UK Bans Ad Suggesting Old City of Jerusalem is Part of Israel

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Britain's advertising watchdog banned an Israeli government tourism advert for suggesting that the Old City of Jerusalem was part of Israel on Wednesday.

The newspaper brochure showed a panorama of the walled Old City with the text "Israel has it all," and was ruled misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority, which said it implied the UNESCO World Heritage Site was part of Israel.

The international community regards the Old City as occupied Palestinian territory, while Israel has claimed it as part of its capital.

The dispute is highly charged as the area contains places deemed holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Western Wall, and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Following a complaint, the ASA ruled that the title of the brochure — "Israel Land of Creation" — and references to Old City attractions were misleading, and banned the advert from appearing again in its current form.

"We understood that the status of the territories in question was the subject of much international dispute," the watchdog said.

"We therefore considered the presentation of the ad would mislead consumers into believing that the Old City of Jerusalem was part of Israel and into taking a transactional decision that they would otherwise not have taken."

The brochure included a photograph showing the golden Old City landmark and Muslim shrine the Dome of the Rock, with modern buildings of Western Jerusalem in the background.

Text on the image read: "Everyone falls for the Old City, with its narrow (and car-free) alleys, teeming pilgrims and bazaar-like buzz."

In its defense, the Israeli Government Tourist Office denied that the brochure implied East Jerusalem and its Old City were part of the state of Israel.

"They said the ad did not seek to make a political statement and believed it would be inappropriate for it to do so," the ASA ruling stated.

"Rather, they believed the leaflet provided practical information that made clear that visitors to the places referred to in the ad, such as the Old City of Jerusalem, could only be visited via traveling to Israel."

In December, in yet another Israeli effort to stifle Palestinian culture, authorities in the Israeli-occupied city of Beersheba recently converted a historical mosque, which was once used regularly as a house of worship before the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their land in 1948, into an Islamic museum.

The Great Mosque of Beersheba, a town originally known as Bir al-Sabaa, was built in 1906 during the Ottoman era with donations collected from the Bedouin residents of the Negev.

A recent statement from the Palestine Liberation Organization's Negotiation Affairs department said that "despite its small size, Palestine has an abundance of historical, religious and cultural heritage sites. Every inch of this land has a story to tell, every hill the scene of a battle, and every stone a monument or a tomb. One cannot understand the geography of Palestine without knowing its history and one cannot understand its history without understanding its geography."

But Israel has systematically tried to obliterate, annex and confiscate Palestinian sites as it seeks to strip the land it occupies of its Palestinian identity.

Palestinians accuse Israel of heritage theft as Israeli authorities, besides taking over Palestinian lands and properties, deliberately target sites that have historical importance and provide evidence of Palestinian heritage and culture.

Following Israel’s summer offensive against Gaza, many of Strip’s ancient sites, including houses of worship, tombs and cemeteries, were left in ruins.

Gaza's historic mosques, dating back to the time of the first Islamic caliphs and the Ottoman Empire, were the worst affected.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Israel targeted mosques on purpose, partially damaging 130 mosques and completely destroying 73.

The destruction of Gaza's ancient mosques has brought the total losses incurred by the religious affairs ministry to an estimated $50 million.

Gaza's only three churches were also damaged during the latest conflict, including the oldest church in the Gaza Strip, the Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius, which dates back to the 1150s.

Besides destroying historical sites, Israel encroaches on Palestinian spaces and heritage in the name of tourism.

In December, the Israeli parliament's finance committee voted through $3.3 million to build a tourist center in the Barkan settlement in the occupied West Bank, a statement from the Israeli Knesset said.

Following its expulsion of Palestinians in 1948, Israel rewrote maps, changed the names of Palestinian towns and streets, and tailored their own versions of history very early on so as to counter future generation of Palestinians.

According to the Palestinian Authority (PA), besides it being an effective tool in oppressing the Palestinian narrative and rewriting history, tourism is one of the basic grounds upon which the Israeli economy is built.

Palestinian tour guides or transportation companies haven’t been able to enter the Israeli-occupied territories since 2000. From over 240 tourist guides licensed to work all over Palestine before the occupation, only 42 have permits to guide in Israel, which are renewed periodically and without guarantee.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the PA says Israel collects about 90 percent of revenue related to pilgrims and tourists.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state — Israel — was declared inside historical Palestine.

As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across the region and in other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state — a move never recognized by the international community.

While major Palestinian cities have boomed in the past 26 years, Israeli confiscation of land in border regions has continued unabated.

According to a UN report published in early December, the PA lost at least $310 million in customs and sales tax in 2011 as a result of importing from or through Israeli-occupied territories.

Last year, the World Bank estimated that Israeli control over Area C — the 61 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control— costs the Palestinian economy around $3.4 billion annually, or more than one-third of the Palestinian Authority's GDP.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

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