This past summer, I blogged about the fact that the Marin YMCA had created a brand new country called East Jerusalem. That was foolish but, in terms of reach, relatively innocuous. The Marin County Fair, while well attended, is not quite big enough to change the way people think.
But what about a company that freely offers myriad online tutorials that pop up at the top of any Go0gle or Bing search? That might have an effect.
My son had to memorize the Middle Eastern countries for a geography class at school. I searched for “interactive maps Middle East” and found myself here, at the Sheppard Software website, which promises to “make learning fun.” It does, too. My son was able, after a few minutes of play, to master the geography of Middle Eastern nations that had been bedeviling him for the last hour when he was just pouring over a piece of paper.
I cannot fault Sheppard for the quality of its work. I was troubled, however, to learn about a couple of new countries in the Middle East. If you look at the left sidebar on the linked page, you’ll see that it adds two countries: the Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights. I can actually understand the impulse to create the Palestinian Territories, since those two places have independent governments, although neither is an officially recognized nation.
Sheppard’s creation of a nation-state called the Golan Heights, however, is utterly inexplicable. Israel seized the Golan Heights in 1967. The Heights are a lightly inhabited area, with the approximately 40,000 occupants on the Israeli side consisting primarily of Jews and Druze (who are not radically hostile to Israel). What’s extremely important about the Heights is the fact that, as the name implies, they are a high ground overlooking northern Israel. When Syria occupied those heights, it used them to turn northern Israeli towns into turkey shoots, with every resident, young and old, an easy target for even the most incompetent gunner. (John Kerry thought it would be a great idea to turn the Heights back over to Syria.)
The Heights are not currently a hot spot, although they are certainly yet another bone of contention between Israel and her genocidally inclined neighbors. They do not house an angry, disaffected population; they are not a breeding ground for terrorists; and they are not even part of a demand from the Obama administration. The people within the Heights are not pushing (or, at least, not pushing with the loudness and violence the Palestinians are) for sovereignty or for a re-alliance with Syria.
None of these seems to matter to Sheppards, which has created a nation out of whole cloth, the nation of “Golan Heights.” Even under the most optimistic anti-Israeli view, the best that the Golan Heights could be is Syria. The only reason to include it in a map as the Sheppards people did is to score a political point against Israel.