HarperCollins caused international uproar after it was discovered that the publishing giant had been selling an atlas to schools in the Middle East that intentionally omitted Israel due to "local preferences."
The Washington Post reports that for the past several months, the company has been selling the atlas it says was "developed specifically for schools in the Middle East." It claims to provide students an "in-depth coverage of the region and its issues" and help them understand the "relationship between the social and physical environment, the region's challenges [and] its socio-economic development."
The atlas reportedly showed Syria, Jordan and even Gaza, but the name Israel appeared nowhere on it.
In explaining the company's bizarre move, Collins Bartholomew, a subsidiary of HarperCollins that specializes in maps, told the Tablet that the company felt it would have been "unacceptable" to include Israel in atlases intended for the Middle East, and thus had deleted Israel to satisfy "local preferences."
However, a few days later, HarperCollins released a statement on its Facebook page: "HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas. This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologises for this omission and for any offence caused."
Dr. Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews, told the Catholic news source The Tablet, which first broke the story, that maps that excluded Israel risked causing "confusion and de-legitimizing the nation" for the students who used the atlases.
She said: "Maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of de-legitimising 'the other' and can lead to confusion rather than clarity. We would be keen to see relevant bodies ensure that all atlases anywhere reflect the official UN position on nations, boundaries and all political features."
Added Bishop Declan Lang, "The publication of this atlas will confirm Israel's belief that there exists hostility toward their country from parts of the Arab world. It will not help to build up a spirit of trust leading to peaceful co-existence."
Amazon users also gave the atlas scathing, one-star reviews, slamming the publishing company for failing to recognize Israel.
"Since May 18, 1948, Israel has existed as a nation. HarperCollins has no excuse for ignoring this wonderful country and national heritage of Judaism. SHAME be upon them for attempting to write Israel out of existence! May they face boycott of all HC publications and may their writers seek another publishing house based on this intentional act of literary extermination," wrote one user.
"The omission of the state of Israel from this map to placate the anti semites in the middle east is appalling," wrote another.
Maps which recognize Israel include Google Maps, Apple Maps, MapQuest, National Geographic, Peters World Map, Yahoo! Maps and Lonely Planet.