An unusual binational stamp issued by Israel and Gibraltar – already printed and
due to appear in June of last year – was cancelled at the last minute when the
British government balked at the image of the David Citadel in Jerusalem. After
British authorities insisted that the illustration be replaced with a Tel Aviv
landmark, the Israel Philatelic Service decided to call off the whole
Authorities in Gibraltar – a tiny British overseas territory
located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the
Mediterranean, with a long Jewish history – compensated the Philatelic Service
for its printing costs.
The unpleasant diplomatic incident was just
uncovered in the January issue of Shovel, the Hebrew-language philatelic
Titled “The Stamp That Wasn’t,” the article stated that it is
unusual for Israel to issue a stamp jointly with another country, but such an
event is important for the Philatelic Service and the state. Although stamp
issues do not capture headlines in Israel, senior government officials from both
countries take part in the ceremony, the article said, and the event enjoys much
media coverage abroad.
Such an event is relatively rare because of
political hostility to Israel in recent years. Despite this, “Israel has
succeeded in holding joint stamp issues with the UN, France and the Vatican,
some of which are not known for their enthusiasm for the Jewish state,” Shovel
wrote. Indeed, the service is due to issue stamps jointly this year with China,
India and Nepal.
While the initiative sometimes stems from diplomatic
sources, others are suggested by philatelic organizations. In the latter case,
the foreign stamp enthusiasts commit themselves to getting the necessary
In the case of Gibraltar, authorities in the
minuscule island approved the design, which was to show the David Citadel and
Rock of Gibraltar on the NIS 4.90 stamp.
“Our friendship unites the west
with the east of the Mediterranean,” the would-be stamp issue said on its face,
with the Israeli and Gibraltarian flags waving above.
ready, and its was already printed,” the article said, but at the last minute,
it was realized that the British Foreign Office must first approve the joint
Because Jerusalem is “politically controversial,” the British
requested that a Tel Aviv landmark be used in place of the Jerusalem Citadel on
the stamps issued by Gibraltar.
At first, Israel was “willing to swallow
its pride,” the article said, but the first request was quickly followed by
another one – that the stamps issued by Israel also include the Tel Aviv
landmark. The Philatelic Service told its counterpart in Gibraltar that this was
too much and called off the project.
Gibraltarian authorities admitted
they were at fault for not getting British approval first.