Covered-Up Israel Ruffles Westfield Shoppers

January 9, 2014
BY Suzanne Pollak (Washington Jewish Week)

A huge floor-to-ceiling map at the Westfield Montgomery Mall in Wheaton was taken down Monday, following complaints that it depicted a distorted version of the Middle East: omitting Israel while including Palestine, misplacing Tel Aviv, misrepresenting the shape of the West Bank and not mentioning Gaza.

Following numerous emails on a local Jewish community listserv complaining about the map — which had been displayed near the food court on the second floor by J.C. Penney since July — and a flurry of phone calls to mall management, officials decided to remove it. Things took an unusual turn during the display’s Jan. 6 removal, however, when a mall employee saw three-in-a-row white population stickers where the Middle East was depicted. He discovered the word “Israel” clearly printed underneath.

As it turns out, the interactive map invited shoppers to place stickers on where they were from. As the entire map had a multitude of these place markers, one would be hard-pressed to determine whether the offending stickers over Israel were intentionally, or even maliciously, placed there.

At least one person from Silver Spring who had written to complain received an email back from Brent Wise, general manager of Westfield Wheaton.

“Thank you so much for taking the time today to speak with me regarding the map,” the email stated. “I assure you that Westfield would never intentionally or knowingly try to offend anyone.”

Warren Manison of Potomac called the map “troublesome.” Although he did not see it himself, Manison said he heard from others that Palestine was drawn spreading from Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. “It’s pathetic that they put that up,” he stated.

A company spokesman said the map is not up at any of the company’s other malls throughout the country.

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