Actually I put Hamas in the title mainly for alliterative purposes. For it’s not just Hamas in particular but Islamic states in general that dearly wish to wipe Israel off the map.
Numerous wars and innumerable acts of terrorism have so far failed to achieve that worthy goal, with the Jewish state holding fast in the face of desperate odds.
But one of the world’s biggest publishing firms has obligingly given the Muslims a taste of things to come or rather, one hopes, only to keep daydreaming about.
HarperCollins has published an English-language atlas for the Middle East, where geography plays second fiddle to politics.
According to the atlas Jordan smoothly segues into Gaza, with nothing in between. It’s as if the numerous wars and innumerable acts of terrorism have succeeded and Israel no longer exists.
Yet I have it on good authority that she is still there: the Jewish state of eight million souls is recognised by the UN, along with every civilised country on earth and quite a few uncivilised ones as well.
A spokesman for HarperCollins explained that including Israel would have been ‘unacceptable’ to the intended readers in the Gulf. The omission, he added, reflected ‘local preferences’.
Now my impression has always been that the purpose of cartography is to reflect not local preferences but geographical facts.
For example, I’m fairly certain that the local preference of Königsberg denizens would be for their city, under its original name, to belong to Prussia, which is to say Germany, as it did when Kant lived there.
Yet every atlas in His creation correctly identifies the place as the Russian city of Kaliningrad, which it became in 1946 following the arrival of Soviet tanks, with NKVD execution squads bringing up the rear.
Similarly the inhabitants of Tibet would, if queried, doubtless state their local preference for regional autonomy, which they possessed until China’s invasion in 1951. Yet their quaint ideas haven’t affected any reputable maps.
The customer is always right and all that, so it would be churlish to expect a commercial concern to flout commercial considerations.
The only truth that matters to modern businesses is the kind that emerges during an AGM, and one can understand that. What other truth can there possibly be?
Still, what if an Egyptian or Yemeni reader gets the impression that he could travel from Jordan to Gaza without encountering any offensive Jewish presence in between?
He’d run into an Israeli checkpoint and become an unhappy customer. Commercially speaking, if many more Arabs were similarly misled, those HarperCollins AGMs would become less upbeat than expected.
Had the publishers been more subtle in their thinking, they could have had their baklava and eaten it too. Rather than making Jordan and Gaza contiguous, they could have shown another administrative entity lying in between, but without identifying it by the ‘unacceptable’ name of Israel.
Instead they could have labelled it – and this is off the top of my head – ‘Territory temporarily and unlawfully occupied by the fascist-Zionist vanguard of the Judaeo-Masonic conspiracy aiming to dominate the world’.
Yes, I know this hardly rolls off the tongue, but what the label would lose in brevity it would gain in political rectitude. And the Muslims’ delicate sensibilities would be assuaged.
In any case, given Israel’s diminutive size, the name would have to be printed so small that no one would be able to read it without a magnifying glass. But at least those Egyptians and Yemenis would know that there is something between Jordan and Gaza.
That way HarperCollins could have the best of both worlds, political and geographical. Instead they chose to sacrifice geography, which has caused public outcry all over the world.
As a result, it dawned upon the venerable publishers that, instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, they chose both.
An immediate salvage operation followed, and all talk of ‘local preferences’ ceased. Instead a company spokesman put the omission down to a printing error and said that “HarperCollins sincerely apologises for this omission and for the offence caused.”
Now I’ve heard of incompetent copy editors and subs, but this is too ridiculous for words. A bit of house cleaning is definitely in order, or would be if the spokesman had been telling the truth.
As it is, sacking a few lowly employees would be grossly unfair. Moreover, they could go to the industrial tribunal and win their case against the dismissal by citing the previous statements on ‘local preferences’ issued by HarperCollins.
Money may not smell, but some ways of making it certainly do. The only way of communicating this point to HarperCollins is for all decent people to start boycotting its products.
This is precisely what I am going to do, and I hope you’ll follow suit. This is the only way to make them realise the error of their ways. Surely you don’t think that an appeal to professional ethics would have the same effect?
P.S. I’ve been travelling for the last few days and have failed to wish you all a Happy New Year, an oversight that I’m hereby correcting.