On a recent flight on easyJet, my colleague David Cronin “almost vomited” when he came across a glossy feature in the in-flight magazine pinkwashing Tel Aviv as a “Liberal and hedonistic” gay-friendly destination.
Aboard a British Airways flight the other day I had a similar experience when I opened up the in-flight magazine High Life to discover a glossy multi-page insert from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism entitled “Israel, The Hidden Gems.”
By publishing this Israeli government brochure, British Airways is profiting from Israeli war crimes, violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and breaching UK regulations on truth in advertising.
Israel too is clearly breaching a ruling by UK advertising regulators not to mislead the UK public regarding the status of territories it occupies and has illegally annexed.
Enticing me to open it up, the cover of the brochure carried the words “Provoke Your Senses, Expand Your Horizons,” but what that immediately brought to my mind was “Provoke and Invade Your Neighbors, Expand Your Settlements.” Inside, I found an effort to market Israel as a friendly, normal and desirable cultural and touristic destination.
Hidden Gems of occupation, brutal violence, ethnic cleansing and child abuse
The insert advertised the charms of what it calls “The Old City” of Jerusalem – the part of Jerusalem violently and illegally occupied and annexed by Israel since 1967 in defiance of international law.
“One of the oldest cities in the world pulses with activity day and night and is home to residents from a myriad of cultures,” the Ministry of Tourism propaganda said.
I wondered if the “pulsing activity” it referred to included Israel’s escalating efforts to ethnically cleanse the eastern occupied Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah of Palestinian Jerusalemites.
Do the lively cultural celebrations include the government-sponsored “Jerusalem Day” rallies in which thousands of Israeli settlers – caught on video – invade occupied Palestinian neighborhoods chanting “Death to the Arabs” and vandalizing property?
Does the “healthy dose of history” that the Israeli propaganda brochure touts include Israel’s administrative ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem babies whose crime is that they are not Jews?
And do the promised night time activities include the raids by gangs of heavily armed occupation troops to arrest terrified Palestinian children from their beds?
None of these brutal realities are listed among the “Hidden Gems” that Israel’s apartheid regime – and apparently British Airways – want us to “discover.” Instead, there are promises of a mystical “Kabbalah Experience” in Safad, and “tranquil oases” in the Negev.
Of course there is no tranquility in the Naqab (Negev) for the region’s indigenous Bedouins, 30,000 of whom face imminent ethnic cleansing under Israeli government plans.
Is British Airways violating UK advertising regulations?
Aside from it being morally repugnant for British Airways to profit from Israeli government propanda meant to prettify an illegal occupation and apartheid regime, the airline also appears to be in breach of regulations of the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by publishing a brochure that falsely claims that eastern occupied Jerusalem is part of “Israel.”
Last year the ASA ruled that advertisements by the Israel Tourist Office that featured photos of occupied East Jerusalem “breached truthfulness guidelines” by implying that these places were in “Israel.” No country in the world recognizes East Jerusalem as part of Israel.
The ASA said at the time: “We told the Israeli Tourist Office not to imply that places in the Occupied Territories were part of the state of Israel.”
Yet not only does the “Hidden Gems” brochure claim that the “Old City” is part of Israel, it features a photograph of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is in occupied East Jerusalem.
British Airways must cease and desist from collusion in and profiteering from Israel’s breaches of international law. I will certainly be writing to the ASA to let them know what I found.