Israel town sues Google for slander

Monday, February 11, 2008

The ruins of a Palestinian village.

The city of Kiryat Yam in Israel is suing Internet corporation Google over an alleged inaccuracy in its Google Earth software, which claims the city was built over the ruins of an Arab village.

A note added by Google Earth user Thameen Darby says Kiryat Yam was built on the site of the Palestinian village Ghawarina.

However, town's spokesman Naty Key Zilberman says this "obviously cannot be true, because Kiryat Yam was founded in 1945". The Palestinian exodus, in which hundreds of thousands of Arabs abandoned their villages due to the Arab-Israeli War, occurred in 1948, three years after Key zilberman says the city was founded. The city filed a slander complaint with Israel police, he says.

The city's claim is supported by Yossi Ben-Artzi, a history professor at the University of Haifa, who said, "Kiryat Yam was built on sand dunes, and there wasn't any Palestinian village in the area. The lands were bought in 1939 by the Gav Yam construction company."

Darby, the Palestinian doctor who added the information, says his contributions are part of the "Nakhba — Palestinian Catastrophe" hub, which intends to help Palestinian refugees find the villages of their ancestors. "As far as I can know, the Arab Ghawarina locality was in the place depicted," Darby said, though he also says he will "be quick to reallocate it" if proven wrong by reliable sources.

An unnamed Google spokesman said in an email: "Content reflects what people contribute, not what Google believes to be true. ... While we recognize that some may find the user-generated content objectionable, we are careful to balance the integrity of an open forum with the legal requirements of local governments. If an overlay does not breach our Terms and Conditions and is not in any way illegal, it is our policy not to remove it."