UK watchdog: PA Mission website presents misleading map

Tourist ad on site describes Jaffa and Haifa as part of "occupied Palestine," and Jerusalem as "in dispute."

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
December 7, 2011 04:16
4 minute read.
Discover Palestine website

Discover Palestine website 311. (photo credit: Discover Palestine website)

LONDON – The Palestinian Authority Mission to the UK breached British advertising regulations in featuring on its website an interactive map of the whole of Israel under the heading “Discover Palestine.”

The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled on Wednesday that the Palestinian delegation’s map – in the red, green and black colors of the Palestinian flag – breached its code on misleading advertising in six instances.

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“We considered that the average consumer would infer from the map and the linked information that the total area represented by the map was the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Because this was not the case, we concluded that the website was misleading,” the ASA said in its ruling.

The website described Jaffa as “a Palestinian Arab city... military occupied by Israel since 1948,” and Haifa as part of Palestine.

“We noted that, according to the UK Foreign Office, Jaffa and Haifa were in Israel. We considered that the website implied that the cities were in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Because we understood that they were not, we concluded that the website was misleading,” the regulator ruled.

The ASA also ruled against the Palestinian delegation’s decision not to make a reference to east or west Jerusalem.

“We noted that the status of Jerusalem was in dispute. We noted that this section of the website made no reference to east or west Jerusalem or the fact that the status of the city was the subject of much international dispute. We considered that the website implied that the entire city was part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Because we understood that that was not the case, we concluded that the website was misleading,” it said.

According to the ASA, the website was guilty of omitting material information after stating, “The old town of Hebron is one of the oldest towns in Palestine.”

This, it said, also represented a breach of its advertising code.

“We noted that rule 3.3 of the Code stated that ‘Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information’ and ‘Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product.’

“We considered that the particular nature of the security arrangements in Hebron and the restrictions on traveling into and within the city was material information likely to affect the decision of a consumer to visit the area as a tourist. Although we considered that implying that Hebron was part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories was accurate and not misleading, because the website omitted material information regarding the promotion of Hebron as a tourist destination, we concluded that it had breached the Code in this regard,” the ASA said in its ruling.

A reference to Bethlehem on the website also breached rule 3.3 when it provided selective information. The website stated that Palestinians were prevented from entering some tourist sites, such as Rachel’s Tomb, but did not mention that the site was only accessible from Jerusalem.

“We noted that Palestinians were prevented from entering some sites, such as Rachel’s Tomb, without a permit, and Israeli citizens could not enter Bethlehem without a permit. We also noted that although the website provided information on Rachel’s Tomb, this site was only directly accessible from Jerusalem. We noted that the website made no reference to these facts.

“We considered that the movement restrictions in Bethlehem were material information likely to affect the decision of a consumer to visit the area as a tourist. Although we considered implying that Bethlehem was part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories was accurate and not misleading, because the website omitted material information regarding the promotion of Bethlehem as a tourist destination, we concluded that it had breached the Code in this regard,” the ASA said.

Following the ruling, the Palestinian Mission said that it had made the necessary changes to its website. The interactive map is now titled “Palestine in 1948,” which it said depicted “historical Palestine.”

In addition, it said that the color-coding had been changed to clearly demarcate Israel from the Palestinian territories, and the map contained information about cities and tourist sites that were “internationally recognized.”

Bethlehem and Hebron are in the West Bank, the Mission said, and thus also within the pre-1967 lines, an area they said were internationally recognized as part of the Palestinian territories.

“We welcome this finding and thank our members who submitted complaints,” said Alan Aziz, director of the Zionist Federation of the UK and Ireland. “It is vitally important that the British public receives accurate information about the Middle East.”

“The ASA should be congratulated on its careful and impartial scrutiny,” said Jonathan Turner, head of the Zionist Federation’s legal group. “Too often we are on the defensive against attacks on Israel and Israeli organizations.

“As this ruling shows, those who attack us should pay more attention to failings in their own camp. We will examine the revised website as well as other advertising and if necessary make further complaints,” he said.

Last year the ASA deemed unlawful the use of a picture of the Western Wall, with the Dome of the Rock in the background, in an Israeli tourism advertisement.


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