Internet search engine Google has taken a small but politically
loaded step by changing the tagline on the homepage of its
Palestinian version from “Palestinian Territories” to “Palestine.”
The move has surprised rival Israel.
The change, introduced at the beginning of May, shows Google’s
logo with “Palestine” written below in Arabic and English.
“We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’
across our products. We consult a number of sources and
authorities when naming countries,” Google spokesman Nathan Tyler
said in a statement to the BBC.
“In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, Icann [the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO
[International Organization for Standardization] and other
international organizations,” Tyler added.
The United Nations General Assembly granted Palestine the status
of “non-member observer state” last November, providing
Palestinians a certain degree of statehood recognition.
The move was strongly opposed by Israel and the United States.
Google’s decision has been welcomed by the Palestinian Authority.
“This is a step in the right direction, a timely step and one that
encourages others to join in and give the right definition and
name for Palestine instead of Palestinian territories,” Sabri
Saidam, advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the
“Most of the traffic that happens now happens in the virtual world
and this means putting Palestine on the virtual map as well as on
the geographic maps,” he added.
Saidam said that since the U.N. vote on Nov. 29, the PA had
written to international companies, including Google, asking them
to replace their usage of “Palestinian Territories” with
Israeli authorities, however, questioned Google’s “surprising”
"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.