Nature 23 May 2002


Nature 417, 379 (2002) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

What's in a name? In the Middle East, everything

Sir Since 1994 I have been revising the species of Israel and adjacent areas of the particular insect group on which I am a specialist. For the purposes of my entomological work, I defined five areas: Gaza Strip, West Bank, Israel, Golan Heights and Sinai, which together made up the study area, and I listed the records of the various species under these geographical headings.

I defined Israel by its pre-June 1967 borders with Jordan and Syria (the "Green Line"). I referred to the Golan Heights as being in Syria, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution no. 497 (1981). Finally, I considered the Gaza Strip and West Bank beyond the Green Line as occupied Palestinian territory.

Because the official "Israel Touring Map 1:250 000" does not mark a border between Israel and the occupied or annexed territories, I had to consult other maps to assign localities to the geographical entities. I mainly used the Times Atlas of the World, Comprehensive Edition (1986 and 2000), but also others, including the 1949 armistice map (available on the Internet).

I wanted to publish my manuscript in an Israeli journal because most of the material is housed by Tel-Aviv University and was collected by its staff, so I asked a member of the editorial board of the Israel Journal of Entomology to ask the editor if the journal would in principle accept my geographical terms. The answer was no: the journal would not use "unofficial territorial names" such as West Bank or Gaza Strip "as long as the boundaries in the Middle East have not been officially decided". The implication was that all the localities must be assigned to Israel.

Thus the Israel Journal of Entomology bans any mention of Palestinian national territory and forbids the use of the two names that are used for it by the world at large. Similarly, the Saudi Arabian journal Fauna of Saudi Arabia uses the word "Palestine" instead of "Israel". This type of action is politics, not science.

Knut Rognes

Stavanger University College, PO Box 8002, N-4068 Stavanger, Norway