HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest English-language publishing companies, apologized this week after it was discovered that a new atlas printed for schools in the Middle East omitted the State of Israel.
The map in question shows Syria and Jordan extending to the Mediterranean Sea, while Gaza and the West Bank are clearly identified. Israel itself is missing from the map entirely.
HarperCollins initially tried to justify the omission by noting that its customers in the Persian Gulf found identifying Israel on the map to be “unacceptable,” and that the Jewish state was therefore erased to suit “local preferences.”
A subsequent outcry from Church leaders in the UK accused the publishing house of actually harming the prospects of peace in the Middle East.
“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, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, told the British Catholic journal The Tablet.
Dr. Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews, added that “maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of de-legitimizing ‘the other’ and can lead to confusion rather than clarity.”
The publisher later issued an apology reading:
“HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas. This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense caused.”