ENG - The politics of maps in Israel (BGU 2015)

General remarks about maps

My claim is that a map reflects a “grille d’analyse” of the world, it reflects an ideology. As archeology, behind a map there is an intention, an interest. Moreover, whenI think about“Borders” in general, I would quote Régis Debray in Eloge Des Frontières

“How to put order in chaos? By drawing a line, by separating an inside from an outside. The allowed of the forbidden”

Maps are born from an idea; it is an intellectual/ideological construction, before they are formalized on a paper. The real challenge about maps is that they give the impression of a world perfectly cut in pieces, defined by lines symbolizing borders. It seems to be in harmony, but as would claim the Realists scholars of IR, the fundamental state of IR is anarchy.

Specific remarks about Israel/Palestine and relation to maps and space/territory

Map is something that we barely question. A map is in everyone's eye a geographical representation of the land. But is it trully ?

Try this. Observe ALL the maps you see while in Israel and ask yourself : where do I see it, who made it, when, for what goals and what do I see.

One of the maps that really striked me is the Israeli Hostel map. On the same map you will find hotels in Nazareth, others in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, and they are considered being “Israeli hostel”. I think this is the kind of detail I wouldn’t have pay attention to before.

A map is a political tool, and you can chose to show whatever you want. It is fascinating to see how many different versions of an Israeli map I’ve already observed: map from a rental car company, propaganda maps you can find on Facebook dealing with the conflict, maps without delimitations of the West Bank or Gaza, maps of the antic Israel with borders of the Kingdoms, maps of hotels, maps of history/archeological sites etc… and this all have a very important political aspect. The plurality of maps expresses the diversity of political views, opinions, ethnic diversity also, and makes it more complex.

The Israeli Palestinian conflict is basically a territorial issue (among other things). Therefore, playing with representation of the space is toxic and dangerous for peace. As archeology, geography and all human sciences' disciplines can serve an interest. I’ve been recently studying about Arnon Soffer, a controversial Israeli geographer. He actually uses his “legitimacy” or “credibility” as a scholar to do politics…

After his demographic study in the 2000s, he “suggested” to the government different solutions to fix the demographic balance, in favor of Israeli Jews. He pointed the problem demography involves for the Jewish identity of Israel.

Borders and representation of territory, as everything in Israel, are securitized.

Every political matter is a security matter: borders, immigration, identity, geography, water, gas, the military (obviously), environment…

The green line does not appear on Israeli official maps. Israel can be considered a realist state, and the conflict is part of a Hobbesian international culture (in Wendt typology): which means there is a “Self” and an “other”, no mutual recognition, demonization of the enemy etc. Therefore, if we consider that Israel does not recognize Palestinians, why should they draw it in a map? It would go against the foreign policy.

Last thing I would add is that we should not forget that what separate Israel from Palestine is actually not a border/frontier but a wall, a security fence. The difference is huge and must be underlined. Because a wall has a temporary limit, it is not made to stay; it is not a long term.

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by LK (2018)

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