From Palestinian denials of Judaism’s historical ties to the Old City and the Temple Mount to the most recent spat surrounding the status of Jerusalem and Israeli building in Jewish neighborhoods, campaigns to disconnect Israel and the Jewish people from Jerusalem and Judaism’s holiest sites are nothing new.
However, a ruling by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has taken things to new heights of absurdity. The ASA dealt with a complaint concerning an Israel Government Tourist Office advert that “the photograph featured for Jerusalem was of East Jerusalem” and therefore “the ad misleadingly implied that East Jerusalem was part of the state of Israel.”
The Israeli Tourism Ministry responded, saying that:
the ad provided basic, accurate information to a prospective UK traveller who wanted to know what to expect in Israel. They maintained that it was entirely accurate to assert that a visitor to Israel could visit Jerusalem as part of a short visit. Furthermore, they believed that, had the ad omitted a reference to a visit to the city of Jerusalem, it would have been incorrect and potentially misleading.
The Ministry also reminded the ASA of Israeli commitments to supporting religious sites of all denominations and that Israeli jurisdiction over those sites and tourism there was agreed upon with the Palestinian Authority in 1995. According to the ASA, the Ministry also:
maintained that the present legal status of Jerusalem had nothing to do with the point at issue. They said it was only of relevance if there was an attempt to interpret the straightforward message of the ad in a manner that went beyond what consumers were likely to understand from the ad.
Nonetheless, the ASA upheld the complaint, judging that the ad had breached rules on truthfulness. Referring to the image of Jerusalem’s Western Wall and Temple Mount, the ASA:
considered that readers were likely to understand that the places featured in the itinerary were all within the state of Israel. We understood, however, that the status of the occupied territory of the West Bank was the subject of much international dispute, and because we considered that the ad implied that the part of East Jerusalem featured in the image was part of the state of Israel, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
Despite the fact that the final status of Jerusalem has yet to be determined through any negotiations between the involved parties, the ASA has, without the aid of international lawyers or politicians, come to its own decision – Israel is “not to imply that places in the Occupied Territories were part of the State of Israel.”
The bottom line – Israel can no longer feature Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Western Wall, as part of its tourist advertising campaigns in the UK.
Since when was it legitimate for the ASA to rule on the historic connection of Israel to its capital city and holy sites?
Israel’s Tourism Minister responded:
These statements join the list of repeated attempts by anti-Israel organizations to discredit Israel’s standing using absurd claims. The ministry will continue to promote marketing and advertising campaigns that make use of historic and religious sites in order to increase tourism to Israel. Jerusalem and its many religious and historic sites is Israel’s central tourism anchor that draws millions of tourists of all religions every year, regardless of political views.
The Tourism Ministry brands Israel as the Holy Land with Jerusalem at its heart, which beyond being the City of Peace, is the united capital of Israel. It is obvious to any thinking person that the Western Wall is one of Israel’s inalienable assets and as such it will continue to appear in the ministry’s campaigns. Just as nobody would dare interfere in the discretion of British state authorities on the matter of marketing Britain, the attempt to do so to Israel is illegitimate and non-negotiable.