Even though Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and violate U.S. agreements, Google and Apple have included Israeli settlements and outposts on their maps. In this age of technology, when our worldview is largely shaped by how things are portrayed on the Internet, it is of utmost importance that Palestinian villages in the West Bank are recognized and given legitimacy by mapping technologies. This year, the Israeli army demolished more Palestinian homes than in any other year in the past decade to make room for settlement expansion — part of the reason this occurs without notice is because the villages are not even shown on the maps.
Rebuilding Alliance has been working with the Israeli human rights group, BIMKOM: Planners for Planning Rights, to press Apple and Google to put Palestinian villages on their maps. We transferred all the necessary data to both companies in September 2016. In April 2016, with the help of Representative Anna Eshoo, Rebuilding Alliance successfully pushed Google to add 236 previously-omitted Palestinian villages to Google Maps.
This is a worldwide effort to get Palestine visible and on the map. With your help, we invite schools, peace groups, and anyone who wants to learn to join Palestinian villagers and mapping experts in OpenStreetMap "mapathons." Together, we record buildings and agriculture in at-risk towns and promote economic development to assure their existence. We hope worldwide citizen engagement will stop Israel's demolition bulldozers by recognizing that the Palestinian villages are actually there. Mapathons provide a great opportunity for volunteers to digitally connect and map the most vulnerable places in Palestine. Mappers learn about one another and learn how to advocate to keep villages standing. Our Community Mapping Palestine mapathons will use OpenStreetMap, a map of the world, created by people like you and free to use under an open license.
Below is an animated map showing the current status of Apple maps' depiction of West Bank communities, and then showing what it should look like, complete with the hundreds of Palestinian villages.
Though Google and Apple claim that mapping the West Bank is not a high priority, many of the illegal Israeli settlements have been mapped. Meanwhile, the hundreds of Palestinian villages built on privately-owned land in Area C are nowhere to be found. This is a problem because mapping technologies help to shape the way the international community perceives the world. If Palestinian villages are not recognized as legitimate or permanent in mapping technologies, there is less likely to be international outcry when they are demolished or forcibly evacuated to make room for settlement expansion.
Rebuilding Alliance is working with Google and Apple to make sure that Palestinian villages get the recognition they deserved. We have partnered with BIMKOM to provide the mapping departments with all the data they need. We are also inviting our supporters to help by using our new mobile app, Evincible, to contact their members of Congress and ask them to press Google and Apple to map the villages.