The map series of “Disappearing Palestine” has finally found its way into the mainstream news at MSNBC. Dr. Ran Baratz explains all that’s wrong with it.
When I first saw the above map progression a few years ago, I almost burst out laughing. I didn’t believe anyone could take it seriously as an accurate description of history. However, it has indeed been appearing in a number of variations in “Disappearing Palestine” campaigns in central cities and campuses throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe; just this week it was shown by the strongly liberal American mainstream TV channel, MSNBC. So despite how silly it all is, I guess I need to actually sit down and explain what’s so absurd here, even if it means stating the obvious to anyone even remotely acquainted with the facts. For simplicity’s sake, we will address the map series as shown on MSNBC, and which is displayed above.
In general, the posters represent a historic timeline running left to right, purporting to show the Palestinians being driven off more and more “Palestinian territory.” In terms of sheer propaganda value, it’s a real coup—but logically and historically? It’s entirely fallacious: There is no logical connection between one map and another—and sometimes even between the maps and the truth.
1. The first map was drawn according to the following bizarre criterion: green is anything that isn’t yellow, or anywhere Jews don’t live is by definition “Palestinian territory.” We need to note three things here: first, there is no acceptable map legend for “no Jews here.” Second, if the rest of the maps would follow this logic, then they should have still had lots of green. More Arabs live today in Israel, across wide stretches of territory, than in all of “Palestine” in 1946—and you get double that number if you look at Jerusalem and the West Bank. Third, in what way is territory without Jews “Palestinian”? The sovereign ruler of the land was British in 1946, before that—Ottoman. There was never a Palestinian land in the sovereign-national sense.
2. The second map was drawn according to the following criteria: a theoretical proposal for political-national sovereignty, without reference to the reality on the ground. This is the UN Partition Plan—a proposal which was never actually implemented. Why? Because the Palestinians rejected it and launched a bloody assault on the Jewish community instead. Map no. 2 is thus a political and theoretical one; it has no bearing on land actually owned or ruled by the Palestinians.
3. Meanwhile, map no. 3 was drafted according to the following logic: anything not under Israeli political sovereignty is green. The map represents the results of the Israeli War of Independence (known also as the 1948 War); it has nothing to do with “Palestinian territory” because the green land—the West Bank and Gaza—was under Jordanian and Egyptian political control, respectively, from 1949 until 1967. There was no Palestinian sovereignty or political control in either of these two territories.
4. And here we come to the map missing from the series: the results of the Six Day War. According to the criterion of sovereign-national control of territory, the entire map should have been yellow (that is: under Israeli control). But of course our campaigner chose not to use such a map, since it would have reversed the trend of shrinking green in the next one, showing that as opposed to much of the period after 1967, today the Palestinians have sovereign territory. This would also mean that Israel would be the first country in history to give Palestinians such political control.
5. The last map, the one which displays the current situation, displays sovereign Palestinian territory in green, and sovereign Israeli territory in yellow. This is a partial expression of the Oslo accords, and it is the only map in which the concept of sovereign “Palestinian territory” is actually relevant.
In sum, this map series is false for three major reasons. First, it does not go according to any single, consistent criteria, instead mixing and matching between different kinds of maps—physical settlement, political plans, some form of Arab sovereignty, Palestinian sovereignty—in order to create a false picture of ever-shrinking Palestinian territory. Second, it omits the crucial fourth map which would demonstrate the increase in Palestinian sovereign territory from 1967 to today. Third, the territory it paints as green, “Palestinian” territory, has no connection to either the spread of Palestinian settlement and land ownership or sovereignty.
Which brings me to my last point: when you understand that all the Jews are painted one color and all the others—Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians (the latter two of whom actually oppressed the Palestinians)—we see how this is effectively bigoted, anti-semitic propaganda.
English translation by Avi Woolf.