Internet search engine Google has taken a small but politically loaded step by changing the tagline on the homepage of its Palestinian version from “Palestinian Territories” to “Palestine.”
The change, introduced at the beginning of May, shows Google’s logo with “Palestine” written below in Arabic and English.
“We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’ across our products. We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries,” Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said in a statement to the BBC.
“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,” Tyler added.
The United Nations General Assembly granted Palestine the status of “non-member observer state” last November, providing Palestinians a certain degree of statehood recognition.
The move was strongly opposed by Israel and the United States.
Google’s decision has been welcomed by the Palestinian Authority.
“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,” Sabri Saidam, advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the BBC.
“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,” he added.
Saidam said that since the U.N. vote on Nov. 29, the PA had written to international companies, including Google, asking them to replace their usage of “Palestinian Territories” with “Palestine.”
Israeli authorities, however, questioned Google’s “surprising” move.
"This 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," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.