On Friday, Google followed the lead of the United Nations and other international organisation, including Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation), and recognized Palestine by changing the tagline on its homepage for the occupied territories, google.ps, from "Palestinian Territories" to just "Palestine." In a statement, Google said: "We're changing the name 'Palestinian Territories' to 'Palestine' across our products. We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries. In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, Icann [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO [International Organisation for Standardisation] and other international organisations."
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has welcomed the decision. "This is a step in the right direction, a timely step and one that encourages others to join in and give the right definition and name for Palestine instead of Palestinian territories," said Dr. Sabri Saidam, adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The move follows a request by the PA after the UN voted in November last year to upgrade Palestine's status in the organisation for international companies, including Google, to make the switch from "Palestinian Territories" to "Palestine."
Israel, unsurprisingly, is not so happy with the decision. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the 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." That, of course, is conveniently forgetting all the private companies that are complicit in Israel's occupation, including those involved in the construction of the illegal wall.
While the change may seem trivial to some, the choice of words is highly significant in terms of how one portrays the Israeli-Palestine conflict, whether one uses "security fence" or "apartheid wall," or "dispute territories" instead of "occupied territories." Now at least, as the Guardian half jokingly notes in its title for the story, Palestine has been recognised by a greater power than either the U.S. or Israel.