After uproar, HarperCollins to remove atlases that omit Israel


HarperCollins issued a statement Wednesday that it will stop the sale of atlases that omit Israel from maps of the Middle East. These books were being sold and distributed in some Arab countries. Earlier Wednesday, an official from the company’s subsidiary had defended the omission of Israel, based on the demands of its clients in the Arab countries that purchase the books.

Currently, the printed map shows a piece of land without a label sandwiched between Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank.
A statement from HarperCollins issued in an email to the Journal Wednesday afternoon states that the omission was a mistake and that no more such books will be sold. The statement also said unsold books with the omission will be destroyed.

“HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas,” the statement from the U.S.-based publishing giant says. “This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologises for this omission and for any offence caused.”

Earlier Wednesday, a spokesperson from Collins Bartholomew, a HarperCollins subsidiary, was quoted in The Tablet, a Catholic weekly based in Britain, saying that to include Israel would have been “unacceptable” and would not have agreed with the “local preferences” of the atlases' target audience.

Fear of fun


Some day not all that far in the future, a new kind of entertainment is going to be perfected that will either be the coolest video game ever, or the media equivalent of a lethal man-made super-virus.

You can predict what that entertainment might be like just by extrapolating from technology that already exists.

Start by imagining CGI on steroids, a future version of the computer-generated imaging that today enables battalions of post-production wizards working for movie-makers like James Cameron and Peter Jackson to put up on the screen real- seeming 3D renderings of anything that anyone can dream up.

Add to that the successor to the virtual reality technology now used in Google goggles, which relocates those digital fantasies from the screen into the real space all around us, but swap the goggles for contact lenses or neural implants.

Combine that with the power to convincingly simulate the feel of touching objects that don't exist, which haptic gloves can currently approximate, and extend that capacity to your whole body, whose entire anatomy will become an exquisitely sensitive, interactive input device, the nth gen of game controllers like Wii and Kinect.

Throw in superb 360-degree sound, plus a way to trigger micro-spurts of the molecules that cause the sensations of smell and taste.

Miniaturize everything down to the atomic scale, which is where computing is already going, so that the gizmos that do all this are featherweight and forgettable.

Store the content – the entertaining stories and experiences that this technology delivers – in the cloud, which is where more and more software is heading now, so that it's ubiquitous, available (for a price) to anyone in any place at any time.

And just as advances in processing power have turned laptops into animation and recording studios, imagine that this new entertainment content will be produced not only by the Comcasts and NewsCorps and Activisions, but also by scrappy startups, and kids in dorm rooms.

Think of the porn that will make possible.

And the first-person shooters.

And the trips to the rain forest, the Sistine Chapel, the moon, the gates of heaven and of hell.

It's not a question of whether the technology to confect and convey this digital dream, or nightmare, will one day exist; it's only a matter of when.

In 1975, as molecular biologists were recognizing the potential dangers of the recombinant DNA technology then becoming widespread, ” target=”_hplink”>no scientific evidence connecting the dots between exposure to video game violence and actual violent behavior.

But there's plenty of ” target=”_hplink”>debate ” target=”_hplink”>depicts torture as an ” target=”_hplink”>intelligence. ” target=”_hplink”>Jane Mayer reported, the dean of West Point flew to Hollywood to meet with 24's writers and producers to explain that real U.S. soldiers – instead of paying attention to their teachers and their textbooks; instead of learning that torture is wrong, counterproductive, inefficient and produces false intelligence – were instead trusting the instruction about interrogation methods that they were tacitly getting from a fictional, made up TV show.

The NRA is obscenely wrong about the relation between gun regulation and gun violence. But before we dismiss its case about popular culture out of hand, we might want to take seriously the way that entertainment thrills, enthralls, enrages, instructs and inspires us, all of us, no matter how sophisticated and media- savvy we may think we are. One fine day, awesome technology will enable the pleasure industry to pretty much erase the line between simulation and reality. I wonder whether we'll arrive at that point without first having wrestled with the consequences that might follow from that fun.

Marty Kaplan is the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Is Murdoch’s mess bad for the Jews?


It was only a matter of time before someone would ask whether the international scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s empire was good for the Jews. And if you feel compelled to ask, the answer is almost always “no.”

JTA’s Ron Kampeas essentially posed the question in a story contending that some supporters of Israel are worried that a diminished Murdoch presence may mute the strongly pro-Israel voice of many of the publications he owns.

“His publications and media have proven to be fairer on the issue of Israel than the rest of the media,” Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is quoted as saying in the JTA story. “I hope that won’t be impacted.”

Well, I hope so, too, I guess. But that is hardly what should be on our minds as Jews and as citizens as we watch the media magnate testify before Parliament by dancing around any genuine personal responsibility for the despicable journalism practiced by one of his flagship newspapers. And as we read stories of government corruption in Britain reaching to the highest levels of law enforcement and into the storied halls of 10 Downing St. And as we hear of real people, ordinary people, harmed by a corporate culture that privileged power and aggression over respect for privacy and common decency.

Britain is Israel’s ally, too, and its current government is being rocked to the core by this scandal. Is that good for the Jews?

In his day, Murdoch was celebrated by some of the big names in the Jewish communal world: American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League. There may have been legitimate institutional reasons to honor him (and his money), but it is becoming clear that his News Corp. has had a deleterious effect on journalism and government in Britain, and perhaps beyond. We can’t possibly view this ongoing meltdown strictly through the prism of Israel.

“Is this curtains for pro-Israel Murdoch?” ran the headline in London’s Jewish Chronicle.

That’s the wrong question to ask.

This blog originally appeared in the Forward newspaper. To read more, please go to http://blogs.forward.com/.