Upheld – complaint about advert presenting Palestinian territories as part of Israel


March 22, 2012
Sarah Benton

ASA Adjudication on Israeli Government Tourist Office
Israeli Government Tourist Office
UK House
180 Oxford Street
London
W1D 1NN

Date: 21 March 2012

Media:National press

Sector: Non-commercial
Number of complaints: 350

Complaint Ref: A11-179845

Background
Summary of Council Decision:

Three issues were investigated of which two were Upheld and one was Not Upheld.

Ad
A national press ad, for a book on Northern Israel and tourism in the region, viewed in November 2011, was headed “IN THE BEGINNING”. The ad covered three pages. The first page showed an image of the book and the Israel Ministry of Tourism logo. The following double page spread was headed “WELCOME TO NORTHERN ISRAEL,” and included a map and text describing the history and attractions of Northern Israel. The map showed the northern section of land highlighted in green and a dotted line around the Golan Heights area, labelled “GOLAN”. The remainder of the land on the map was grey and there were dotted lines around the Gaza Strip, labelled “GAZA”, and West Bank areas. The northern and southern parts of the West Bank were labelled “SAMARIA,” and “JUDEA,” respectively. Further text on the second page of the ad stated “Prehistoric skeletons found in the Galilee show that in this place, man developed the ability to speak.”

Issue
The ASA received 350 complaints about the ad.

1. 1948 Lest We Forget, Friends of Al Aqsa, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine and a number of members of the public challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights were internationally recognised as part of Israel. Many of the complainants also challenged whether a number of the place names referred to on the map contributed to the misleading impression, because they understood those were historical place names which were not currently legally recognised.

2. A number of complainants challenged whether it was sufficiently clear the ad was marketing material.

3. One complainant also challenged whether the claim “Prehistoric skeletons found in the Galilee show that in this place, man developed the ability to speak” was misleading and could be substantiated, because he believed there existed a considerable division of scholarly opinion on the origins of human speech.

CAP Code (Edition 12)
3.13.3

Response
1. The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) said the map featured in the ad provided general schematic information for tourism and travel purposes and was not intended as a political map. They believed British travel consumers considering a visit to Northern Israel would be aware of the varying views as to the status of the Golan Heights, Gaza and the West Bank and said for that reason they sought to avoid confusion by distinguishing those areas on the map. They said a bold, broken, black line identified the Golan Heights and acknowledged the political controversies in that area. They also said Gaza and the West Bank were clearly identified by a bold, broken, black line and the inclusion of the words Gaza, Judea and Samaria. They said the area to which the book related was clearly highlighted in green and noted the map did not include the word Israel, outside of the heading.

IGTO said the place names Samaria and Judea were used to identify those areas by the vast majority of Israelis. They also said those place names were used in the British mandate. However, they acknowledged the British mandate ended in 1947.

2. IGTO said the ad featured a picture of the advertised book and described it as “a book that tells everyone everything about the wonders of Northern Israel”. They said the ad provided an overview of the information included within the book. They said the Israel Ministry of Tourism logo was clearly displayed on both the book and at the foot of the first page of the ad. They therefore believed that made clear that the piece had been placed to advertise the tourism material included in the book.

3. IGTO said the ad was a tourist article aimed at generating interest in the historical and geographical points of interest in Northern Israel. They said it was not intended to be viewed as a scholarly or scientific article on the history of science or human speech. They acknowledged there was a division of scientific opinion on the origins of human speech, but did not believe that meant the claim was misleading. They said that prior to the ad being placed, the book’s publishers had researched the information on the origins of human speech. They further said there was considerable, substantiated archaeological evidence which indicated that the oldest skeleton to be discovered with a hyoid bone was found in Israel. They said that discovery had led to research into the basis of speech in humans and their ancestors.

They also believed an almost casual mention, in one sentence, referring to prehistoric skeletons was unlikely to be the basis upon which prospective tourists would base their visit. They said the potential reader would need to have a particular interest in the origins of speech, if they were to base a trip to Northern Israel on that aspect. They said such readers were likely to be limited in number and hold considerable pre-existing knowledge of the debate on the origins of human speech. They therefore believed such readers were unlikely to be misled.

Assessment
1. Upheld

The ASA noted the aim of the ad was to promote tourism to Israel, and in particular the first book which promoted tourism in Northern Israel. We also noted the body copy on the first page made clear that the trilogy of books commented on the attractions of Israel. We also noted the map featured on the second page of the ad appeared beneath the heading “WELCOME TO NORTHERN ISRAEL”. In that context, we considered the ad implied that all of the areas featured on the map were part of the state of Israel. We acknowledged the area to which the book related was highlighted in green and that the map showed border lines for the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and the West Bank. However, we noted that those border lines were faintly produced and difficult to distinguish on the map itself. We also understood the ad made reference to several historical place names, such as Judea and Samaria, which were not currently legally recognised.

Because we understood that the borders and status of the occupied territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights were the subject of much international dispute, and because we considered that the ad implied that those territories were part of the state of Israel, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising).

2. Not upheld
We noted the first page of the ad included a picture of the advertised product and was accompanied by text which stated “Order Volume 1 free online now at thinkisrael.com”. We also noted the first page made reference to two further volumes of the trilogy which were due for release in 2012 and included the logo for the Israel Ministry of Tourism. Whilst we noted the second and third pages of the ad did not refer directly to the advertised product, we noted the topics included on those pages were on a related topic to the advertised product. In that context, we considered that readers were likely to understand the ad was a marketing communication and therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code on this point.

On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 (Recognition of marketing communications), 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) but did not find it in breach.

3. Upheld
We noted the CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not suggest that claims are universally accepted if a significant division of informed or scientific opinion exists. Whilst we acknowledged that the ad was not intended to be viewed as a scholarly article on the history of human speech, we were concerned that the claim presented the information as universally accepted.

Since we understood that there existed a significant division of informed opinion on the origins of speech, we concluded that the claim was misleading and breached the Code.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.13 (Exaggeration).

Action
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told IGTO not to imply that the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights were internationally recognised as part of the state of Israel. We also told IGTO not to imply claims were universally accepted if there existed a significant division of informed opinion.
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The background to these complaints can be found at Israel’s Ministry of Tourism incorporates all occupied territory, including Gaza, in its maps  and  Guardian refuses ads from Israel’s MoT after deluge of complaints

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