The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned the Israeli Government Tourist Office from using an ad which implies that Jerusalem’s Old City is part of Israel.
The ad shows a panoramic photo of the Old City with the caption “Israel has it all.” It appeared in a brochure produced by the Israeli Government Tourist Office (IGTO).
Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint made by a member of the public against the ad and banned it from appearing again in its current form.
However, this is not the first time that the IGTO’s advertising campaigns have fallen foul of the watchdog.
This branch of the Israeli government has a track record of producing ads which either wipe the occupied West Bank and Gaza off the map or eliminate any trace of Palestinian history, heritage and culture from the land in order to promote Israel as a travel destination.
The IGTO’s latest publication is a glossy 32-page brochure, titled “Taste of Israel,” which was distributed in February by the supermarket Waitrose.
A feature in the brochure is billed as an “Israel A-Z.” The introduction reads: “Heading to Israel? Our A-Z of key Israeli ingredients, foods and favorite tipples will help you live like a local.”
It goes on to list Palestinian and Arab staples such as tahini, zaatar, arak and kubbeh among its “key Israeli ingredients, foods and favorite tipples.”
The feature is a blatant example of Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian culture — in this case, food — as its own, in an attempt to erase the memory of historic Palestine from the land. As well as claiming that occupied East Jerusalem “belongs” to Israel, the brochure negates the history of Palestinian towns and villages within present-day Israel.
A “Five-minute guide to Akko” [Acre] guides the reader through the coastal town’s Ottoman and Crusader history before jumping to its Israeli present.
There is no mention of Acre’s Palestinian history and heritage, nor of the ethnic cleansing of its Palestinian inhabitants during the establishment of Israel in 1948. The Israeli government simply airbrushes the Palestinians from Acre’s long history.
In other sections, “Taste of Israel” goes on to claim the Golan Heights (which is occupied Syrian territory) and the whole of Jerusalem as being in Israel.
The distribution of the brochure by Waitrose — a supermarket which claims to have an “ethical policy” — has attracted fury, much of it being vented on the store’s Facebook page.
One post from Ayman Abuawwad begins: “I am a Palestinian from Gaza. How dare Waitrose promote the theft of my Palestinian heritage, my culture, my food and call it Israeli.”
Last week, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) submitted a complaint to the ASA about the “Taste of Israel” brochure on the grounds that its geographical inaccuracies, airbrushing of Palestinian history and attempts to pass off Palestinian food as Israeli amounted to false advertising.
The PSC has submitted previous complaints to the ASA about the IGTO, which have been upheld.
The brochure used maps which gave the impression that Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights were in Israel, while labeling the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria” (names used by Israeli settlers).
The brochure was included as a supplement in national newspapers, including The Guardian, which itself was deluged with so many complaints that it announced it would no longer carry ads from the IGTO.
In March 2012, three months after it received the complaints, the ASA ruled against the IGTO on the grounds that the maps were misleading and “Judea and Samaria” were not legally recognized place names.
In 2010, an IGTO press campaign was banned by the ASA for using pictures of occupied East Jerusalem with the slogan “You can travel the entire length of Israel in six hours” — thereby implying that East Jerusalem was part of Israel.
And in 2009, the PSC successfully complained about IGTO posters displayed on London Underground sites. The posters, part of a long-running “Think Israel” campaign, again used a map in which the boundaries of the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights were so faint as to be invisible.
However, despite these rulings and the banning of the offending ads, the IGTO continues to produce more, attempting to sell Israel to tourists through the appropriation of Palestinian land, culture and history, while ignoring the reality of Israel’s brutal military occupation and apartheid regime.
Sarah Colborne, director of the PSC, said: “As a propaganda arm of the Israeli government, the IGTO has proved that its publications and posters cannot be trusted or taken at face value. It is therefore up to UK companies, including newspapers and supermarkets such as Waitrose, to wake up to the IGTO, see it for the propaganda machine it is, and stop carrying and distributing its inaccurate adverts.”
- Advertising Standards Authority
- Israeli Government Tourist Office
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign
- Jews for Justice for Palestinians
- Friends of Al Aqsa
- Sarah Colborne
- West Bank
- Golan Heights
- East Jerusalem
- The Guardian
- London Underground
- ethnic cleansing