A course in map reading II

Five Minutes for Israel

British Mandate of palestine flag

Guess whose? 1920-1948

26 November 2012

Four maps & five, six, seven … lies

Five Minutes for Israel is on such a roll with maps after A course in map reading I: How the BBC mapped the conflict and Sometimes you need proportion: Rocket and mortar range to your town that I have decided to analyse another very well-known set of maps. Treat it as a resource they will resurface, usually with some sort of label that this is the truth no one will publish.

You will have seen this one as it’s been around since at least 2000. The 1946-2010 version of Palestinian Loss of Land is exactly the same, except for greyed-out version of the 1947 Partition Plan that repeats on three maps, the date and slightly cleaner lines. Keeping to Five Minutes for Israel practise I’ve slightly improved the image so that, even by accident, I won’t be guilty of distributing anti-Israel propaganda.

Palestinian Land Lies 1946-2010

Four maps. How many lies?

Maps #0 & #-1

Lies by omission

Transjordan and Palestine

If Palestinians lived in the West, who lived in the East?

Quite a few critics have picked up that the maps only show a Palestine that existed  between 16 September 1922 and 14 May 1948. It would spoil the symmetry to show the 2/3 of Palestine that was unilaterally split off by Great Britain to form Transjordan, later Jordan. To be fair it was only Palestine Mandate for less than half a year but even then it was hardly Palestinian. The Brits gave it to the Saudi origin (actually Hejaz but who has heard of it?) Hashemites.

There is still quite a deal of argument about whether it should be considered part of the British Mandate of Palestine to form a national homeland for the Jews but it does raise a crucial question. Who was living there before 1923 if it wasn’t Palestinians? Arabs who by culture, dialect of Arabic, and dress were exactly the same as those living on the western side of the Jordan River and who even now are described as Palestinians to distinguish them from the non Palestinian Bedouin. That’s a sea of green if they had been consistent.

The Levant under the Ottoman Empire

The borders of the Ottoman levant looked nothing like those of the Mandate.

If one year isn’t enough, why not start with 1917 and three hundred years before that? Click on the Ottoman map of the Levant (i.e, what is now Syria, Lebanon, Jordan,). It doesn’t even look like the green and white maps. Palestine wasn’t mentioned because it didn’t exist. Not as an administrative unit at least. Territory that had formerly constituted the Ottoman Sanjaks of Nablus, Acre, the Southern portion of the Beirut Vilayet, and the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, prior to the Armistice of Mudros. No Palestinian land at all. Only Arabs and the Turkish Sultan.

 Map #1 1946

The British owned it

Let’s put aside, for a moment, that  most Arabs in the British Mandate of Palestine refused to call themselves Palestinians, preferring to leave that label for the Jews.

If the Jews in white owned about 8% of the land, doesn’t that mean that the Palestinians in Muslim green owned the other 92%? No it doesn’t!

When the British took over after defeating the Turks they surveyed the land. About 75% belonged to the Turkish Sultan, what the English would describe as Crown Land. Generous to a fault, they didn’t donate it to the local Arabs but declared themselves to be legal successors to the Sultanate and therefore to the land. In 1946 about 75% of the map was British. Perhaps it should have been coloured red instead of green?

Palestinian sovereignty – none. Palestinian ownership – about 15%. Even that figure was deceptive. About half of the Arab lands was Bedouin grazing land that could not be sold. Not really owned if it can’t be disposed of. In terms of actual land title, Jews and Arabs owned about the same amount. Sovereignty – His Majesty, King George of Great Britain.

Map #2 1947

We reject it but we still claim it

Is there an Arabic equivalent of Chutzpah? The Plan was rejected by leaders of the Arab community, including the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, who were supported in their rejection by the states of the Arab League. The Arab case was clear. They get it all. War was inevitable and they lost.

Just for the record. Had the Arabs accepted the Partition Plan it still wouldn’t have been Palestinian Land as in the map. The plan referred only to Arabs and Jews.

The irony was that the Jewish area would have had a large Arab minority while some Jews would have been left in the Arab areas. There would have been no mass exodus of Arabs. Actual private ownership shouldn’t have changed only sovereignty. Of course, we will never know what the Arabs would have done to the Jews in their part of Palestine. Fortunately we will never know.

Map #3

Jordan and Egypt took it

The war of 1948 was not a complete victory for Israel. Although the genocide promised by the Arabs had been avoided the armies of Egypt and Transjordan captured and kept the territory in green. Egypt made some pretence of a Palestinian government for a time. On 22 September 1948, towards the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the All-Palestine government was proclaimed in the Egyptian occupied Gaza City by the Arab League.  It was not recognised by any country outside the Arab League. It never had funding or influence.

Nasser dissolved the All-Palestine Government in 1959, under the excuse of pan-Arabism and Egypt continued to occupy the Gaza Strip until 1967. Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor. So much for Palestinian land in Gaza.

Transjordan (as in over the Jordan river) didn’t even do that. They annexed it and relabeled themselves Hashemite  Kingdom of Jordan. At least the local Arabs gained citizenship of Jordan. That was more than Egypt did. It was only in 1988, nineteen years after losing actual control, that Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank. So much for Palestinian land in what Jordan renamed the West Bank.

The first irony is highlighting Jerusalem. In the Partition Plan it was supposed to become an international city. Jordan annexed it, exactly as it had the rest of the land it had captured and occupied. It should be as green as the rest.

The second irony is that in the Palestine National Charter of 1964 the PLO wrote that the area in green is NOT part of Palestinian sovereignty.

Article 24: This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.

Palestine National Charter of 1964
(Al-Mithaq Al-Kawmee Al-Philisteeni)†

Map #4

Abuse of graphics in two parts


In the year 2000 Israel had settlements. In 2005 every last Israeli left. Some were forced out. Others took the Israeli governments’ offer and left more or less voluntarily. There is no white space on the green. The last Israeli to leave was the prisoner Gilad Shalit and he wasn’t building any settlements.

West Bank or to give it its historical Jewish name Judah and Samaria

West Bank & Gaza Map 2007A similar map, undoubtedly the origin of this one is circulating. Compare it with the one on your left purporting to illustrate exactly the same area. there’s much more under Palestinian Authority formal control. How much actual control Abbas has is another matter. None in Gaza.

Much more importantly where the fourth map makes it appear that the Palestinians are a group of separated islands and specks the more detailed map shows the white areas for what they really are ROADS! How wide can a road be? Thirty metres? Fifty metres? The cartographer has drawn them as if they were kilometres wide. Anyone who sees the Jordan river for the first time is tremendously disappointed. It’s no Mississippi. Not even the Thames. Roads that can be walked across in a few seconds are drawn as if they were three times the width of the New Jersey Turnpike.

 What’s missing? Israel

The maps constantly mix and confuse ownership, sovereignty and control. They also do a great disservice to Israel’s Arab citizens. About 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arabs. A proportion that has not really changed in since the War of Independence. Most live where they, or more likely their grandparents, lived in 1948. They truly have been erased from the map.

Cliff notes for students

  1. The map of Palestine only looked that way between 1922 and 1946
  2. The Arabs unanimously rejected the 1947 Partition Plan. It was never implemented.
  3. The parts between 1948 and 1967 were Jordanian and Egyptian sovereignty not Palestinian.
  4. Israel left Gaza in  2005. The map is fraudulently drawn to show roads as kilometres wide.

I haven’t discovered the wheel. Virtually everything I write has appeared in other places. If I have inadvertantly plagiarised, let me know and I will give credit. It was in a very good cause.

Graphics from Wiki Commons

†  “Al-Kawmee” has no exact equivalent in English but reflects the notion of Pan-Arabism

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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