New complaint over Israeli tourist poster

By Jan Shure, Travel Editor, May 21, 2009

The Israel Government Tourist Office in London is once again under investigation by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority for an advertisement promoting holidays to Israel.

The latest complaint is over a poster which features a map of Israel that includes the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, beneath the slogan “Experience Israel”. The poster is part of a £40,000 IGTO Think.Israel campaign.

The complaint was lodged with the advertising watchdog last Friday by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

An ASA spokesman said that a formal investigation did not necessarily mean a breach of its code had taken place. IGTO would be approached for its response, and the investigation was expected to take “weeks, as opposed to months”.

In March 2007, a similar complaint was upheld after an IGTO advert in the Radio Times displayed a map of Israel which included Qumran on the West Bank. At the time, the ASA’s adjudication noted a “concern” that IGTO had failed to respond to the complaint.

In its letter to the ASA, the PSC complained: “We are disappointed that is 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 for using a similarly misleading map.”

The lobbying organisation also called on the ASA to “take action to have the posters removed as soon as possible”.

But Pini Shani, deputy director of overseas marketing at Israel’s Ministry of Tourism in Jerusalem, believed the issue had 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.”

An IGTO spokesperson said: “The map in the London Underground advertisement reflects a tourist perspective to the region. It is not to be confused with a political map, but rather the advert highlights those areas within Israel which are particularly attractive to the UK market.”

Longwood Holidays is named on the poster as the operator for Israel holidays, but Longwood’s Rafi Caplin said the firm had nothing to do with the design or content of the poster, and did not contribute financially. “We saw the ad, and we checked it, but only from the point of view of ensuring it didn’t say anything that couldn’t be offered,”he said.

Fresh rumours surfaced this week that low-cost airline easyJet is to launch a service to Tel Aviv in October. As reported in the JC, senior executives from the Luton-based no-frills airline visited Israel in March for discussions with Ministry of Tourism officials. An easyJet spokesman told the JC this week: “EasyJet has been looking at a number of new routes, including Tel Aviv, but we are not announcing these yet.”

Last updated: 11:18am, May 21 2009