Israel Missing From U.N. Sponsored Map

By Julie Stahl
CNS Jerusalem Bureau Chief
February 16, 2001

A key United Nations agency has lent its support to a Palestinian Authority tourism map that completely obliterates Israel.

Established by a U.N. resolution in 1978, the United Nations Development Program opened an office in eastern Jerusalem in 1981. It assists PA ministries in the development of the economy, infrastructure, schools, hospitals, water and rural areas.

Five percent of its funding comes from U.N. headquarters, with the rest coming from donors including Japan, the U.S., and European Union member states.

The PA Ministry of Tourism's new map, called "Palestine, The Holy Land," shows the entire expanse of present-day Israel, the disputed West Bank and Gaza Strip. The whole area is called "Palestine." There is no reference to Israel, or indication of borders between Israel and areas controlled by the PA.

"This publication was made possible thanks to the support of the United Nations Development Program/Program of assistance to the Palestinian people," reads a small credit on the back of the map.

However, a senior advisor to the UNDP in eastern Jerusalem, Omar Daudi Abu Khaled, distanced the agency from the contents of the map.

"This map was published by the Ministry of Tourism and is part of their encouraging tourist activities," he said by telephone on Friday.

"It's not our responsibility to identify the borders [between Israel and PA areas]," he added.

Itamar Marcus, director of the Palestinian Media Watch - an independent media monitoring group - said there was nothing new about the message being sent by the map.

"None of the official maps [of the PA] show Israel," he said, including those printed in PA school text books.

PMW had only managed to find a single tourist map in English that mentions Israel, and that one, Marcus said, was "not for internal consumption."

By contrast, Israeli maps routinely mark off PA-controlled areas. Some Israeli school text books already cover the Oslo peace process, which began seven years ago.

'Israel Does Not Exist'

The message to Palestinians was clear, Marcus said: "Israel does not exist."

On the tourist map, a few of the larger Israeli cities are marked, with Arab names underneath. All other Israeli communities are missing, while Arab villages are named.

Simultaneously, symbols in the map's legend include those for archeological sites, and historic Islamic and Christian sites. There are plenty of the latter, but only a single synagogue, near Jericho.

In Bethlehem, the Jewish shrine at the tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel is demarcated as a historic mosque.

Under an inset aerial photo of the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram Al-Sharif is the explanation that the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque are the "third holiest place for Muslims after Mecca and Medina."

No reference is made to the fact the highly-contested Mount is also Judaism's holiest site, the location of two consecutive Jewish Temples.

"The Dome of the Rock is one of the most impressive buildings in Palestine with its gold plated Dome," the map says. "For Muslims this is the place where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven in a night journey from the rock. Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by the Kaliph Waleed, son of Abdul Malek who built the Dome of the Rock between 709-715. It is used for group prayers."

On the flip side of the modern tourist map is a historical one, with dozens of descriptions of key places, including Islamic and Biblical historical sites.

There, Jerusalem is cited as a city "chosen by God to be the bulwark of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam." It also includes "Hebrews" in a long list of peoples who ruled over the city in times past.


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