Mapping matters

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.

Above is satellite image with Palestinian villages in pink, and Israeli settlements in blue showing the area around the Palestinian village of Umm Al Kheir in the South Hebron Hills.   Shown as well are the map images on Google, Apple and Waze.

Above is satellite image with Palestinian villages in pink, and Israeli settlements in blue showing the area around the Palestinian village of Umm Al Kheir in the South Hebron Hills.   Shown as well are the map images on Google, Apple and Waze.

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.