Unofficial Maps: Bus Routes of Greater Israel/Palestine
Here’s a pair of maps that transcend my normal method of reviewing maps and demand a more serious approach, as well as a commentary on the power of design to shape and influence our thoughts.
These two maps show exactly the same thing - bus services out of Jerusalem and into Palestine. The route lines are identical on each map. The first map presents the services from an Israeli perspective, while the second map presents them from a Palestinian point of view. The differences are striking.
The Israeli map has a calming grey background, and the text presents the bus services as a way of linking and benefiting Jewish-Israeli communities on both sides of the prosaically named “Security Fence” (an understatement reminiscent of the Berlin Wall being simply referred to as the Sektorengrenze, or “sector boundary”). The Security Fence itself is de-emphasised by being shown as white against the grey background, while the 1949 Armistice Line is barely visible at all.
In contrast, the Palestinian version of the map has a dramatic black background, and the text uses words like “illegal” to describe the bus routes shown. The Security Fence is renamed as the “Separation Wall” and is emphasised strongly by thickening it and colouring it yellow, contrasting strongly against the black background. The land between the Separation Wall and the 1967 Green Line is hatched, bringing into relief the land that Palestinians believe have been stolen from them by Israel over the years.
Place names on both the maps reflect their backgrounds - Judea and Samaria on the Israeli map become the politically-charged “The West Bank” on the Palestinian map. Subtle differences in the size and position of Israeli settlements reflect the two opposing views on their legality.
Our rating: Extraordinary example of how design decisions can completely alter the tone and bias of a map. In isolation, each map would present a compelling argument for each position - by comparing them, we can see how we are influenced by what the map designer chooses to show, and by how they choose to show it. Five stars.