HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishing houses, has left Israel off the map in atlases sold to schools in the Middle East, leading to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales accusing the publisher of harming peace efforts.
The atlases are printed by Collins Bartholomew, a subsidiary of HarperCollins which specialises in maps and atlases. A spokesman for that company told Catholic weekly The Tablet that Israel was omitted because including the country would have been “unacceptable” to its customers in the Gulf region, and that they had wanted to incorporate “local preferences”. The West Bank and Gaza are both shown.
It has been reported that customs officials in one Gulf nation have only been allowing atlases to reach schoolchildren provided that Israel is struck out by hand in every copy.
Bishop Declan Lang, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, told The Tablet: “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.”
“Maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of de-legitimising ‘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 Dr Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews.
A HarperCollins spokesman has since apologised for the omission, saying: “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 apologises for this omission and for any offence caused.”