When the Palestinians won enhanced status for “Palestine” as a non-voting observer state in the United Nations General Assembly last November, the Obama administration and Israel blasted the move as unhelpful to the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace – and cautioned against any “unilateral” moves affecting the conflict.
Apparently Google didn’t get the memo.
On Friday, the Internet search giant announced that across all of its products, it will now refer to “Palestine” where before it used “Palestinian Territories.” The change took effect May 1.
Google decided on its own – unilaterally – to make the change, but it did say in a statement that it was “following the lead of the UN.” The Palestinian edition of the Google homepage now says simply “Palestine” where before it said “Palestinian Territories.”
Not surprisingly, Palestinian officials are praising the move, while their Israeli counterparts view the move with suspicion – one wondering why a private company was putting itself on the “controversial side” of “international politics.”
Google spokesman Nathan Tyler told the BBC that, aside from the UN, his company was simply falling in line with a change that other “international organizations” such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the International Organization for Standardization had already made.
It might also be noted that Google was acting more than a decade after President George W. Bush used the name “Palestine” in a November 2001 speech to the UN General Assembly. "We are working toward the day when two states – Israel and Palestine – live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders," Bush said.
Still, while some Palestinians are celebrating no longer seeing the reminder of occupation when they go to the Google homepage, Israel was less enthusiastic.
“This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private Internet company in international politics,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the AFP news agency. He went on to describe Google’s move to “Palestine” as “on the controversial side.”