We created Palestine, we British.

A. J. Balfour famously wrote, ‘His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’.  It wasn’t a state on the 2nd of November 1917, or even a League of Nations Mandate, but ‘Palestine’ was the common English name of the place.

When we carved up the Middle East with the French just under a hundred years ago we called our new colony mandate ‘Palestine’.  We called the mandate that instead of calling it South Syria or The British Levant because Palestine was its name in English.

1927 Palestine postage stamp

Postage stamps: Once an important ensign of sovereignty, now as quaint as a landline phone. Crown Copyright

In the information space and in cyberspace governments struggle to make themselves heard.  In some ways transnational companies anchored in cyberspace rather than in meatspace are more influential than governments.   So, when Google started calling its google.ps site Google Palestine (with Palestine in small letters) instead of Google Palestinian Authority there was a bit of squawking.

Given that the Palestinian .ps Top Level Domain has existed on the Internet since the 90s it may be a little late to complain.

Google recognises Palestinian state, says PNN.  It’s almost as exciting for PNN as it was for Israel back when Ecuador or Belize sent an ambassador to Tel Aviv.  Perhaps more so, because there are hundreds of states but only one Google.

Palestine, like Google, has never been a state, but increasingly that doesn’t matter.  You don’t have to be a state to have a name, and you don’t have to be a state to be a player in international affairs.  The state is a durable institution, but it isn’t the only powerful institution.  Anyone who has fought Hizballah can tell you that.

Once a Palestinian state was Israel’s nightmare:  another, closer Iraq or Syria.  Since then Hamas and Hizballah have shown that there are more threatening things in the world than Palestinian postage stamps.

Now it is considered by many to be the only alternative to a future of unhappy militarisation for Israel and the only way to preserve Israel as a state both democratic and Jewish in nature.  We in the Anglosphere expect an eventual stable state to be produced by the haggling, or lack of haggling which we call the Middle East Peace Process.  Our expectations may be completely unrealistic, but it’s disingenuous to wish those expectations out of existence.

So perhaps Google really was thinking about an eventual Palestinian state when they changed the writing on their .ps homepage.  Maybe they were just calling a spade a shovel.

By the time the state eventuates, regardless of whether it comprises Gaza or not, regardless of how close to the al-Aqsa mosque its capital is; that capital and its passports and postage stamps will have been left behind by events.

Google has referred to Palestine which recognises that there’s something called Palestine.  The alternative is, for Israel, too unpleasant to contemplate.