Update: After “hundreds” of complaints, the Guardian has refused to publish subsequent ads from the Israeli tourism ministry. See full update below.
An Israeli tourism map appearing in the Guardian last weekend rendered occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories as part of “Israel”.
The map very much appears to be in breach of UK advertising regulations. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in 2009 upheld complaints against an Israeli tourism bilboard because it included a similar map, ruling the ad “must not appear again in its current form”.
The three-page advertising spread from the Israeli tourism ministry in the Guardian Weekend is part of what increasingly looks like a major new advertising campaign in the UK.
On the map, the occupied West Bank is labeled “Judea” and “Samaria” (names from religious texts used by Israeli colonists). The West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights are delineated only by a faint dotted line. Under international law, all three are occupied territories. The West Bank and Gaza are Palestinian, and the Golan is part of Syria. All three were invaded by Israel in 1967.
“Systems breakdown” at the Guardian
On Monday the Guardian issued a correction stating the ad “did not distinguish clearly between Israel” and the occupied Arab territories.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is encouraging people to complain to the ASA and the Guardian. The Guardian has written to a PSC supporter apologizing, saying they usually “carefully check any potentially controversial adverts prior to publication, however in this instance we had a systems breakdown and did not do so”. The Guardian also said the ASA is currently investigating the ad.
Update, 5 December
Antoine Raffoul, Coordinator of 1948 Lest We Forget informs me that his group was called by Mark Finney, the Guardian’s advertising manager after they complained. Finney says that follow-up adverts from the Israeli tourism ministry have now been refused — seemingly because of the complaints. Here is Antoine’s full update:
We received a call today from Mr Mark Finney in response to our latest email below. He apologised for the insertion of the misleading advert and stated that a ‘correction/clarification’ was published online subsequent to the hundreds of protests received by the Guardian. He also stated that Israel’s Ministry of Tourism attempted (through its advertising agency) to insert the same advert (text only) this weekend [3-4 December], and (same map and text) next weekend, but The Guardian refused.
I called Mr Finney at the Guardian earlier today seeking his response to my article, but he did not return the message I left before the end of the day.
The ad is part of what seems to be a major recent campaign in the UK. Large billboards have appeared in public spaces encouraging people to “Think Israel”.
The website to this campaign contains an even more offensive (and racist) map [PDF]. The West Bank appears even more solidly absorbed into “Israel proper” (without even a dotted line), with mysteriously empty pink and yellow blobs appearing where Palestinians live in built-up areas. There is no clue that the Golan is anything more than a part of “northern Israel”.
The website’s home page also offers links to “Christian themes” and “Jewish themes” but no “Muslim themes”, wiping the Islamic heritage of Palestine off the map.
Israeli tourism ministry contempt for ASA
To what extent this is part of the “Brand Israel” strategy is debatable. Whatever the case, the ASA should be asked what action it will take against the Israeli tourist board for continuing to violate its rules.
The campaign has also appeared in brochures distributed on British Airways flights, as discovered by The Electronic Intifada in October.
Last month the ASA also ruled against an ad in the Zionist-slanted Jewish Chronicle that it said was “misleading” and so “must not appear again in its current form”, because it had advertised an illegal West Bank colony as part of “Israel”.