Dot-p-s, because any sovereignty you can get counts

June 2nd, 2009, West Bank

The world may have relegated them to a postscript on the international stage, with their sovereignty status in limbo, but online, the Palestinians have carved out a territory for themselves. Just like “.uk” represents Britain, “.ps” is their flag for all sites Palestinian.

To be sure, not all sites use “.ps” in their url – in fact, looking at the directory of Palestinian sites give to me, most non-governmental ones do not - but at least, the choice is there. It was a a three-year struggle to get the Internet Corporation for Associated Names and Numbers which governs these country-code Top-Level Domain system. Finally in 2000, permission was granted and the unique country identifier “.ps” came into existence.


Various maps of Jerusalem

I have before me a map from one of the Palestinian organisations that have chosen to use the “.ps”. The Arab Hotel Association has printed a brochure - “Jerusalem & Bethlehem Tourist Map”. Technically the two cities lie on opposite ends of Hebron Road, just eight kilometres apart, less than ten minutes' drive between them.

This is the distance between the Palestinian West Bank and the heart of Jerusalem. This is how closely the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live with one another. There is very little in terms of a buffer zone between two people who are still struggling to find a way to get along.

Cartography of the area is tricky business. An Israeli tourism poster had to be withdrawn in London because the Palestinian territories and the disputed Golan Heights were portrayed as part of Israel. The Syrian embassy and pro-Palestinian groups protested. The Israeli tourism ministry offered a rather weak “We don't mix tourism and politics.”

Just the previous month,  British airline BMI had to apologise after it managed incredibly to exclude Israel from its electronic in-flight map on London-Tel Aviv flights. Only the Israeli city of Haifa was shown, and even then by its Arab name Khefa.

I glanced back to the Arab Hotel Association's Jerusalem & Bethlehem brochure, to the map entitled “Around Jerusalem”. My eyes wandered over to the far west of the map.  The neighbourhood of Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum lies outside its scope. I refer to the map from the Israeli Tourism Office to locate the missing landmark. They managed to just barely squeeze that in onto their map in a separate box.

Just two weeks ago, a poll conducted by the University of Haifa indicated that around 40% of Israeli Arabs believe the Holocaust never took place.  It's almost doubled from the 28% in 2006.

According to the survey, only 53.7% believe Israel has a right to exist as an independent country. In 2003, more than 81% acknowledged that right.

Not that the map should be taken as an official Arab stance nor the poll a scientific survey of Israeli Arab sentiments, but it should do is give pause for thought.

In cyberspace there is all the room for all the “.ps”s and “.il”s of the world. Sadly on terra firma, in reality, we are constantly reminded that there doesn't ever seem to be enough.


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dan-chyi chuaDan-Chyi Chua began her writing career with Channel News Asia, a regional cable network, before forsaking broadcast journalism to hit the road for a three-year sabbatical through the Middle East, China, Central America and Cuba. She has now grounded herself as a writer for asia! Magazine.

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