Julien Bousac has captured the surreal nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this fantasy map of Palestine imagined as an Aegean-like island paradise. What’s so striking about the map is that it imagines concentrations of Palestinian population as islands and the remaining Jewish settlements as the sea. The result is this strange map.
Maps are more than just graphic representations of geography or territory. As we’ve seen before during the conflict, maps make political statements. Just as a fer instance, remember the rightists who blow their stack when Arab maps don’t show Israel? Or the Palestinians who blow their stack at Israeli maps which show the Occupied Territories as part of Israel proper?
What is remarkable about this map is that it provides a visual representation of the fragmentation of the West Bank population. You can hear analysts decry the encroaching settlements and their toxic effect on the potential for a future Palestinian state. But nothing brings this home like an image.
The cartographer, Julien Bousac, also invokes deft political wit by featuring ferry lines connecting the various Palestinian communities as if they were Aegean islands. Here is Bousac discussing his artistic/political intent:
“…The full map…is…an illustration of the West Bank’s ongoing fragmentation based on the (originally temporary) A/B/C zoning which came out of the Oslo process, still valid until now. To make things clear, areas ‘under water’ strictly reflect C zones, plus the East Jerusalem area, i.e. areas that have officially remained under full Israeli control and occupation following the Agreements. These include all Israeli settlements and outposts as well as Palestinian populated areas.”
Mr Boussac took advantage of the resulting archipelago effect “to use typical tourist maps codes (mainly icons) to sharpen the contrast between the fantasies raised by seemingly paradise-like islands and the Palestinian Territories grim reality.” The map does have a strong vacationy vibe to it – but whether that is because of the archipelago-shaped subject matter, or due to the cheerful colour scheme is a matter for debate.
Those colours, incidentally, denote urban areas (orange), nature reserves (shaded), zones of partial autonomy (dark green) and of total autonomy (light green). Totally fanciful are of course the dotted lines symbolising shipping links, the palm trees signifying protected beachland, and the purple symbols representing various aspects of seaside pleasure. The blue icon, labelled Zone sous surveillance (‘Zone under surveillance’) has some bearing on reality, as the locations of the warships match those of permanent Israeli checkpoints.
Some of the paradisiacally named islands include Ile au Miel (Honey Island), Ile aux Oliviers (Isle of the Olive Trees), Ile Sainte (Holy Island) and Ile aux Moutons (Sheep Island), although the naming of Ile sous le Mur (Island beneath the Wall) constitutes a relapse into the grimness of the area’s reality.
Over the course of decades of political activism, I’ve noticed that many of those on the extreme right and extreme left seem to have lost their senses of humor and irony (Dick Cheney is a perfect example for the right) somewhere along the political way. A Jewish example of this phenomenon is Jonathan Tobin, writing about the map at Commentary, in a piece histrionically titled Jews Driven Into the Sea at Last.
Poor Jonathan. He seems to have entirely missed the boat on this. Not to mention that he manages to invoke, yet again and for the 10 millionth time, the specter of the left’s alleged hatred of Israel and propensity to tolerate Jewish genocide. For him, the map represents Jews being thrown into the sea. I kid you not. Just to tickle your funny bone, here’s Tobin completely missing the point:
Julien Bousac has created a vision of a Palestinian state on the West Bank in which the Jews are literally under water.
First, we have the little problem of “Jews,” which is not at all what Bousac has described. Rather, Bousac is talking about Israelis. There is a big difference though that appears lost on Tobin. Contrary to what Tobin believes, the Israelis are not “under water,” rather they ARE the water. There is a big difference. It is the Palestinians who are surrounded by the Israeli sea. If anyone is threatened with drowning it is them, not the Israelis.