In the business of selling lies…

As I sat by my kitchen table this morning, enjoying my cup of decaf, I was appalled to read in the Jerusalem Post that the mega-publishing house HarperCollins has purposely left Israel off its maps in atlases that it sells to English speaking schools in the Middle East. While I’ve seen plenty of “maps” published and issued by the Middle East omitting Israel, the fact that a US company as large and as influential as HarperCollins would stoop so low and succumb to Middle East pressure and sell lies instead of truths is shocking.

I have always equated maps with accuracy. I remember being in geography class and having to do a project on Uruguay and Paraguay – I worked with two other girls on the project, but I was in charge of drawing out the shape of the country on a large Bristol board and I remember trying to mimic every jutting piece of land, every sharp angle with accuracy to make sure my hand-drawn country looked exactly like it did in my atlas.

The art of map making – or cartography – began over 4000 years ago. Cartographers originally obtained their information from land navigators and surveyors who were sent out for the sole purpose of jotting down every bit of information – no matter how seemingly insignificant – for the sake of accuracy and perfection. For many centuries, maps were produced entirely by hand, either drawn or painted on paper, animal hide, parchment, clay tablets or slabs of wood. As a result, each map was an original work. Having seen the “map room” in the Doge’s palace in Venice – an enormous high-ceilinged room that is entirely painted with a map of Europe, I can attest to the level of accuracy they had way back then.

Once the printing press was developed in Europe in the 1400s, many reproductions were made from original works and maps became more common and more accessible. In the 1500’s, the era of European exploration supplied cartographers with a wealth of new information, which allowed them to produce maps and navigation charts of ever-increasing accuracy and detail. The lithographic printing method that was introduced in the late 1800s brought about the production of multicolored maps. Today, cartographers incorporate aerial photography and satellite imagery into the maps they create, in addition the use of computer-assisted design programs to aid in the production of highly accurate maps. Most countries have an official organization devoted to cartographic research and development.

In short, cartography is a science. It’s factual data that is collated, checked and double checked and is as accurate and as truthful as possible. The atlases that HarperCollins publishes is mostly geared towards students who are learning about geography and the world they live in. HarperCollins – as well as any atlas publisher in the world – has a responsibility and a duty to students worldwide to teach them the truth. And the truth SHOULD be paramount, above all else – especially when it comes to educating our children. Trading in truths for lies when it comes to education is criminal. Erasing Israel off the map because the Middle East doesn’t want us to be there doesn’t change the fact that we ARE here and we are definitely not going anywhere. By selling these lies, they – the entire Middle East educational system, both educators and students alike – are sticking their heads in the proverbial sand. Pretending we aren’t here doesn’t make it so.

Collins Bartholomew, the subsidiary of HarperCollins who arranged the sale of these atlases was quoted saying that including Israel in its Collins Primary Geography Atlas for the Middle East would have been unacceptable to their customers in the Gulf and leaving Israel off the maps incorporated “local preferences.”

“Local Preferances”??? Seriously?

Selling a large quantity of atlases to schools all over the Middle East must be a nice account. Whoever that salesman is, he is certainly making a hefty commission off that sale.

But shame on them.

Instead of being in the business of educating with truthfulness, HarperCollins has cowered to the pressure and fear of the big bully in the schoolyard and has traded in their integrity for monetary gain and a boatload of lies.

About the Author
Chavi Feldman has a degree in graphic design and advertising and works primarily as a music teacher. She has lived in Israel for more than two decades.