Digital World: Google Earth's 'false flags'

When it comes to Israel the disinformation is endless.

google earth 88 (photo credit:)
google earth 88
(photo credit: )
According to most of the anti-Israel bloggers, Gaza terrorists missing their marks and hitting open fields 'proves' that these are 'false flag' attacks being perpetrated by Israel - to give us an 'excuse' to conduct a 'Holocaust in Gaza.' And, of course, to increase the drama, Israel sometimes hits its own people with these rockets Once, anti-Semites used "the big lie" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big-Lie) to defame the Jews. But the Internet generation is too sophisticated to fall for that; what works far better today are the seemingly endless series of little lies used to put Israel and the Jews in a bad light. But, thanks to some quick thinking by folks from the town of Kiryat Yam (and a little follow-up by yours truly), at least one of those "little liars" has been shown up for what he really is. Busted! You may have heard the story - how one Thameen Darby is the impetus by Kiryat Yam for a lawsuit against Google. Darby claimed in a posting to Google Earth that the town was built on the remains of an Arab village, cleared out by Israel after the War of Independence (http://tinyurl.com/2tgvru). It was not, Kiryat Yam city fathers (and mothers) say. There was no Ghawarina, at least not on the sand dunes upon which Kiryat Yam was built. And so, officials of the city filed a complaint with police over libel, and plan to sue Google for defamation of character. Being that Google and its software is involved is what makes all the difference. Google Earth (http://earth.google.com/) is the modern way to handle geography. Volumes of old-fashioned gazetteers now languish on library shelves, as users who have downloaded the program make use of its basic and advanced features to map the world. Google Earth lets you check out almost every area of the world in detail, viewing 2D maps, 3D satellite imagery, terrain, communities and even specific buildings just by typing a search term into the program. Distances, statistics and information on faraway places that once took half a day at the library to discover are now available in a couple of clicks. Such is the power of the Internet when harnessed by Google. To extend the usefulness of Google Earth, the program allows users to create "layers" - overlays of data, photos, political concerns, environment data, etc. - on the basic map. For example, you can view farms and plantations around the world that grow "fair trade" produce (http://transfairusa.org/), which are supposed to fulfill certain basic conditions regarding safe environmental and fair labor practices. One of the problems with the Internet, as we all know, is that anybody can proffer themselves as an expert on anything and, for the cost (free) of signing up with a blogging site, make their "observations" a part of the greater body of human knowledge, no matter how silly, ridiculous or false. When it comes to Israel and, by extension, the Jews, despite the denial of those who claim to be "anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic," the disinformation is endless. According to most of the anti-Israel bloggers, for example, Gaza terrorists missing their marks and hitting open fields "proves" that these are "false flag" attacks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False-flag) being perpetrated by Israel - to give us an "excuse" to conduct a "Holocaust in Gaza." And, of course, to increase the drama, Israel sometimes hits its own people with these rockets. Interestingly, many of the links that connect to these sites are from the real anti-Semitic underbelly of the Internet - those sites that scientifically "prove" that the kids on the back of the milk cartons are victims of a blood libel. Of course, no person in their right mind would take this stuff seriously. But then again, there are a lot of people out there not in their right minds. And as with the "big lie," constant repetition often leads gullible people to believe that where there's smoke, there's fire. But when a lie shows up in something like Google Earth, it's different. Google Earth is not a common blog; it's a sophisticated piece of software that the parent company has spent tens of millions of dollars developing. Google is a serious company, and nobody would accuse its (Jewish) inventors of being anti-Semitic or even anti-Israel (http://tinyurl.com/3avvm6). So when a "false flag" shows up in a program like GE, it's far worse than when the same nonsense appears on a plain-vanilla Web site or blog. Google says Google Earth is an open system and allows any user to post whatever s/he wants, and thus the company should not be held responsible. It seems that Google wants to have it both ways - the freedom to say that it cannot stifle "other voices," accurate or not, while retaining the aura of authority and respectability Google Earth has among users. If Google wants its products to become the premier tools of Internet communication, it has a responsibility to ensure that the information provided by its tools is correct. I really do hope Kiryat Yam takes action; there's a real case here. Imagine a kid in Omaha writing a school report on the refugees of a town that may never have existed, based on Google Earth! Giving the imprimatur of truth to the false charge of expulsion of a civilian population - yep, Kiryat Yam does indeed have a case for defamation of character. What does Darby have to say about this? "As far as I can know, the Arab Ghawarina locality was in the place depicted"; but if it could be proven that there was no Ghawarina, "I will be quick to reallocate it." In other words, Kiryat Yam is guilty until proven innocent. Well, I can help Thameen out a bit - from a site he is quite familiar with himself. A site called "Palestine Remembered," which purports to catalog the villages within the 1948 borders from which Israel evicted the Arabs, turning them into refugees, and which Darby refers Google Earth users to for more information. It displays a 1946 map of Mandatory Palestine, with all extant villages, cities, railroads, etc (http://tinyurl.com/262zte). The map bears the signatures of Moshe Dayan and Transjordan's Ahmed Sudki El Jundi, establishing the "green line" cease-fire lines in 1949. The map was based on an extensive British survey of the territory in 1944 (updated in 1946, a year before the end of the Mandate and two years before Israel was officially established). Guess what? No Ghawarina! Neither is Kiryat Yam there, for that matter. But since the town was basically a tent on a sand dune (http://tinyurl.com/3bf2tb, seventh photo down) when first established, it would make sense that it not appear on the map. In fact, the Palestine Remembered page with information on Ghawarina (http://tinyurl.com/2uqlea) is completely blank - save for the claim that the village did indeed exist, contradicted by that "original source" map on the same site. Comparing Darby's Google Earth posts with the British map, I came up with some other questionable claims: villages claimed to have existed that don't appear on the British map at all (Wadi Qabbani, said to be be outside Netanya on Google Earth); villages that do exist today claimed to have been destroyed (the Arab Ein Hawd - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ein-Hod). In addition, Darby has "claimed" as Arab villages all sites on the British map that use the term "Khirbet" - a ruin - even if they clearly show up as ruins, wells or springs on the map (numerous examples). Now, does this mean that Arabs did not flee what was to become Israel when told to by Arab leaders, who promised them the riches of the Jews after the latter were slaughtered (http://tinyurl.com/39yh6, another original source)? No - the Arabs did flee, and they turned into the refugees whose third generation descendants are clamoring for the "right of return." But then there was Gush Etzion, Hebron, the Old City of Jerusalem and numerous other Jewish villages, whose residents were forced to flee as well - to say nothing of the Jews of Syria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and other countries who were forced to flee their homes, abandoning their property (my family still has title deeds to much land in Syria). I hadn't noticed any information relating to the nakba (catastrophe) conducted by the Arabs against the Jews - you won't find anything about the 1929 massacre of Hebron Jews on Google Earth. Of course, the Google people will say that anyone who wishes to catalog the Israeli side of the story is welcome to. But if Google wants its tools to become the vehicles that supply us with the information we need, it has a responsibility - because of its respectability - to ensure that the balance is there, and not leave it up to "volunteers." I don't have time to post blog material and map notations all day long - I have to work for a living, unlike, perhaps, some of these anti-Israel types who sit around writing blogs and posting talk-backs all day long, and apparently are getting an income from somewhere. Where, I wonder? But that is a story for another day. http://digital.newzgeek.com