Daily Israel Report

Did Google Maps Block Judea and Samaria?

Arutz Sheva received complaints from residents of Judea and Samaria who can no longer receive driving directions on Google Maps.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/22/2012, 4:44 AM

Judea and Samaria
Judea and Samaria
Flash 90

Arutz Sheva has received several complaints over the past few weeks from residents of Judea and Samaria (Shomron) who use Google Maps to receive driving directions before setting out on the roads. The residents complained that in recent weeks, when they looked for directions between two points in Judea and Samaria, they received an error message which said that no information is available on the points in question.

One of the complainants, Joe from Havat Gilad (Gilad Farm) in the Shomron, told Arutz Sheva on Monday that the problem goes beyond trips from one point to another within Judea and Samaria, and also extends to trips from within Judea and Samaria to points outside of the area.

It should be noted that those who wish to see driving directions from a point outside of Judea and Samaria to a point within the area have no problems accessing the site and receive no error messages. However, they must be sure to use discretion and not attempt to go through Arab villages and towns, even if that is the shortest route.

(Ed. note: Those using a GPS in Israel must be sure it is programmed especially for Israel, as GPS gives the shortest route between two places - and that may easily be a very dangerous one.  IDF soldiers stopped unwary tourists with GPS as they were about to make a turn into an Arab city, leading to reprogramming for Israeli GPS.)

Joe, who has used Google Maps himself for a long time, said he tried to turn to Google and ask for clarifications on this issue but was unsuccessful. He noted, however, that perhaps the company decided not to include Judea and Samaria due to its fear that of lawsuits from users who might use the service and mistakenly end up in danger by entering areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Arutz Sheva asked Google Israel to comment on the matter but did not hear back from the company. When the company responds, its statement will be published in full.

Google recently launched its “Street View” service in Israel, allowing users from around the world to view and explore streets and sites across the country via 360-degree street-level imagery.

In the first stage, Google has made available imagery of the cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa. This includes sites of interest such as the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall, Mount of Olives, old port of Jaffa, the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, and many more.

In the coming months, Google plans to add imagery of other cities and sites including the Dead Sea, Nazareth, Tiberias, Tzfat, Akko, Be’er Sheva, Eilat, Ashkelon, Ramat Gan, Rosh Ha’ayin, Hadera, Bat-Yam, and more.

Israel officials authorized the Street View cameras after three months of negotiations to define certain conditions to protect privacy.

In accordance with its promise, Google did not reveal license plate numbers and home addresses when publishing the images online. This information, as well as the faces of people on city’s streets, have been obscured.