HarperCollins sells English-language atlases to schools in the Middle East (mainly in the Muslim region of the Gulf), but it was obvious that Israel was nowhere to be found on this most recent edition.
Erin Crum, HarperCollins vice president for corporate communications, called and sent the following statement via email:
“HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas. This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense caused.”
She would not say how many of the maps had actually been delivered to customers in Arab countries.
Earlier, Bishop Declan Lang, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, told The Tablet, “The publication of this atlas will confirm Israel’s belief that there exists a hostility towards their country from parts of the Arab world. It will not help to build up a spirit of trust leading to peaceful co-existence.”
In reply, the subsidiary of HarperCollins said to the same outlet that writing the name ‘Israel’ would have been “unacceptable” to their customers in the Gulf, so the change was to suit “local preferences.” The Tablet said it had discovered the customs officers in one unnamed Muslim country only permitting the import of school atlases once Israel had been deleted by hand.
Director of the Council of Christians and Jews, Jane Clements, added, “Maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of delegitimizing ‘the other’ and can lead to confusion rather than clarity. We would be keen to see relevant bodies ensure that all atlases anywhere reflect the official United Nations position on nations, boundaries and all political features.”
Many people took to social media to express their dissatisfaction with HarperCollins’s decision.
— Manny B (@mb3992) December 31, 2014