A few weeks ago, many iPhone users, including HonestReporting’s Managing Editor, noticed that something had changed on their pre-installed weather application. The data for Jerusalem, as supplied by Yahoo, simply stopped updating. But this was no bug in the system. A new search for Jerusalem now gives users a choice between West Jerusalem in Israel and East Jerusalem located in the West Bank.
We asked internet expert Dr. Andre Oboler to investigate and his technical analysis can be found here. He determined that Yahoo takes its data from the Weather Channel’s own fixed location weather stations. Even for Palestinian cities in the West Bank, the nearest weather station is located in Jerusalem. Yahoo, however, has independently created the new East Jerusalem location. (See the Mere Rhetoric blog for more on how Yahoo has politicized its weather locations.)
According to Oboler:
Yahoo has clearly decided to artificially divide Jerusalem. It’s contorting its systems in all sorts of strange ways to do it. The question we must ask is what right does Yahoo have to use the data from an Israeli weather station in order to divide Jerusalem? This is deliberate dishonesty. According to its own data, the West Bank does not contain a place called Jerusalem. The weather station is in Israel. This is nothing more than a manipulation of data to advance political propaganda.
This is a deliberate attempt by a large multinational internet corporation to play politics in the Middle East. Yahoo should not be surprised if its political activism comes at a cost. Not just from supporters of Israel but from consumers generally. We as consumers never gave internet companies the right to formulate foreign policy or (as Facebook recently found) privacy policies. We elect governments to do these things. Yahoo, a corporate entity, should learn its place and stick to it.
While this issue may seem unimportant compared to recent events in Israel, this is just one example of the creeping delegitimization of Israel’s rights in its own capital city. Yahoo should not be allowed to unilaterally divide Jerusalem.