Row over 'occupied territories' advert

By Jan Shure, May 18, 2009
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Pro-Palestinian groups have made representations to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority over an Israel Government Tourist Office poster on the London Underground promoting holidays to Israel.

The poster, which is part of IGTO’s ThinkIsrael.com campaign, shows a map of Israel that includes the Occupied Territories. Above the map is the slogan “Experience Israel ” against an image of a diver in the Red Sea. The complaint was lodged with the ASA last Friday by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

In March 2007, a similar complaint was sent to the ASA after an IGTO advertisement in the Radio Times used a map of Israel that showed Qumram as if it was part of Israel. It is located in the West Bank. At the time, the ASA’s adjudication included a “concern” that the IGTO failed to respond to the complaint.

In their letter to the ASA, the PSC, says the map is “disturbing” as it “portrays Israel as incorporating the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights”.

The PSC letter calls on the ASA to “take action to have the posters removed as soon as possible”, and declares: “We are disappointed that ThinkIsrael.com is once again indulging in the insidious propagation of misinformation.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign finds it astonishing that these posters are being displayed when the ASA has already upheld a previous complaint against ThinkIsrael.com for using a similarly misleading map.”

But Pini Shani, deputy director of overseas marketing at Israel’s Ministry of Tourism in Jerusalem, believes the issue has been unnecessarily politicised. “We don’t see it as a big mistake. We could have made the map two colours, showing Israel and the Occupied Territories in different shades, but this is a poster designed to encourage tourists to visit Israel.

“If they want to visit the West Bank as well, we would be delighted, and we hope the citizens of the West Bank benefit.”

Mr Shani promised that this time they would “definitely respond” to the ASA, if a formal complaint is received.

Longwood Holidays is named on the poster as the operator for Israel holidays, but Longwood’s Rafi Caplin said the travel firm had nothing to do with the design of the advertisement, nor for funding the campaign. “We saw the ad, and we proof-read it, but only from the point of view of ensuring it didn’t say anything that couldn’t be offered.”

A number of pro-Palestinian blogs are calling for supporters to protest to the ASA about the poster, offering a draft letter which they could send to the advertising watchdog.

Last updated: 4:53pm, May 18 2009