Google gives a virtual nod to ‘Palestine’

Google has switched the tagline on its Palestinian website, replacing the words “Palestinian territories” with “Palestine” in both English and Arabic.

Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said the company consulted “a number of sources and authorities when naming countries” and was following the lead of organizations such as the United Nations, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers and the International Organization for Standardization.

“We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’ across our products,” Tyler said in a statement emailed to the Los Angeles Times.


The company began making the changes Wednesday. In addition to the tagline on the Palestinian page, the shift will also be evident in location settings on Google websites.

The decision was cheered by Palestinian leaders and activists who saw it as another sign of recognition for a Palestinian state, coming from one of the most influential companies on the globe.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Dr. Sabri Saidam, advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told the BBC. The change “means putting Palestine on the virtual map as well as on the geographic maps.”

In November, the United Nations voted to upgrade the Palestinian Authority from “nonmember observer entity” to “nonmember observer state,” in a step widely seen as a boon to Palestinian hopes for statehood. Palestinian officials started issuing stamps with the name ‘State of Palestine.’

After the U.N. vote, the International Organization for Standardization soon relabeled its three-letter code for the area as “State of Palestine” instead of “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

More than a decade earlier, ICANN — the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers — granted the area its own suffix for web addresses. Much as French websites sign off with a .fr and South Africans tag their sites .za, Palestinians were granted the domain .ps. It is where the new reference to ‘Palestine’ is now visible.

The U.S. and Israel opposed the U.N. decision to change its status in November, saying steps toward Palestinian statehood should come through direct negotiations with Israel.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor expressed concern about Google’s decision to Agence France-Presse news agency.

“This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private Internet company in international politics — and on the controversial side,” Palmor told AFP.