By Stephen M. Flatow
A major book publisher, deluged with criticism for leaving Israel off a map in its Middle East Atlas, has apologized and withdrawn the book from circulation. You don’t have to know the name of the publisher to know one thing for certain: it’s not the Palestinian Authority’s publishing division. Because if it were, there would be no outcry, no apology, no withdrawal.
Why is there such a double standard?
Before answering that question, let’s acknowledge the good news.
HarperCollins, a major American publisher, this week apologized for omitting Israel from a map in its Mideast atlas. After word of this outrageous omission leaked to the news media, a company spokesman admitted that the omission was a cynical marketing decision—Israel had been dumped in response to “local preferences” in the Gulf States.
It’s no doubt true that the preference of the governments of the Gulf States is to pretend that Israel does not exist, as a way of saying that it should not exist. Fortunately, the rest of the staff at HarperCollins knows the difference between fantasy and reality, so they are withdrawing the book from circulation until it can be corrected.
Something similar, involving another major publisher, occurred about a year ago. The Times of Israel reported that Scholastic, the publisher of children’s educational materials, left Israel off a map in one of the books in its popular “Geronimo Stilton” adventure series. This particular installment of the series involved the protagonist traveling to the Middle East, where the map showed the Kingdom of Jordan reaching all the way to the Mediterranean. Israel was nowhere to be seen. When the matter was called to the attention of Scholastic, it announced that the omission was “inadvertent” and it was “immediately stopping shipment on this title and revising the map.”
A map that was not in the news this week, but should be, has just been posted on the official Facebook page of Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This map, too, has no Israel. Note that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is chairman of both Fatah and the PLO. There’s no way to claim this is the work of some rogue group.
Jan. 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of Fatah. In fact, it was at a 50th anniversary celebration that Abbas made his controversial announcement that the PA is joining the International Criminal Court. That part of the story received plenty of attention. But not much else about the Fatah anniversary made it into the American news media.
Thanks to Palestinian Media Watch, however, we know exactly what kind of imagery Abbas’s Fatah is using to celebrate its 50th: maps that omit Israel. They have several colorful varieties. One shows all of Israel, labeled “Palestine,” with Yasser Arafat’s face superimposed on part of it. Another has “Palestine”—again, all of Israel—covered by a PLO flag, a kaffiyeh, and a large “50” that morphs into a hand flashing a V-for-Victory sign. Victory over Israel, that is. A third image shows a large hand grenade inside the “50.” Not too subtle.
These Palestine-instead-of-Israel maps are de rigueur in the territories occupied by the PA. They appear in the textbooks used in PA schools. They appear on the walls of the offices of PA officials. They appear throughout the official PA-controlled news media. They all bear the same message: the goal of a world without Israel.
I wish those who were angry at Scholastic and HarperCollins would show the same level of interest in what the PA is doing. Because while Scholastic and HarperCollins have admitted their error and withdrawn the books, the PA continues to proudly raise an entire generation of young Palestinians on the dream of eliminating Israel.
Some years ago, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, a former presidential speechwriter, coined the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” I wonder if that’s what we are seeing here. There seems to be an attitude—in much of the news media, in much of official Washington, and elsewhere—that Palestinian extremism and hatred are “to be expected.” I beg to differ. We have the right to expect the PA to be as reasonable and rational as an American book publisher or anybody else. And if the PA refuses to live up to that standard, then that speaks volumes about its real attitude toward Israel.
Stephen M. Flatow is a candidate on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.
Article originally appeared on JNS.org