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Google's recognition of Palestine a welcome sign

Google’s recognition of Palestine is a step forward on the road to creating a state, as shown by Israel's furious response

Mohamed Elmenshawy , Friday 17 May 2013
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At the beginning of May, Google decided to recognise the state of Palestine and to use the word “Palestine” instead of “Palestinian territories.”

Now there is a page for the state of Palestine at www.google.ps, just like any other independent country. This is a very significant step, as one can see from Israel’s strong protestations and Palestinians’ eager welcome of the historic move.

This step is no less important than previous ones seeking independence and world recognition for the state of Palestine.

The late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat made a declaration in 1988 that was adopted by 94 countries (84.7 percent of world countries) based on UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which ended the British mandate and divided the territory into two states.

More recently, the General Assembly recognised Palestine as an “observer state,” a resolution adopted by 131 out of 193 members of the UN (67.9 percent of world countries). Today, after recognition of Palestine by Google, the search engine and applications, all world countries recognise the state of Palestine whether they like it or not.

Israel was enraged by Google’s move, but all they could do was criticise the company. They know they cannot do much more than this when the balance of power is not in their favour. Today, no one – country, group or party – can be enemies with, impose sanctions on or boycott Google. Israel made a futile attempt to form a world lobby to put pressure on Google and demand it reverse its decision.

Deputy Israeli foreign minister Zeev Elkin, a leading member of the ruling Likud Party, sent a stern letter to Google demanding the company reverse its decision. He told Israeli Radio, “when a company like Google comes along and supports this line, it actually pushes peace further away and creates among the Palestinian leadership the illusion they can achieve results in this manner. Without direct negotiations with us, nothing will ever happen.”

Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, was apparently baffled by Google’s decision. “This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement by a private Internet company in international politics, and on the controversial side,” said Palmor.

Google spokesman Nathan Tyler, meanwhile, responded to Israeli criticism by saying that changing the name “Palestinian territories” to “Palestine” occurred after consulting several world bodies. “We are following the lead of major international organisations,” Tyler said.

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt believes the Internet and technology can create a new reality in many world issues. For example, the right to self-determination will not occur until those who seek it feel there is a true single destiny that brings them together on the Internet that strengthens their sense of individual identity or usurped rights.

The move by Google is an addition in this respect. On the one hand, it makes the children and youth of Palestine feel there is a “digital entity” bringing them together in a crucial step to translate this entity into a viable state on the ground. Google applications, especially Google Maps, are an opportunity to expose and strip away legitimacy from Israeli settlements within the borders of the state of Palestine.

Google’s competition in the app world is something of the past. The Google search engine accounted for 84 percent of Internet searches last year; trailed at a long distance by Yahoo at eight percent, and Microsoft’s Bing engine at five percent.

But Google is more than a successful search engine; Google’s Android operating system is more successful than Apple whether for smartphones, apps or uses. In 2010, Google telephone operations accounted for 26 per cent while Apple was 40 per cent; today, it is 53 per cent for Google and 36 per cent for Apple.

Google employs 54,000 people and is worth more than $93 billion, and owns several other giant companies that shape the world today, including YouTube, Motorola, Zagat and dozens of others. This means Google’s recognition of Palestine as an independent state must be seen as a victory and step forward on the road to creating a state.

In major conflicts, the criteria for victory and defeat are defined by attempts to win on all issues, even ones that appear trivial and unimportant. In major conflicts, all details and minor battles are significant, whether in the virtual world or digital world or cerebral world.

Israel has succeeded in several areas that seem trivial; the fields of journalism, cinema, literature, television and world media. Will Google make Arabs realise the importance of these domains? Perhaps future generations will be able to better speak the language of the age, and score victories in some spheres that they felt were unnecessary – or even worse, despair at making any progress in them.

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