Responding to a reader’s complaint, the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently ruled that an Israeli tourism campaign in the UK cannot be used because it was deemed untruthful.
What was the big Israeli lie? Pictured on the advertisement was a photograph of Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
Just a few years ago any notion that the iconic location, an open-air synagogue visited by millions, scene to thousands of bar and bat mitzvahs, was somehow not Israeli, would be dismissed either as comically absurd or just plain extremist.
But exactly those once discarded ideas are the gospel of today’s Middle East politics. The ASA is demonstrating the logical conclusion of those principles.
Just two years ago in 2008, the same ASA forced another Israeli tourism advertisement to be pulled, this one for picturing the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls and a 2,000 year old Jewish village were discovered. Qumran is a Jewish historical site, but its location in the Judean desert, on the edge of the West Bank, disqualifies it in the ASA’s mind from being promoted by Israel.
Current international thinking states that Israel surely has a right to exist, but only behind the 1949-1967 armistice lines known as the “Green Line.” Areas outside that line, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including east Jerusalem, are Palestinian. With that fundamental truth in mind, any Israeli presence in those areas, including civilians settling there, are inherently illegitimate (and thus, the thinking goes, any future peace agreement must be based on the absolute justice of the Green Line).
The position sounds very straightforward, and maybe that’s why it’s been widely embraced. But there’s actually very little that is just or even intentional about the 19-year line that lies at the core of this thinking.
Green Line completely arbitrary
The Green Line simply marks where the Israeli forces faced the Jordanian and Egyptian militaries when the sides stopped fighting following what became the last ceasefire of the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war.
There is nothing more or less Israeli or Palestinian, Jewish or Arab about one side of the line or the other. The only difference, in fact, is that after the fighting there were Jews and Arabs on the Israeli side, while no Jews remained on the Arab-held side.
The line is completely arbitrary and so is the current international thinking premised on it. That’s why the ASA criticism is so obviously absurd.
It’s also why a worldview built off of that flawed a premise can’t help being anything but unjust, since its simplicity requires it to ignore or smooth over the complexities of history in exactly the same way that the ASA did regarding the Western Wall and Qumran.
No matter that the Jewish presence in places “over the line” was only cut short a few decades before Israel took them in the 1967 Six-Day War. It was only in 1929 and 1936 that Arab violence ejected Jews from Gaza and Hebron; Jews were the largest group in Jerusalem before anything outside the walled Old City even existed. And only for the 19 years of Jordanian control defined by the Green Line were Jews barred from the Western Wall and their homes in Old Jerusalem.
No matter, also, that the Israeli government has since 1967 controlled these lands more than twice as long as those Arab governments, and that during that time the religious freedom for all faiths to freely visit their holy sites has been guaranteed.
Indeed, were the international community to assimilate into its worldview the events that precede by just a few years the hastily grease-penciled squiggle, the absurdity of the current position might be clear to them as well.
So thanks is owed the ASA for demonstrating just how far from reality the current paradigm has shifted, and how dangerous that is.
Make no mistake; policies that divorce a people from its history and religion, policies that formally recognize the fruits of intolerance and rejectionism in the name of peace are dangerous. They cannot achieve peace, but will instead encourage more intolerance and rejectionism.
What else can be expected from a dogma that voids the right of the world’s only Jewish State to advertise the holiest place in the world for Jews?