An advertisement paid for by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities that appeared in this month’s UK edition of the National Geographic’s Traveler magazine has caused an uproar and led to the launch of an investigation by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media.
The ‘Travel Palestine’ advertisement reads: “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.” It also states that “Palestine lies between the Mediterranean coast and Jordan River, at the crossroads between Africa and Middle East.” The ad never mentions Israel.
In a statement Monday, the Board of Deputies of British Jews called “upon the ASA to take immediate action to correct this advertisement’s dangerous distortion of the facts.” According to London lawyer Nigel Miller, “The ad breaches [advertising] code clause 7.1 in that it misleads by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.”
In fact, on that basis, the ASA banned an Israeli tourism ad last year that displayed an image of the Western Wall with the Dome of the Rock in the background because, according to the agency, the ad was misleading as it implied that East Jerusalem, in which the Western Wall is located, is part of the state of Israel. That East Jerusalem is under full Israeli control was not enough for the ASA to allow the ad to run.
One can only hope that the British agency bans the Travel Palestine advertisement, as it is misleading on all levels. Not only does it erase Israel from the map, but it also implies that Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and the other named cities are all located in a state called Palestine. Indeed, failing to rule the advertisement as misleading “would be inconsistent, discriminatory and biased,” as London barrister Jonathan Turner said.