[Boycott - Tourism]
Israel ordered to withdraw 'untruthful' advert showing West Bank as part of Israel
18 April 2008
During campaigning, activists often hear the argument that one person cannot make a difference, and therefor its not worth bothering about - be it boycotting, picketing, protesting or letter writing. Well here is a great example to prove them wrong. One woman's persistence in bringing Israel to task for lying in a magazine advert by showing Qumran in the West Bank as belonging to Israel*, has payed off. Ms Green complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after seeing the advert in the Radio Times in November 2007. After several letter exchanges over a four month period the (ASA) has upheld Ms Greens complaint and has ordered the Israeli Government Tourist Office to withdraw the advert for breaching their code of practice, in particular breaching the clause for "truthfulness".
This is a great victory for truth, and for Palestine, particularly when we consider how Israeli influence in the media has lead to a total blurring of the facts with illegally occupied territories being readily referred to as disputed territories, and occupied Jerusalem being referred to as Israels capital. This has resulted in misinforming the public to the extent that a study by Glasgow University revealed that 90 percent of young people thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian!
Israeli Government Tourist Office advert appeared in the 24 November edition of the Radio Times
With Ms Green's kind permission we have reproduced (below) the correspondence between her and the ASA in order that it will encourage other activists to follow her example, and to learn by it.
Ms Green made her complaint using the on-line form at Advertising Standards Authority's website (www.asa.org.uk). She pointed out the advert was factually inaccurate as Qumran is not in Israel but in the West Bank which is under Israeli occupation. This is the reply she received:
Advertising Standards Authority letter 1
Its interesting that the ASA initially tried to brush away her complaint by saying that Israels political boundaries were not important as people seeing the advert would understand Israel to mean the geographic region not a political state! In their reply they also shamefully referred to the 'occupied' land as 'disputed'.
Ms Green letter 2
Advertising Standards Authority letter 2
The ASA also rejected that it was offensive for the Israeli government to advertise stolen land as locations for tourism on the basis that no one else complained about it - "we can only act if the ad, in our judgment, offends against widely accepted moral, social or cultural standards.. we received no other complaints on the subject so it does seem your concern isn't widely shared.. the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence." So clearly the number of complaint they receive has an impact on their decision, at least with regards to subjective issues like taste and causing offense.
But these rejections did not cause Ms Green to give up, and her master rebuttal was to refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website which clearly does not consider the West Bank to be part of Israel and considers the distinction to be of importance to British tourists visiting the region as it advises UK citizens not to visit the West Bank due to security issues. This was checkmate, it forced the ASA to reconsider their position which in effect could be seen to be negligent and endangering the lives of British tourists who upon seeing the advert might stumble in to the West Bank thinking it was Israel! This lead to the groundbreaking verdict against Israel.
Advertising Standards Authority letter 3
Advertising Standards Authority letter 4
The Israeli government tourism office, so used to seeing things go their way must have felt it was beneath their contempt to even reply to the numerous requests by the ASA over the four month period for an explanation of their misleading advert. This is hardly surprising given that their website ThinkIsrael.com, which is the subject of the advert, constantly refers to the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967, as Israels. The interactive map of Israel on the site makes no mention of any occupied territories, but instead includes the West Bank as part of Israel, referring to it as Samaria and Judea. The only time the Palestinians get a mention is under the safety section which states that if you wish to meet Palestinians by entering the Palestinian areas then you need to apply for permission from the Israeli army.
Israeli Government Tourist Office website thinkisrael.com constantly refers to the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967, as Israels
Last July Israels tourism ministry ran a $11 million ad campaign in the US which included ads featuring a Zionist cowboy and his 1,000 acre ranch in the Golan Heights with the caption
"You’ll love Israel from the first ‘Shalom. Yes, there are cowboys in Israel. The only difference is they say ’Shalom’ instead of ‘Howdy. This is Ferstman Avshalon who looks after several hundred head of cattle on a 1,000 acre ranch in the Golan Heights.. we hope to see you soon. Shalom... Israel - no one belongs here more than you"
There is no mention of the 53,000 Arabs, who do belong on the Golan Heights, who were ethnically cleansed of the Golan heights to make way for his ranch. The two page colour spreads appeared with impunity in magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Forbes Life and The New Yorker, and all the major newspapers in the New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
Israels tourism ministry advert featuring a 1000 acre ranch in the Golan Heights (July 2007)
The third reply by the ASA dated February reveals that even at that late stage the ASA was willing to give the Israeli government a way out, stating that "if the Israel government tourist office responds to your complaint by offering to change their advertising in a way that resolves your concerns, we may close the case without referring it to Council or publish an adjudication". It no surprise then that when the ASA was forced to go to adjudication the verdict against Israel refers to Israel government tourism office "lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code" which obligates them to respond promptly.
This is an important victory, and we must make sure that it isn't squandered. This verdict must be widely publicized and utilised to ensure Israel never again advertises stolen land as its own, at least in the UK. This means activists challenging every Israeli tourism advert, when ever they pop up, if its not clear in its distinction between what is Israel and what is the occupied territories.
Another area for activists to target is Israeli real estate. In recent years we have seen apartments and holiday homes in Israel and the illegal settlements being sold in property expos. The advertising always only refers to Israel yet each expo sells property built on stolen land in the illegal settlements. Last November's Israel property exhibition in Brent town hall was one such example - at the exhibition properties in the illegal settlements of Maale Adumim and Maccabim were offered for sale by the Anglo-Saxon Real Estate company. Activists will wish to note that Anglo-Saxon is part by the infamous Africa-Israel Investment Ltd whose chairman Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, is well known for his involvement in the expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. There is already a well organised campaign against his diamond businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.
Israel property exhibition selling properties in the illegal settlements of Maale Adumim and Maccabim (Nov 2007)
Produce of Israel or the West Bank?
False labelling means consumers can't be sure
Activists are already campaigning to force shops to label Israeli settlement produce accurately. At present most goods produced in the illegal settlements are still labeled 'made in Israel' or 'produced in Israel', this includes farm produce and products from the industrial zones set up in the settlements. This verdict will be valuable in furthering this campaign. A few of the supermarkets (eg Sainsburys) have started to label settlement produce as 'produce of the West Bank' which is still misleading as people buying it assume its sale benefits the Palestinians living in the West Bank. A more accurate label would be 'produce of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank', or better still simply label the goods as 'stolen produce of Palestine'.
Israels portrayal of the Palestinian Occupied Territories as part of Israel is essentially an attempt by Israel to eradicate the Palestinian people as a nation. And conversely the ubiquitous recognition of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and its rejection and repudiation is the first step to the recognition and rejection of Israels occupation of the whole of Palestine.
We wish to thank Luca Salice and Ms Green for making this article possible.
Israel blasted over ‘truth’ of scroll ad
Candice Krieger, The Jewish Chronicle
11 April 2008
The Israeli Government Tourist Office was this week forced to change its ThinkIsrael advert following a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority that it was misleading and breached its code of conduct.
The magazine advert promoting Israel displayed images of well-known landmarks, including Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, with text stating: “You can travel the entire length of Israel in six hours.”
The ASA said that the image, together with the text, implied that Qumran was in Israel. Since Qumran is in the West Bank, it therefore considered the advert was misleading. Expressing concern that IGTO did not respond to its initial enquiries, the ASA said the advert was in breach of two regulations of the advertising code non-response, and truthfulness. It told IGTO the advert should be withdrawn.
Janet Green, who saw the advert in the Radio Times, said: “I thought, ‘I am sure Qumran is not in Israel. Why are they claiming it is?’ I checked and then I made my official complaint. I was very pleased to see that they have agreed with me.”
IGTO has now amended the advert, replacing the Qumran image with one of the desert fortress, Masada. Director Uzi Gafni said: “We did not say Qumran was in Israel so did not think about the implications.”
Holy Land: UK watchdog asks Israel to withdraw misleading tourism ad
Independent Catholic News
9 April 2008
Today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered the Israeli Tourist Office to withdraw a ThinkIsrael.com advert implying that Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, is in Israel, when in fact it is in the Occupied West Bank.
North London resident Janet Green, said she was surprised when she saw the advert stating: 'You can travel the entire length of Israel in six hours' , with illustrations including an image of Qumran, in the 24 November edition of the Radio Times.
Janet said: "I thought 'that's not right'. I am sure Qumran is not in Israel. Why are they claiming it is. I checked and then I made my official complaint. I was very pleased to see that they have agreed with me.
"This really matters because the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank are made difficult by the Israeli-run checkpoints and barriers that restrict their day-to-day lives and adversely affect their economy. Palestinians should profit from tourism within the West Bank and the creeping expansion of Israel should be rejected by the UK and the rest of the world."
The ASA upheld Ms Green's complaint and expressed concern that ThinkIsrael did not respond to their enquiries They said: "The ad breached Committee of Advertising Practice CAP Code clauses 2.8 (Non-response) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).
The full text of the ASA decision can be seen at: http://www.asa.org.uk
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