A British publisher has fallen foul of Chinese censors who altered a map in a children’s book, redrawing the Israeli border and adding the word “Palestine” to the image.
Earlier this year, Green Bean Books, which specialises in Jewish children’s titles, sent a manuscript that featured an illustration of a map of Israel on its inside cover to be printed by a Hong Kong-based firm.
Most children’s books are printed in China because of the low costs and the high quality of the colour there.
However, the publisher’s owner, Michael Leventhal, said he received a response from a censor informing him that the printer would only be able to produce a revised version of the map.
A “corrected” version of the book — an English translation of a story entitled Barefoot in the Sand, by Israeli author Hava Deevon — re-labelled the map “Palestine Israel” and altered the border.
Leventhal, who is based in East Finchley, said this was the “first example of absolute intervention and censorship” that he has experienced in his career.
He said: “I’ve never had the printer send me the PDF of the book back. They redrew the border of Israel and they changed the labelling.”
Rather than insert an inaccurate map, Leventhal removed the illustration from the printed version of the book, though he has reinstated it for the ebook format.
The original map as it was sent to the printers (Photo: Green Bean Books)
Luke Akehurst, director of grassroots campaign group We Believe in Israel, said: “This is both absurd and quite disturbing censorship.”
The original map “shouldn’t be remotely politically contentious”, Akehurst said, adding: “Insisting on labelling it ‘Palestine Israel’ looks like an attempt to question Israel’s existence as a sovereign country.”
A spokeswoman for the UK subsidiary of the printing company, Leo Paper Products, said: “Leo does not censor content.
"We operate within mainland China on licence and as such have to adhere to the laws of that country… These are laws to which all printers are subject.”
Chinese censors will clamp down on content around “any disputed territory” because of the country’s relationship with Taiwan, and any other printer would have been in the same position, she continued. “We don’t have any choice, we print in China,” the spokeswoman added.