Maps as a tool for understanding territorial conflicts

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As Pickles44 claims, mapping is an interpretive act, in which the product - the map - conveys not merely the facts but also, and always, the author's intention and the values that he or she imparts to work. Like any text, the map assumes a life and a context of its own. Maps have always shaped and reflected the struggle over the control of the area of Israel. This study also points to the confusion and vagueness in relation to the territorial extent of Israel, within and outside the country. Although the conflict is complex, involving issues of territory and religion overlaid with culture and history, the struggle is at times reduced to a question of maps: whose map, which map will be victorious?45. The discrepancies might have evolved from the different attitudes to and accompanying commentaries on borders and frontiers within Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel views Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip as frontier regions. They are defined as areas in transition, with still undefined and fluctuating borders. This approach is not generally accepted in the world or by the Palestinian Authority: the latter regards these same frontiers as the final borders. Whereas Israel allows and even encourages settlements in these frontier areas, the Palestinians hold the 'Green Line' to be the final border. We may add that the Palestinians' maps and the Israeli maps are mirror images. The two sides emphasize different sizes of the State of Israel, according to their view of the lines as borders or as frontiers. The term 'mapping borders' describes a process which could also be termed 'delimitation of borders-.fixing or defining the limits of the borders. This research was oriented to the current maps of Israel and the connections between mapping and ideology in this specific case and period. An effort was also made to investigate all the maps of Israel, not only a sample. Little research exists on current maps of places involved in ongoing conflict; it is usually conducted only after the conflict or unstable situations are resolved. Both sides, the Israeli and the Palestinian, still present maps that are absolute and exclusive; there is no sign of real progress in recognition of the other', neither in the maps nor in reality. Indeed, the maps seem to act to preserve and sustain the conflict. It is hoped that this paper will be the first of numerous surveys dealing with the mapping of political conflicts, specifically border and frontier areas such as in the former Yugoslavia, in the former Soviet Union, or Cyprus. Further research could examine different periods of time reflected in the different maps. Maps of Israel serve as efficient tools for understanding political conflicts. Through their messages we may reach conclusions about ideology, the aspirations of those in authority, and power games. A map is actually a 'spatial story' portraying social and political processes, interests, power relationships, and ideologies. All this implies that maps may be used as analytic tools for comprehending processes and their meanings. A map acts as a lens through which culture and society may be viewed. At the same time, it is also a microcosm of that society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-300
Number of pages36
Issue number2008
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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