Postcard with anti-Israel message withdrawn

By Leon Symons, July 25, 2008

When is a postcard not a postcard? When it is a political diatribe against Israel — and provides no space for a message.

The postcard in question features an anti-Israeli poem by Michael Rosen, the children’s laureate, on one side, and  four maps on the other side showing areas which it implies were Palestinian and are now part of Israel. There are also quotations attributed to David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, and a paragraph accusing Israel of carrying out “ethnic cleansing, terrorism and apartheid” with American money and connivance.

An Israel embassy official complained about the card, which has since been withdrawn — although the manufacturer says the two are unconnected.

The card was seen by Jason Caplin, who works in the public-affairs department of  the Israeli embassy in London, during a visit to the High Street Kensington branch of card shop Scribbler.

Mr Caplin said: “I saw the card on a shelf. What offended me was the historical revisionism and allegation of ethnic cleansing.

“I told the man behind the counter to ask his head office to remove it. He recognised that it was a little out of place. There are places where one can have this debate, but a postcard in a card shop is not one of them.

“I got a call from their head office the following day, saying they were profusely sorry and they didn’t want to get involved in a political conflict. What was ironic about it was there was nowhere to write anything.”

Scribbler buyer Eliot James explained that the company allowed approved agents to place new products on shelves or racks without first showing them to head office.

“Our customers know that many of our cards contain profane language and that we stand up to people who find them offensive. This one was more political. After the complaint, we looked at it and decided we wouldn’t sell it again. Not because of the embassy’s complaint — it’s not a postcard because there is nowhere to write a message,” said Mr James.

Mr Caplin’s action drew praise from Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor, who said: “I was very proud to learn that Jason Caplin, one of the embassy’s local British members of staff, took a pro-active stance, putting in time and effort to prevent the distribution of this propagandist postcard, which basically negates Israel’s right to exist.  Ideas such as those on this postcard exemplify the degree of hostility and delegitimisation to which Israel is subjected in Britain.”

The card was produced by John Hall of Brighton-based Gathered Images. He said: “I imagine the real reason Scribbler have taken it off is that they don’t want any controversy. I have not had any other complaints personally.”

Mr Hall, who designed the card about five years ago, said he was given Michael Rosen’s poem by a Labour councillor friend who sold cards on a stall and was interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“I got in touch with Mr Rosen to ask if I could use it and he was fine with that. Now when he does talks about Israel and Palestine, he takes the card along and talks about it,” said Mr Hall.

He said he culled the political quotes from magazines produced by Palestine solidarity groups, and the final paragraph also originated from the East London councillor.

Mr Hall said he had reprinted the card twice and estimated that he had sold between 5,000 and 7,000. 

Michael Rosen said via email that he replied that he was on holiday and would not comment on the postcard.

Last updated: 12:18pm, July 25 2008