SA: Israeli apartheid ad not in contravention of rules

South African Jewish group loses appeal to Advertising board over campaign saying: "Be on the right side of history, boycott Israel."

South African Israel Apartheid campaign 311 (photo credit: South African Artists Against Apartheid )
South African Israel Apartheid campaign 311
(photo credit: South African Artists Against Apartheid )
South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on Tuesday turned down a complaint lodged by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies against a radio commercial for an organization calling itself South African Artists Against Apartheid.
The commercial in question, broadcast in February, had Dave Randall of the UK dance band Faithless exhorting listeners to be “on the right side of history.”
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“Don’t entertain apartheid. Join the international boycott of Israel,” the ad said.
In its complaint, the Board of Deputies claimed that the advert was untrue in that there was no evidence to back up the claim that Israel is an apartheid state.
The ASA ruling stated that because “the topic of the Middle East is highly controversial,” the commercial was not subject to the provisions of the advertising code relating to misleading claims. The code, it explained, states that as long as a commercial is “readily recognizable” as an ad and there is no confusion as to the identity of the advertiser, the ASA directorate was barred from considering whether or not the advertisement was misleading.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with the ruling,” David Saks, associate director of the Jewish Board of Deputies told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “It sets a precedent whereby very provocative, politically motivated advertisements putting forward controversial views which are offensive to large parts of the public have been legitimized.”
In comments to the Post, Corne Koch, communications manager for ASA, said the authority did not believe the ad would cause widespread offense because people would realize it’s the opinion of a particular group shared by the artist in question.
“There’s no call to violence and no implication that all Israelis are guilty,” she said.
“We are not an authority to classify a country as an apartheid state or not.
Muhammed Desai, a member of the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Working Group, which assisted SA Artists Against Apartheid with the Board of Deputies complaint, welcomed the ruling.
“Israel may have avoided the kind of crude apartheid South Africa had, with separate benches, water fountains and the like for Blacks and Whites, But having Arabs here and there in positions of authority is window dressing,” he said. “Just because there may be a certain level of inclusion doesn’t mean there’s no apartheid.”
The Board of Deputies has until July 19 to appeal the ruling.
Saks said his organization was in consultation with its legal advisers to explore its options.