Probe launched on 'Travel Palestine' ad omitting Israel

UK advertising regulator inundated with complaints over text in "National Geographic" ad which seems to blot out Israel's existence.

travel palestine 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
travel palestine 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
LONDON – Britain’s advertising regulator has launched an investigation following a barrage of complaints over a “Travel Palestine” advert in this month’s National Geographic magazine which appears to blot out the existence of the State of Israel.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that in the last few days it had received 60 complaints about the advert – published by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, “the official website for tourism in Palestine” – which appeared in National Geographic’s Traveller magazine.
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“I can confirm that the ASA has received 60 complaints about the Travel Palestine ad that appeared in the National Geographic magazine,” an ASA spokesman told the Post. “I can also confirm that the ASA has launched a formal investigation into the ad.”
According to the ad, “Palestine lies between the Mediterranean coast and Jordan River, at the crossroads between Africa and Middle East.”
“If you consult the map of this region you will see that this is like describing Portugal as lying between the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean,” said London lawyer David Lewis in a letter to the ASA. “At the very least it implies that ‘Palestine’ has a Mediterranean coastline; but while this is true as regards to Gaza, that territory is not within the de facto jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
“More seriously, it implies that Palestine occupies the whole or the bulk of the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, ignoring the existence of Israel.”
London blogger Richard Millet said the notion that Palestine lies between the Mediterranean and Jordan is racist.
“This echoes the racist chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” sung by anti-Israel activists. It is a racist statement,” he said.
The ad also states that “Palestine is a land rich in history with a tradition of hospitality.
From the famous cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus and Gaza, the Palestinian people welcome you to visit this holy land.”
The Zionist Federation of the UK said the advert was misleading as it gives the “false impression” that Palestine is a country; that Jerusalem is part of Palestine, and that Palestine extends from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.
“The ad would mislead tourists, since on traveling to territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, they would not find the sites and facilities which the advertisement promotes,” the ZF said.
“The ad breaches [advertising] code clause 7.1 in that it misleads by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise,” said lawyer Nigel Miller, a partner at London law firm Fox Williams.
In a letter to the ASA, Miller said the ad refers to Jerusalem in the same context as other cities in the West Bank.
“It implies that Jerusalem is in Palestine. In fact, Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. East Jerusalem is also under Israeli governance; while east Jerusalem may presently be disputed territory, it cannot be said to be part of “Palestine,” Miller said.
In a letter to the ASA, London barrister Jonathan Turner said that the ad is misleading as it implies that a State of Palestine includes Hebron.
“In accordance with the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo 2 Accord) and the Wye River Memorandum, a significant part of Hebron remains in Area C under full Israeli control and is not readily accessible to tourists from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
Miller also said that the ad implies that a tourist can visit Gaza as well as cities in the West Bank during the same visit.
“The ad promotes the city of Gaza, but fails to mention that the Palestinian territories comprise two non-contiguous areas, one the West Bank and the other Gaza, and that it would be very difficult if not impossible for a tourist to travel between the two areas, or to get into Gaza either via Israel or Egypt,” he said.
Last April, the ASA ruled that an Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) advertisement with a picture of the Western Wall with the Dome of the Rock in the background was held to have breached its guidelines on truthfulness as it “misleadingly implied” that east Jerusalem was part of Israel, resulting in false advertising.
“It should be noted that the ruling in case 114921 [the IGTO case] objected to the implication that East Jerusalem was in Israel, even though it is under full Israeli control,” Turner said in his letter to the ASA last week.
“On the same basis, objection should be taken to the implication that Bethlehem, Jericho and Nablus are in Palestine even though they are under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Any other ruling would be inconsistent, discriminatory and biased.”