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Posts

Israel’s MoT causes ‘systems breakdown’ at Guardian

For an account of the story see the posting Israel’s Ministry of Tourism incorporates all occupied territory, including Gaza, in its maps

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Letters of complaint dealt with by Sales department

From Richard Kuper, 27.11.11

The Editor,
The Guardian

I was staggered to find a three-page spread in the name of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in my Saturday Guardian magazine (26 November), advertising a state of Israel which purportedly includes the occupied Syrian Golan as well as the occupied Palestinian territory – the West Bank (Judea and Samaria on the accompanying map) and the Gaza strip.

Last year in April the Advertising Standards Authority banned an Israeli tourism advert showing the Western Wall which implied that East Jerusalem was part of the state of Israel. In July 2009 London Underground posters showing the West Bank and the Gaza strip as part of Israel were rejected by the ASA.

The Guardian is well aware of these judgements (see your reports at the time Israeli tourism ad banned for using photo of East Jerusalem and  Israeli tourism posters banned by watchdog over controversial map). And as numerous articles over the years attest, you are well aware of legal status of the occupied territories.

Why on earth did you accept this advertisement? At best it was a serious error of judgment. As a loyal Guardian reader for over fifty years, I feel ashamed and let down.

Richard Kuper

On 28 November 2011 17:37, Mark Finney wrote:

Dear Richard

Thank you for your comments about the advert for the Israel Ministry of Tourism which we ran over the weekend of the 26 and 27th of November.

Normally we carefully check any potentially controversial adverts prior to publication, however in this instance we had a systems breakdown and did not do so.

The consequence of this was that in the map that ran the green-shaded northern portion did not distinguish clearly between Israel and the occupied Golan Heights. The grey-shaded main portion of the map did not distinguish clearly between Israel and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

I am sorry that the map as it appeared offended you. We publish around 15,000 different ads each year and normally get complaints about less than 20 of them. In this instance we shouldn’t have published this map. Any future advertising copy from the Israel Ministry of Tourism, if it includes a map, will include one that complies with our code. The ASA, under their own auspices, are also looking into this copy and we await their adjudication.

Thanks again for contacting us. It’s always great to have feedback from our readers and we take any complaints such as these extremely seriously. If you wish to discuss this matter further then please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0203 353 3923.

With Best Wishes

Mark
Head of Client Sales

From Richard Kuper

Dear Mark

Thanks for this rapid response.

I’d take issue with your phrasing “did not distinguish clearly between Israel and” various occupied territories. “Did not distinguish”, tout court, would be a more transparent description of the reality of the map.

* The dotted lines are only noticeable by someone who looks for them and their meaning only known by those who know their meaning.

*  Ariel is shown as an Israeli town and Shechem replaces Nablus which is the name a map showing the territory as Palestinian would carry.

* The use of the designations Judea and Samaria hardly contribute to making the distinction you allude to.

* And even Gaza is shown as part of Israel after everyone in Israel has been at such pains to claim it was no longer occupied since the Israeli withdrawal! At least the map can be judged as honest in its portrayal of the reality of Israel’s empire on the ground…

But I’m nonetheless pleased that you have a code that applies to maps of the region. Perhaps you can tell me exactly what it says?

Can you also let me know how you will respond publicly? For example, will my letter be published with a brief response? Will something go into your corrections column? Or what?

With best wishes
Richard

Jane Henriques, another of the complainants, received the same reply and responded:

Dear Mark Finney,
Thankyou for your reply.

I’m surprised, however, that the renaming of the occupied West Bank as Judaea and Samaria was not noticed either?

I think the publication of the advertisement is a gross error, repeated in the Observer, and that it calls for a full page apology by the Guardian to the Palestinian people. ‘Adding insult to injury’ hardly describes the impact this must have had on a people living with the daily abuses of the occupying forces and then having their country claimed and renamed in such a blatantly arrogant manner.

Yours sincerely,
Jane Henriques

Luke Hodgkin wrote on 28 November and received the same reply

I was astonished to see in your weekend review an advertisement from the Israel Travel bureau which featured what can only be called a completely fictional map of a country called ‘Israel’. This country appeared to have frontiers which enclosed the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights, and it accordingly gave the impression that one could travel without hindrance from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, Jenin and even Gaza; and that all these places were part of a single country. Such misleading maps have been referred to the ASA in the past (for example in their judgment at http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2009/7/Israeli-Government-Tourist-Office/TF_ADJ_46568.aspx – ‘the ad must not appear again.’ I should have thought the Guardian more aware of the complexities of the situation in Israel/Palestine than is suggested by the display of this advertisement which is both misleading (to tourists) and deeply offensive (to those whose status as an occupied people is ignored by the advertisement).
Sincerely,
Luke Hodgkin


From Dr Ronit Lentin
26 November 2011

Dear Editor,

In a three-page advert in the Guardian Weekend (26.11.11) you have amazingly supported an illegal occupation lasting over four decades, and display a map of Israel including the Occupied Territories of Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, under such names as Golan, Judea and Samaria ­ the Hebrew titles used by the Israeli state in support of ‘Greater Israel’, a mini-empire built on brutal oppression, land theft and continuous denial of human rights.

Bearing in mind that the UN, the International Criminal Court and many other international human rights organisations have termed Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories and its various manifestations, such as the Apartheid wall and the siege of Gaza illegal, and have condemned its illegal land confiscation and land annexation and, how can a newspaper such as the Guardian support such criminality by advertising the territories as part and parcel of the state of Israel? Is income from advertising more important than international law? Would you allow advertising for illegal entities such as the Mafia, if they paid you? Would you have done the same for the South African Apartheid regime? Although I am not a British citizen, I intend to follow it up by complaining to the British Advertising Standards
Authority.

Yours,

Dr Ronit Lentin
Associate Professor, Head of Sociology, Course Coordinator MPhil in Race,
Ethnicity, Conflict
Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland

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The Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, 29th November 2011, carries  the following small, very easy to miss and in our view totally inadequate entry. It doesn’t even acknowledge that a mistake was made, let alone a ‘systems breakdown’ – let alone a failure of political judgment, as shown by the wording of the clarification which implies that the issue is of no real consequence, viz:

• An advertisement in the Weekend magazine (26 November, page 24) showed a tourist map of Israel. The green-shaded northern portion of the map did not distinguish clearly between Israel and the occupied Golan Heights. The grey-shaded main portion of the map did not distinguish clearly between Israel and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
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From Diana Neslen, 29.1i.11

Dear Editor
Today’s Guardian contains a ‘clarification’ of an advertisement for Israel which shows the country to be a complete whole, disregarding the occupation of Palestinian lands.  The correction actually compounds the problem by stating that the occupied territories borders were not outlined clearly enough.  In fact a cursory reading of the map would have shown that the occupied territories are called by the Israeli colonial name of Judea and Samaria, the town of Nablus is called by the settlers name of Shechem and the whole area is called Israel.  According to the ASA judgement of July 2009, ads exactly like this and produced by the Israel Government Tourist Office are misleading and should not be produced in their current form.  Under those circumstances what was needed was an apology, not an effort to excuse the publication of this advertisement by a reputable newspaper.

I would hope that this fact can now be properly clarified rather than dealt with in this unsatisfactory form
Yours sincerely
Diana Neslen

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From Richard Kuper on the ‘clarification’, 03.12.11

Dear Mark

Thanks for this reply. It doesn’t help much.

I did – eventually – discover the clarification posted under “Comments and clarifications” on Monday 28th November. I’m very surprised you didn’t mention it in your email to me as it was posted up, according to your website, about 3 hours before your reply was sent to me.

It was of course entirely inadequate as I tried to point our in my response to your original email. I will repeat my central contention that the phrase used – “did not clearly distinguish” – is quite misleading. Had you simply said “did not distinguish” I would have been happier, at least with the wording. But I spelt our the reasons for my dismay in that earlier email and note here simply that you have not responded to them in any way.

I do still not understand from your response today what the code you allude to actually says (even if the two sentences you quote are a version of it). This matter, at least, could be simply cleared up by you quoting what the code actually says and I would be grateful to know the actual wording.

But finally, may I ask why the clarification was so mealy-mouthed, completely ignoring the effect of the map printed in the Magazine. I’d have thought a clarification would at least have included an apology, something along the lines of:

An advertisement in the Weekend magazine (26 November, page 24) presented a tourist map of Israel which claimed that Syrian and Palestinian territories, occupied by Israel since 1967 were, contrary to international law, part of the state of Israel. The Guardian, which prides itself on the care shown in how it addresses this conflict and which has a code appropriate to the situation, failed on this occasion to apply it. We apologise unreservedly for this error and for the erroneous impression conveyed by the map in question.

I’d also have expected something to be included in the Magazine itself, but have been totally unable to locate the slightest tinge of regret in today’s Magazine. (If I missed it I apologise.) How many readers of Saturday’s Magazine does the Guardian think are likely to have noticed the “clarification” in Tuesday’s printed edition?

Instead of allaying my concerns your two emails to me, and the clarification printed, make me feel the Guardian regards the error as simply of no consequence. I disagree, strongly.

With best wishes
Richard

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