July 22, 2007

Nature Magazine responds

Folks, here is an encouraging reply from the editor of Nature Magazine, who responded to letters written by folks like you about Nature's interactive map of the world here, which did not designate Israel as a legitimate or sovereign country. Click here to read the background story.

Here is the reply from the editor of Nature:

Thank you for your letter, one of many we have received on this subject.

The state of Israel is clearly marked on the map you refer to, though not named. It is not referred to as Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The number 34, identified as “Occupied Palestinian Territory”, refers to the occupied territories of the West Bank, as its associated line indicates. (The status of Gaza is not addressed, because the scale does not permit it). This territory, like all the numbered and named countries and territories on the map, is represented in green, reflecting membership in the Organization
of the Islamic Conference. The map is clearly presented as a representation of the 57 countries of the OIC, of which Israel is not a member.

It is unfortunate that, due to a drafting error in the commercial template from which this graphic was developed, the border between the West Bank and Jordan is not shown on the map, and regrettable that we did not catch this error in our editorial preparation.

I apologise for this error, which I can see does to some extent raise the question of what entity on the map the number “34” refers to. We are publishing a correction and correcting the mistake in our online material. To avoid repeating the error we are revising the template too.

With this correction made, the question of what the 34 refers to becomes obvious; it can only refer to the otherwise unidentified green entity pointed to by the line from the number 34. Given that the convention of the map is that only green entities have numbers, I think the question of the point at which the indicator line ends, which has exercised some of those who have written to us, is immaterial. If it were to continue into the area representing the west Bank the effect of bisecting Israel would be unfortunate.

Some correspondents have suggested that this error is in some way connected with the fact that support for translating some articles in this issue into Arabic was provided by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science. I can assure you that it was not, and that the Foundation had no input into the editorial content of this issue whatsoever.

Yours sincerely

Oliver Morton
Chief News and Features Editor