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'Google Palestine' label stirs both sides of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Google nixes the phrase "Palestinian Territories" from the home page of its search site for the area, subbing in "Palestine" and provoking reactions from both sides.

Screenshot by CNET

Google has swapped in the word "Palestine" for "Palestinian Territories" on its search site for the area, prompting comments from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The word appears directly beneath the Google logo and above the search field on the site's home page, www.google.ps, and the change follows a vote by the United Nations' General Assembly late last year to grant Palestine the status of "non-member observer state."

"We're changing the name 'Palestinian Territories' to 'Palestine' across our products," Google spokesman Nathan Tyler told the BBC on Friday, in a statement. "We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries.

The change in terminology on the google.ps home page doesn't seem to be reflected on Google Maps. As of this writing, a search -- using google.ps (from a U.S.-based PC) -- for "google maps palestine" or "palestine map" brings up a Google Maps detail labeled "Palestinian Territories." Screenshot by CNET

"In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, Icann [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO [International Organization for Standardization], and other international organizations."

The move was received favorably by the Palestinian Authority, according to the BBC, which quoted Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as saying that Google's decision would prompt others to "join in and give the right definition and name for Palestine."

"Most of the traffic that happens now happens in the virtual world and this means putting Palestine on the virtual map as well as on the geographic maps," Saidam told the news agency.

Saidam also said he'd like to see the change reflected in Google Maps. He was quoted in various reports as saying, "We hope Google maps will also show the fact that Palestinian land has been stolen from Israel's colonization." But Google doesn't seem to have gone that far. As of this writing, a search -- using www.google.ps (from a U.S.-based PC) -- for "google maps palestine" or "palestine map" brings up a Google Maps detail labeled "Palestinian Territories."

Not surprisingly, Israeli officials see the situation differently than Saidam.

"Google is not a diplomatic entity, which begs the question why are they getting involved in international politics and on the controversial side," Yigal Palmor, a representative for Israel's foreign ministry, told the Associated Press.

Israel was one of 9 nations, including the U.S., that voted against 138 other U.N. countries on the question of granting "non-member observer state" status to Palestine.