The politics of maps: Constructing national territories in Israel

Christine Leuenberger, Izhak Schnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within the last 2000 years the land demarcated by the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the Jordan Valley to the east has been one of the most disputed territories in history. World powers have redrawn its boundaries numerous times. Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 within British Mandate Palestine, Palestinians and Israelis have disagreed over the national identity of the land that they both inhabit. The struggles have extended from the battlefields to the classrooms. In the process, different national and ethnic groups have used various sciences, ranging from archeology to history and geography, to prove territorial claims based on their historical presence in the region. But how have various Israeli social and political groups used maps to solidify claims over the territory? In this paper we bring together science studies and critical cartography in order to investigate cartographic representations as socially embedded practices and address how visual rhetoric intersects with knowledge claims in cartography. Before the 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the Israeli government and the Jewish National Fund produced maps of Israel that established a Hebrew topography of the land. After 1967, Israel's expanded territorial control made the demarcation of its borders ever more controversial. Consequently, various Israeli interest groups and political parties increasingly used various cartographic techniques to forge territorial spaces, demarcate disputed boundaries, and inscribe particular national, political, and ethnic identities onto the land.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-842
Number of pages40
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Cartography
  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • ethics
  • geography
  • maps
  • politics
  • space
  • territory
  • visual rhetoric


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