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December 31, 2014 12:48 pm

Publishing Giant HarperCollins Apologizes for Middle East Atlas That Wiped Israel Off Map (UPDATE)

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A page from the Harper Collins Middle East atlas with Israel banished from the map. Image: HarperCollins

HarperCollins, one of the world’s leading publishing companies, has apologized for removing Israel from its Middle East Atlas, which is sold to English-speaking schools in the Arab Gulf, after receiving angry criticism from Jewish and Christian leaders.

“Shame on HarperCollins,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, told The Algemeiner, prior to the release of a statement from the publisher which announced that the atlas “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.”

As the British Christian newspaper The Tablet reported on Wednesday, the atlases “depict Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.” A spokesman for Collins Bartholomew, the subsidiary of HarperCollins that specializes in maps, told the paper that including Israel would have been “unacceptable” to their customers in the Gulf and the amendment incorporated “local preferences.” The Tablet also reported that a customs officer in one Gulf nation would only permit the atlases to reach their intended recipient “only once Israel had been struck out by hand.”

Bishop Declan Lang, the chairman of the Department of International Affairs Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, told The Tablet that the deliberate omitting of Israel from the map would harm peace efforts on the Middle East.

“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,” Bishop Lang said.

Rabbi Cooper called on HarperCollins to “take a stand,” arguing that the company – one of the so-called “Big Five” English language publishers and a property of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation – should have the courage to tell its clients in the Gulf, “if you are asking us to supply you with world famous atlases, don’t tell us what to put in there.”

“HarperCollins should say, ‘our job is to present you with reality,'” Cooper said.

Cooper, who has visited the Gulf on several occasions, pointed out that the removal of Israel from the atlas “belies” a “new reality” in which Gulf states are actually drawing closer to Israel. “Israel and some of Gulf states are interacting daily over the defense needs and particularly their shared concerns about Iran,” he said.

He added that many residents of Gulf countries “are sophisticated people who are on the internet day in and day out,” and would therefore regard the HarperCollins decision as reflecting a dated “mindset.” “There are plenty of readers of papers like the Jerusalem Post and The Algemeiner in the Gulf,” Cooper said, illustrating the degree to which external sources of information and analysis have penetrated the region. The HarperCollins action would “be embarrassing to some of the people there,” he concluded.

Dr Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews in the UK, expressed concern that the atlases would encourage students to “delegitimize” Israel. Speaking to The Tablet, she urged “relevant bodies” to ensure that “all atlases anywhere reflect the official UN position on nations, boundaries and all political features.”

This article has been updated to reflect the HarperCollins statement that the Middle East atlas is no longer on sale.

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