The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) criticized Israel
for including pictures of the Western Wall in a tourism advertisement, claiming that the holy site is technically not located within the country's borders, the Independent reported Wednesday.
"We told the Israeli Tourist Office not to imply that places in the Occupied Territories were part of the state of Israel," ASA, which is a public organization but not government-funded, said in a statement.
It was not the first time the organization had been called upon by the British public to remove Israeli ads. One year ago ASA ordered the Israeli Tourism Ministry to remove posters displaying a map of Israel that included the West Bank and the Golan Heights within its borders from London's Underground, after receiving 300 letters of protest.
The current case was also brought to ASA's attention by a "concerned citizen" who said the ad was misleading as it implies that east Jerusalem, under Israeli law since 1967, was a part of the state.
The poster, which is comprised mostly of a photo displaying a Tel Aviv beach, included a tiny picture of Temple Mount at the bottom.
"The ASA noted the itinerary image of Jerusalem used in the ad featured the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, which were both in East Jerusalem, a part of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank," ASA stated.
"We noted the ad stated 'You can travel the entire length of Israel in six hours – imagine what you can experience in four days', and 'Visit now for more itineraries in Israel', and considered that readers were likely to understand that the places featured in the itinerary were all within the state of Israel.
"We understood, however, that the status of the occupied territory of the West Bank was the subject of much international dispute, and, because we considered that the ad implied that the part of East Jerusalem featured in the image was part of the state of Israel, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead."
But unlike its previous dispute with ASA, the Tourism Ministry did not capitulate and responded that the ad provides "basic, accurate information to a prospective UK traveler who wanted to know what to expect in Israel".
"It is entirely accurate to assert that a visitor to Israel could visit Jerusalem as part of a short visit. Had the ad omitted a reference to a visit to the city of Jerusalem, it would have been incorrect and potentially misleading," the response says.
It adds that Israel "took responsibility to support the religious sites of all denominations, a commitment which also formed part of the obligations of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority signed in 1995", and that "the agreement placed the upkeep of holy sites and the determination of tourist visiting hours under Israeli jurisdiction".
The ministry added that Jerusalem's legal status was irrelevant to the issue at hand. "It is only of relevance if there was an attempt to interpret the straightforward message of the ad in a manner that went beyond what consumers were likely to understand from the ad," the statement says.