Israel’s MoT causes ‘systems breakdown’ at Guardian

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November 29th, 2011



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




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

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

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

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


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


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.