Pinkwashing and the Israeli ads that wipe Palestine off the map

Detail from an Israeli map in Attitude labelling the West Bank as “Judea” and “Samaria”.

Jonathan Winstanley

Two of the UK’s bestselling lifestyle magazines aimed at gay men have published the controversial Israeli advert that wipes Palestine and Syria off the map.

Last Sunday I wrote about the “Think Israel” advertising campaign underway here in the UK. The Guardian received hundred of complaints after running a glossy advert that included a map in which the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories appear annexed to Israel.

But it has now emerged that Attitude and Gay Times have both published the same advert (December and January issues respectively). Below are scans of all four pages of the ad as it appeared in Attitude, as a fold-out inside the front cover.

Page 1, detail (click for full view).

Page 2, detail (click for full view).

Page 3, detail (click for full view).

Page 4, detail (click for full view).

Attitude markets itself as Europe’s top-selling gay magazine, while Gay Times says it is Europe’s longest running gay magazine. As in the Guardian Weekend, the map effectively annexes the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights to Israel.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), responsible for regulating advertising in the UK, is currently investigating this ad as it appeared in the Guardian. ASA previously ruled against a similar map in a 2009 Israeli advertising campaign.

Wiped off the map by “gay Israel” campaign

In their February open letter to queer academics, artists, and activists, Palestinian Queers for BDS wrote:

Most Israeli LGBTQ groups, Israeli academic institutions, Israel support groups worldwide, whether officially part of the ‘Brand Israel’ campaign or not, are often supporters complicit in the Israeli war crimes, and the effort to pinkwash these crimes and should be boycotted. According to ‘The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – PACBI’ and their general overriding rule, virtually all Israeli cultural and academic events, groups and organizations (i.e. universities, museums, film festivals etc…), unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and therefore boycottable.

The map on www.gayisrael.org.il seemlessly annexes the West Bank, Gaza and Golan.

The screenshot above is from Gay Israel, a tourism-promotion website run by Israeli LGBT group Aguda. The site says it was made with the support of the Israeli tourism ministry. Even more than in the “Think Israel” ads, the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories are wiped off the map.

Taken as a whole, it seems likely that aiming these ads at the so-called “pink pound” is another attempt to rebrand Israel as a gay-friendly tourist destinationpinkwashing. But the Israeli strategy of distracting attention away from its war crimes and apartheid seems unlikely to succeed in the long run (EI’s own Ben Doherty has already declared it dead). Pinkwashing has come in for more and more criticism and exposure, both in the Arab world and outside.

Take action

After hundreds of readers complained, the Guardian now says it has refused to take further ads from the Israeli tourism ministry (for the time being, one supposes). They also say the ASA is investigating the ad.

Readers should complain to the ASA about the ad whereever they see it, including Attitude and Gay Times.

Readers might also want to complain to Attitude and Gay Times themselves, asking them not to run such ads in the future, pointing out that the ASA is investigating it, and that the Guardian has apologised and issued a correction.

Finally, it’s worth adding that the Pinkwatching Israel site has an excellent collection of information and resources, helping activists to win BDS victories such as the one in August when an international queer youth group withdrew from a meeting in Israel.

Afterword: New ASA ruling on PA map

This week the ASA made a similar ruling about a map of Palestine-Israel – this time about one reportedly appearing on the website of the Palestinian Authority’s London mission.

Taking a fairly consistent two-state stance, the ASA ruled the interactive map (since removed) “misleading” because it “implied that the entire area represented by the map was Palestine and that the state of Israel did not exist” and implied that Haifa and Jaffa were part of Palestine.

Interestingly, the ASA also upheld the complaint on grounds relating to Hebron and Bethlehem.

Although the ASA considered the implication that the two cities were part of the occupied Palestinian territories was “accurate and not misleading”, it upheld the complaints essentially because the PA’s attempt to attract tourists to the cities did not draw sufficient attention to the reality of Israeli occupation!

We considered that the particular nature of the security arrangements in Hebron and the restrictions on travelling into and within the city was material information likely to affect the decision of a consumer to visit the area as a tourist…

and…

We noted that entry and exit of Bethlehem from the rest of the West Bank was subject to Israeli checkpoints… We considered that the movement restrictions in Bethlehem were material information likely to affect the decision of a consumer to visit the area as a tourist.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He first visited Palestine in 2004.