Guardian refuses ads from Israel's MoT after deluge of complaints

December 6, 2011
Sarah Benton

This posting contains the one letter the Guardian published, from Alexei Sayle, an exchange of letters between Richard Kuper and Chris Elliott, the Guardian Readers’ Editor, and a news report from Asa Winstanley on the ads protest and Israel’s Think Israel campaign.

The link below is to a previous JfJfP posting about a World Zionist Organisation campaign in the UK to get more Jews to visit or emigrate to Israel
World Zionist plea for more Westerners to move to Israel

Letters to the Guardian

From Alexei Sayle,
Published 02.12.11

In last Saturday’s Guardian there was an advert for travel to Israel featuring a map where Israel appears to have absorbed the entire occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights. The Israeli Board of Tourism has been censured three times for breaches of advertising standards, but seems unable to correct its behaviour. Perhaps you should now just refuse to offer any advertising space to the Israeli government, which repeatedly claims that land illegally acquired by conquest is theirs.
Alexei Sayle 

Reader’s Editor,The Guardian

Dear Chris Elliott

The readers’ editor job description on the Guardian website is “to collect, consider, investigate, respond to, and where appropriate come to a conclusion about readers’ comments, concerns, and complaints in a prompt and timely manner, from a position of independence within the paper”.

I’ve been in correspondence with Mark Finney over a letter of complaint I sent to about a 3-page advertisement published in the Guardian Magazine on 26th November.

As you will see from the correspondence below, I’m unhappy with the responses I’ve received from Mark Finney. But I’m also wondering why this matter is being handled by someone who signs himself “Head of Client Sales”. I’ve raised an editorial question and, on reflection,wonder why someone in charge of Sales should have been deputed, or taken it upon himself, to answer it. I’m not concerned with why the Guardian sold advertising space to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism; I am concerned with the content of the advert published.

I’m now writing to you in the hope that I will get a considered response from those who make editorial policy at the Guardian (within whose guidelines, I assume, the Head of Client Sales operates). Your job description suggests you are the right recipient for this email.

With many thanks
Richard Kuper

From Chris Elliott

Dear Mr Kuper,
The Guardian responded quickly by printing a correction both in print and online supervised by my office. On Saturday there was also a letter from Alexei Sayle in the newspaper criticising the use of the map. The map was contained within an advertisement and therfore the advertisement department has responded to all the letters of complaint that have been received. There are now complaints with the advertising standards authority about the advertisement. The Guardian awaits the outcome of that complaint. The Guardian does not in any way think this error was of no consequence and in various ways have expressed our regret but I believe the response to be proportional to the scale of the error and complaint.

Best wishes
Chris Elliott
Readers’ editor

UPDATED: Israeli campaign to attract UK tourists wipes Palestine and Syria off the map

Asa Winstanley, electronic intifada

Update: After “hundreds” of complaints, the Guardian has refused to publish subsequent ads from the Israeli tourism ministry. See full update below.

An Israeli tourism map appearing in the Guardian last weekend rendered occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories as part of “Israel”.

The map very much appears to be in breach of UK advertising regulations. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in 2009 upheld complaints against an Israeli tourism bilboard because it included a similar map, ruling the ad “must not appear again in its current form”.

The three-page advertising spread from the Israeli tourism ministry in the Guardian Weekend is part of what increasingly looks like a major new advertising campaign in the UK.

On the map, the occupied West Bank is labeled “Judea” and “Samaria” (names from religious texts used by Israeli colonists). The West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights are delineated only by a faint dotted line. Under international law, all three are occupied territories. The West Bank and Gaza are Palestinian, and the Golan is part of Syria. All three were invaded by Israel in 1967.

“Systems breakdown” at the Guardian

On Monday the Guardian issued a correction stating the ad “did not distinguish clearly between Israel” and the occupied Arab territories.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is encouraging people to complain to the ASA and theGuardian. The Guardian has written to a PSC supporter apologizing, saying they usually “carefully check any potentially controversial adverts prior to publication, however in this instance we had a systems breakdown and did not do so”. The Guardian also said theASA is currently investigating the ad.

Update, 5 December
Antoine Raffoul, Coordinator of 1948 Lest We Forget informs me that his group was called by Mark Finney, the Guardian’s advertising manager after they complained. Finney says that follow-up adverts from the Israeli tourism ministry have now been refused — seemingly because of the complaints. Here is Antoine’s full update:

“We received a call today from Mr Mark Finney in response to our latest email… He apologised for the insertion of the misleading advert and stated that a ‘correction/clarification’ was published online subsequent to the hundreds of protests received by the Guardian. He also stated that Israel’s Ministry of Tourism attempted (through its advertising agency) to insert the same advert (text only) this weekend [3-4 December], and (same map and text) next weekend, but The Guardian refused.”

I called Mr Finney at the Guardian earlier today seeking his response to my article, but he did not return the message I left before the end of the day.

Major Campaign
The ad is part of what seems to be a major recent campaign in the UK. Large billboards have appeared in public spaces encouraging people to “Think Israel”.

The website to this campaign contains an even more offensive (and racist) map [Think Israel campaign,]. The West Bank appears even more solidly absorbed into “Israel proper” (without even a dotted line), with mysteriously empty pink and yellow blobs appearing where Palestinians live in built-up areas. There is no clue that the Golan is anything more than a part of “northern Israel”.

The website’s home page also offers links to “Christian themes” and “Jewish themes” but no “Muslim themes”, wiping the Islamic heritage of Palestine off the map.

Israeli tourism ministry contempt for ASA
To what extent this is part of the “Brand Israel” strategy is debatable. Whatever the case, the ASA should be asked what action it will take against the Israeli tourist board for continuing to violate its rules.

The campaign has also appeared in brochures distributed on British Airways flights, as discovered by The Electronic Intifada in October.

Last month the ASA also ruled against an ad in the Zionist-slanted Jewish Chronicle that it said was “misleading” and so “must not appear again in its current form”, because it had advertised an illegal West Bank colony as part of “Israel”.

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