Friday, January 16, 2009

Time Magazine Map of Israel/Palestinian Region Leaves Many Questions

I like detail in maps but too often the media leaves it to the oft-times, geographically illiterate reader to figure it out. Time Magazine, in its January 19th issue (page 30), published a map of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that provides information (or not) on the locations of Palestinian communities, the occupied territories procured during the 1967 Six-Day war and Gazan refugee camps. The map is quite detailed and based on information from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. [Don't bother looking on the U.N.'s website for these maps as it will just confuse you.] But there are problems in interpreting the map.

1. While the Time Magazine map shows a nicely detailed thematic of the Palestinian communities, there are two shades of tan delineating these areas but the legend shows only one shade. Why two shades? For more of an explanation, I had to do a lot of digging. The lighter shades are considered under full Palestinian Authority control. The darker shades are merely higher population centers (my interpretation). But no where on the map does it distinguish the two. Poor adherence to cartographic principals.

2. The borders of Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights are indicated by a dotted line. Again, nowhere on the map does it designate this line as a border. Yes, it's obvious but you need to put it in the legend.

3. A closer look at the West Bank border reveals a double-dotted line around a "thumb-shaped" area in the West Bank. Again, no explanation. ReliefWeb has a map (PDF) with a very detailed demarcation of the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice Line. The double line is part of the barrier begin built by the Israeli government. More information, a map and discussion about this barrier can be found in Wikipedia.

So, in summary, the Time Magazine map was a "nice" but cartographically poor representation of the situation on the ground. I expect better from Time's cartographers.

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