As goes Google, so goes geopolitics?
The search engine giant has come under fire from Israeli Knesset members, who have taken issue with Google’s use of ‘Palestine,’ and not ‘Palestinian territories,’ on its geotargeted homepage (what you see when you log onto Google from a computer in a specific area). But Charlie Hale, a Google representative from California who met with the Knesset science and technology committee today, defended the company’s practice—and maintained it was protocol, not political.
According to Haaretz, Hale, who handles public policy and government affairs for Google’s geo products (Google Maps and Google Earth), read a prepared statement in which he explained Google’s naming policy (based on the United Nations, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Named and Numbers, and the International Organization for Standardization):
I wish to stress that as part of this process, we merely try to reflect the state of international naming standards. We have no interest in being the arbiter of political disputes. I want to make it absolutely clear that in making these decisions we are in no way taking a political stance.
This all started last month, when Google went from using the term ‘Palestinian territories’ to ‘Palestine’ on the homepage. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin wrote to Google CEO Larry Page, arguing that they were basically recognizing a Palestinian state. MKs Nachman Shai and Ronen Hoffman echoed the sentiment in a statement requesting an urgent Knesset proposal on the matter: “Although Google is not a state, its decisions carry much weight in this global network we all use.”
But not everyone agrees. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Haaretz that Israel “has no position vis-à-vis Google, which is neither a political nor a diplomatic entity with any authority to recognize states.”
Google, it seems, agrees.
Google goes all the way to Jerusalem to discuss its ‘Palestine’ policy [Haaretz]
Related: Tikkun Olam in Silicon Valley [Tablet]
The New Jew-Speak, via Google
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Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.