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Google formally recognises Palestine: Puts it on the virtual map

Following the lead of the UN, ICANN

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Google has waded into the Middle East's most intractable conflict by recognising Palestine as an independent state.

On 1 May, the advertising giant wiped the term Palestinian Territories from its localised search page, replacing it with Palestine.

It follows a UN decision in October to name Palestine a non-member, observer state. This allows Palestinians to join UN debates and, in theory, join global bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Anyone who accesses www.google.ps is shown the Google search page with the word Palestine beneath it, whereas before the phrase Palestinian Territories was used.

It may be a minor change, but Mountain View's move has been criticised by some politicians in Israel, where it was slammed in some quarters for getting involved in a complex and apparently unsolvable conflict, although it was welcomed by some left-wing Israelis.

In a statement, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler 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, ISO [International Organisation for Standardisation] and other international organisations."

Google's "controversial" decision angered the Israeli foreign ministry: "This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private Internet company in international politics," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Dr Sabri Saidam, advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was delighted. He said: "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.

"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." ®

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