Sunday, January 22, 2012
"The West Wing" Holy Land Map
A Palestinian friend of mine linked to the clip above on Facebook, and I later saw it pop up on various anti-Israel sites. In case the video disappears due to copyright infringement, here's a description: The clip shows the fictional President Bartlett of "The West Wing" receiving a 1709 map of what is now Israel, which is titled "Palestine/Canaan/Holy Land", but does not mention Israel. The president loves the gift and wants to put it up on the wall, but his staff members are afraid of the political and diplomatic fall-out.
The anti-Israel crowd seems to love this clip. I love this clip, too, but not for the same reason. Anti-Zionists might see this clip as suggesting that the area doesn't belong to the Jews, because Israel didn't exist before 1948, but the geographical designation "Palestine" did. Also, they might see it as suggesting that the Israel Lobby is so powerful that the president can't put up such a benign map.
I don't think the clip is necessarily suggesting any of that. It's brilliant because it shows how politically charged history and geography can be. The way you teach history and the way you draw maps (both in how you label them and the boundaries you mark) is bound to piss someone off. It could have been a map of the UK, showing all of Ireland as part of it, or a map labeling present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as one united India, or any other explosive situation. Perhaps they chose Israel as the best-known example, or because it would make sense for a Christian to want to put up a map of the Holy Land, but not of another foreign region of the world.