ASA urged to reverse ban on Western Wall adverts

The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) is being urged to appeal against a ban on a holiday advert which described Judaism's holiest monument, the Western Wall, as part of Israel - after the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complainant's claim that it was actually in the Occupied Territories.

The Board of Deputies said it was strongly pressing IGTO to contest last week's decision by the ASA.

Such has been the outcry that the ASA was forced to post a notice on its website to say that it would "not be reconsidering the ruling". It added: "If the advertiser disagrees with our ruling, then they can seek an independent review."

Rafi Shalev, director of IGTO's UK branch, said it had "asked for an extension in the time for filing a request for an independent review of the adjudication. The extension will allow us to consult properly with Jerusalem".

The community is outraged by these moves

A spokesman for the Board said: "We have had several discussions with IGTO, impressing upon them the need to appeal in the light of both the injustice of the decision and the community's outrage. Until such time that this adjudication is revoked, the Board will continue to state publicly that it is inaccurate and offensive." 

The Board has itself written to the ASA to retract the decision and asked for an urgent meeting with the body's chairman, Lord Smith, a former Culture Secretary.

In a statement, the ASA explained that the ruling "does not prevent IGTO from depicting the Western Wall or other parts of Jerusalem in future advertisements. The ruling solely seeks to ensure that future ads do not imply that places in the Occupied Territories are part of the state of Israel."

But condemnation of the watchdog continued to pour in. Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice-president of Bnai Brith International, accused the ASA of "trampling on reality. No peace agreement would ever exist that would remove the Western Wall from Israeli control. This decision will only serve to further delegitimise Israel."

The Board has now launched an educational campaign to emphasise the historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

Board president Vivian Wineman said the initiative had been prompted by "our profound concern that in recent weeks, discourse surrounding Jerusalem appears to have evolved into a whitewashing of history, ignorant at best, intentionally deceptive at worst, shamelessly obliterating Jerusalem's place as the eternal physical and spiritual capital of the Jewish people since time immemorial".

He added: "This narrative has gathered a troubling groundswell of biased media coverage, actions reminiscent of a boycott agenda and an anxious, outraged British Jewish community is asking whether this is a trend to delegitimise Israel's right to exist... 

"Jews have maintained a significant presence in Jerusalem for thousands of years; with the city containing Judaism's most sacred site, the Western Wall, Israel guarantees open access to all religious sites, demonstrating concern and respect for all other beliefs."

Last updated: 1:56pm, April 22 2010