Israel Tourism Ad Ban Oddity


Israel Tourism advertYesterday, I blogged about the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling that the Israeli tourism advert containing the Kotel/Wailing Wall breached truthfulness guidelines and could not be used.

While the whole thing is absurd, there is another element of this story that caught my attention.

The ruling seems to have followed a complaint by one reader.

A reader complained that the printed advert featured a photograph of East Jerusalem and said it misleadingly implied that it was part of the state of Israel.

And here:

The ASA said they received one letter of complaint about the advert, which appeared in UK newspapers.

Now contrast to this incident from last year.

An Israeli tourism poster is being pulled from the London subway after the Syrian Embassy complained that the map on it appeared to show the Golan Heights and Palestinian territories within Israel’s boundaries, officials said Friday.

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority received more than 300 complaints about the ad, a promotion for the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat, according to the agency’s spokesman Matt Wilson.

The Syrian Embassy and pro-Palestinian groups complained about it because the featured map appeared to show the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war – the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights – within the borders of Israel, according to the Israeli Tourism Ministry and the British standards authority.

Syrian Embassy spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the move follows days of lobbying to get rid of the ad, which he called offensive.

In other words, last year’s ASA ruling took hundreds of complaints and intense lobbying by a foreign government. This time round, all it took was one complaint.

Unless the one person to complain to the ASA was the Queen of England, I find this odd.

Update: Edgar notices something else disturbing on the ASA website:

But what I discovered when looking at the ASA website was something truly unbelievable and which may be easier to get some action on than a whole reverse of the ban. Basically, I believe the ASA has clearly breached its own (i.e. the ASA) guidelines in the way it is promoting the story. To see what I mean I have done a screen capture of one of the rolling headlines promoting “ASA in the media” from the ASA home page (click to enlarge):


As you can see the banner for “ASA in the media” says:

“Israel under fire for advertising dream holidays … to Palestine”

So what I have done is submit an advertising complaint to ASA using its own online procedure for complaining about adverts. That’s OK because you can select the category which includes “Internet” then the subcategory “Promotions & Offers” (since the ASA is using the banner headlines to promote its own work). Once you have done that there is a text field where you fill in the details of your complaint. Here is what I submitted:

The claim saying “Israel under fire for advertising dream holidays … to Palestine” is itself grossly misleading and should never have appeared on the ASA website.

This claim presumably relates to the ASA’s decision to ban the Israel Government Tourist Office from advertising sites in Jersusalem such as the holiest site in the Jewish world (the Temple Mount and Wailing Wall). Notwithstanding the idiocy of that decision (which will be the subject of a separate complaint) the specific complaint here is that the headline implies that these sites in the old city of Jerusalem are not part of Israel but are part of ‘Palestine’. There are a number of reasons why this is incorrect:

1. Most obviously, there is no country called Palestine.
2. Even prior to the creation of Israel in 1948, the old city of Jerusalem was never envisaged as being part of a future (Arab) state of Palestine (the UN plan was for the old city to be under ‘international’ jurisdiction).
3. The old city has only ever been under Arab control during the period 1948-1967 when Jordan illegally annexed it after its army drove out or killed every single Jew. During that period not a single Jew was allowed into the old city to visit their holiest sites. Moreover the Jordanians destroyed every synagogue (numbering hundreds ) and all the Jewish cemetries.
4. Irrespective of the legal claims to the city, the city itself and all access to it, is controlled completely by Israel (and has been for the last 43 years) and only Israel can therefore meaningfully advertise tourism to the old city.

Seems to me like the ASA have a strong anti-Israel bias, which could explain the relative ease in which they were “convinced” to rule the way they did.

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