Cutting through the bullshit.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Map reading

Versions of this graphic have been circulating for years, but now it seems to have gone viral on Facebook. Does that make it a 'meme'? Whatever it is, it turns up on my newsfeed every day or two as if it were some astonishing new revelation, and largely from people who ought to know better.

I hate it.

Palestinians have never enjoyed political control over any part of Palestine as this unfortunate graphic suggests. Not under Ottoman rule or the British Mandate ('1946'); not under the abortive and downright bizarre UN partition plan ('1947'); definitely not under Jordanian and Egyptian rule ('1967'); and absolutely not under Israeli occupation ('2010'). Furthermore, the graphic is consistent with the Oslo conceit that 'Palestinian' means those in 'Palestine', excluding, as always, the Israeli and diaspora Palestinians.

The first panel purports to depict 'Palestinian land' and 'Jewish land'. Since all the land in 1946 was under the control of the British Mandatory authorities, the only thing it could be showing is land ownership. That's inconsistent with the other three panels which clearly intend to show some form of political control.

The second panel depicts the outlines of the partition plan the UN General Assembly proposed in Resolution181, coincidentally, 65 years ago tomorrow. This is actually the most useful panel insofar as it shows just how outlandish the configuration of the Jewish state and the Arab state were to have been, with the Arab state intersecting the Jewish state at two points. What it doesn't show, of course, is that
  • UNGAR181 is just a request to the Security Council to implement its recommendations.
  • There was an alternative and much more sensible proposal for a binational state under consideration at the time.
  • The plan allocated some 55% of the land area to the Jewish state, even though only about 30% of the total population was Jewish.
  • About 45% of the population of the Jewish state would have been non Jews.
  • Of the 57 countries then comprising The International Community, 33 voted in favour and 13 against, while 10 abstained and one was absent.
  • The indigenous Palestinian population were never even consulted about how they felt about giving part of their land to European colonists.
  • The plan was never implemented.
The Jewish partition is labelled 'Israel' and the Arab partition 'Palestine', although obviously, there was no 'Israel' in 1947 and there is still no Palestine. In the interests of pedantry, I note that the legend identifies the white area as 'Israel [sic] land' in this and the next two panels.

In the third panel, labelled '1967', shows the traditional outlines of what has come to be known euphemistically as 'Israel proper', that is, within the armistice lines drawn in 1949. If it purports to depict the situation prior to 6 June, then the areas labelled 'Palestine', i.e. the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, were occupied by Jordan and Egypt, respectively and were in no sense under Palestinian control. If after, then those areas were occupied by Israel and should probably be shown in white. Whoever compiled the graphic plainly intends to insinuate that these are the areas that were allegedly to be allocated to the future Palestinian state under the Oslo accords 27 years later. It's not just anachronistic. It also invites the viewer to buy into the idea that these are the areas over which Palestine was someday supposed to be entitled to exercise control. In other words, it assumes a two state 'solution', with all that that entails.

The last map shows the enclaves of 'Area A' in the West Bank that Oslo allocated to the administration of the Palestine Authority (PA) that have gradually been isolated from one another by Jewish only 'bypass roads' and other Israeli incursions. The nature of PA administration is to act as a surrogate for direct Israeli military control. By heading the graphic 'Palestinian loss of land' suggests that the areas marked 'Palestine' are actually controlled by the quisling PA.

At the same time, it depicts the Gaza Strip as mostly 'Palestinian land', with white patches showing the Israeli settlements that were abandoned five years earlier.

What's really sad about the graphic is that it could have been a useful resource if labelled accurately. The last panel, in particular, shows the probable contours of the future Palestinian state that always exists just over the horizon and that will, if it should ever eventuate, satisfy demands for a two state 'solution' once and for all. The interminable 'negotiations' towards this end will resume as soon as the intransigent PA abandons unreasonable 'preconditions' not that Israel withdraw to the Green Line depicted in the '1967' panel, but simply stop gobbling up more and more of the West Bank while the negotiations proceed. It goes without saying that Israeli preconditions - which preclude any discussion of the entitlement of those expelled in 1948 and their descendants to return; of Palestinian sovereignty over any part of the greatly expanded and officially annexed area of greater Jerusalem or 'the large settlement blocs'; of Palestinian control of their borders, airspace, electromagnetic spectrum or aquifers; or of any military force to defend 'Palestine' from their friendly neighbour – offer no impediment to negotiation.


  1. What the last three maps do show is the shrinking territory of the land proposed to nominally give the Palestinians sovereignty over in any "two state solution." Here it is obvious that the final map represents not a solution of two viable states, but of one Israeli state and one Palestinian bantustan.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, J. Otto.

    If that's what it said, it wouldn't be so problematic. The way the maps are labelled now is confusing and dishonest. One of the points, however, is to illustrate not just one, but several non contiguous bantustans.

    One of these days, I'll get the hang of moderating comments.