The publishers HarperCollins is withdrawing from sale an atlas that omitted Israel from its maps after the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said it was harmful to peace efforts in the Middle East.
The Tablet's story about the the Middle East Atlas, which shows Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, was widely reported and caused an international outcry. Collins Middle East Atlases were sold to English-speaking schools in the Muslim-majority Gulf, and publicity about their existence has embarrassed the publishing giant.
In a statement on its Facebook page, HarperCollins said: "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 apologises for this omission and for any offence caused."
Earler, Collins Bartholomew, the subsidiary of HarperCollins that specialises in maps, had told The Tablet that including Israel in the Middle East Atlas would have been “unacceptable” to its customers in the Gulf and that the amendment incorporated “local preferences”.
At the time, 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.”
The Tablet has also learned of customs officers in one Gulf nation allowing school atlases to reach their intended recipient only once Israel had been struck out by hand.
Dr Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews, told The Tablet that maps that excluded Israel risked causing confusion and de-legitimising the nation in the eyes of the students who used the atlases.
She said: “Maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of de-legitimising ‘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 UN position on nations, boundaries and all political features.”