

Soevndal said the move meant “Palestine gets the same status” as embassies from other countries based in Helsinki and Copenhagen, adding that both countries believe Palestinian self-rule has “come very far in recent years.”

All five Nordic countries, which also include Sweden, Norway and Iceland, voted in favor of granting nonmember status to Palestine at the U.N. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 04, 2013, on page 11.




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