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January 05, 2015

HarperCollins Erases Israel, Then Corrects

harper collins.jpg

HarperCollins, a venerable publisher of Atlases, erased Israel from the map of the Middle East in a school edition it sold to English-language schools in the Middle East. Although HarperCollins executives acted swiftly to correct the error, troubling questions remain about this incident.

Most reports indicate that it was the intercession of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales that prompted HarperCollins to act. According to these reports, the bishops' warning that omission of Israel was "harmful to peace efforts in the Middle East" prompted the publisher to pulp any existing unsold copies and correct the error for any new printings.

What if it had been Jewish or Israeli groups that objected? Would Harper Collins have reacted the same way? What about the publisher's adherence to the integrity of the product that should have prevented the omission from occurring in the first place. Israel's existence is a geographical fact. Acknowledging the material presence of the Jewish state is not a statement of support for it or its government.

After this exposure, can HarperCollins' atlases - and other reference books it publishes - be trusted? Purchasers of HarperCollins books have to worry that other books published by HarperCollins have had factual material expunged because it was deemed politically inconvenient.

It is also notable that these atlases were English-language versions, raising the question of which students were intended to use the books. Are they the children of Arab elites who interact on a global scale with westerners? Was the atlas intended for the children of westerners residing for diplomatic and commercial purposes in Arab countries?

Because HarperCollins was forthcoming and acted swiftly, the controversy will fade quickly. But should it? How many other examples of denying Israel's existence remain in schoolbooks provided by western publishers?

Posted by SS at January 5, 2015 03:34 PM


The "apology" is meaningless. The deletion of Israel was *intentional* and not a mistake.

Collins Bartholomew, the subsidiary of HarperCollins that specializes in maps, told the Tablet that including Israel would have been “unacceptable�? to its customers in the Gulf region and the change incorporated “local preferences.�?

Yes, local preferences that Israel not exist. I note that they were able to find space to label Gaza and the West Bank, but not Israel itself.

Wondering if HarperCollins maps didn't have a label on the USSR at the height of the Cold War - after all, "local preferences" in the US at that time would rather that the USSR simply not be there.

Multiple people at HarperCollins made a deliberate choice to delete Israel. Every published map goes through layers and layers of editors and fact-checkers - they meant to do this and their apology is just because they got caught by the British Bishops. If they really want to apologize, every person in the chain of command for this map should be fired.

Posted by: Peter at January 9, 2015 08:43 AM

It reminds me the erasing of Chechen-Ingush republic in the North Caucasus map in 1944, when the entire nations of Chechen and Ingush were sent by Stalin to deadly deportation in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Then, 1/3 of them perished during the "journey" and the first 3 yeaes in exile

Posted by: victoria Poupko at February 7, 2015 11:47 PM

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