A magazine insert promoting tourism to Israel, featured a page on Jerusalem that included a list of sites and activities headed, "Don't miss". The list included "The Old City. One of the oldest cities in the world pulses with activity day and night and is home to a myriad of cultures". The list was accompanied by a picture of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The complainant, a current-affairs journalist, challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the whole of Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, were part of the State of Israel.
The Israeli Government Tourist Office (IGTO) said that the page on Jerusalem made no claim that the Old City of Jerusalem was part of the State of Israel. They said the only statement made in relation to this ancient part of Jerusalem was, "One of the oldest cities in the world pulses with activity day and night and is home to residents from a myriad of cultures". They said the ad was intended to promote tourism not to address political issues. The IGTO said that the description of the Old City and the image of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were both accurate and furthermore typical of the type of information a potential tourist wished to receive before planning a trip.
The IGTO also said it was important to note that there were agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian side, under International auspices, to the effect that each side was obliged to maintain and promote all historical, religious and archaeological sites under their control (pending future agreements). They asserted that the entire city of Jerusalem was under Israeli control and therefore its promotion by Israel was according to their obligations under the aforementioned agreements. Furthermore, they asserted that tourists needed to be informed about which authorities they could apply to in case of need, which, they argued, in the case of Jerusalem, was the Israeli authorities.
They said that the promotion of all of Jerusalem ensured a continuous flow of tourism, which represented a major contribution to the welfare of its entire population. They maintained that ceasing to publish information on the Old City of Jerusalem would be economically detrimental to tourism and to businesses, as well as Christian and other religious institutions. They said that if the Israel Ministry of Tourism stopped publishing up-to-date information about the Old City of Jerusalem in the media, no such publication would be published for those who wish to visit the places situated there. They said it was important that those who might be interested in visiting the holy sites in the Old City knew that the only access they have to those locations was by coming to Israel.
The IGTO added that travellers to Jerusalem could visit all the places mentioned in the ad without specific travel limitations. They asserted that the averagely informed consumer was aware of the situation in the Middle East, at least generally, and would not be misled by the ad. They said that there was ample additional information available on the internet as well as from professional tourism bodies. Furthermore, they said that tourism countries often published maps and other touristic information without specifically delineating political or legal aspects of the destination.
We noted the insert was titled, "Israel - The Hidden Gems" and that the front cover contained the web address, "THINKISRAEL.COM". We also noted that the insert contained three two-page sections, on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Galilee, and that each section outlined sites to visit, places to stay, places to eat and a suggested itinerary for those locations. The back cover of the insert featured the logo of the Israel Ministry of Tourism and the web address "www.thinkisrael.com".
We noted that the complainant objected to a photograph of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and a reference to the Old City in the section on Jerusalem, because they believed this implied that the whole of Jerusalem was part of the State of Israel. We noted that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Old City were in East Jerusalem, that the status of Jerusalem was in dispute and that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office considered East Jerusalem part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We also noted that the UN characterised Jerusalem as a "corpus separatum" to be governed by an international administration.
However, although we noted (without necessarily accepting) all of the arguments put forward in the advertisers’ response, our investigation was confined to whether the ad misleadingly implied that the whole of Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were part of the State of Israel. We considered that the text in this section made no reference to the State of Israel, nor did it indicate implicitly or explicitly that all the things to do, places to eat or places to visit were in one particular state or another. We considered that the information in this section and throughout the insert featured the type of information in which a potential tourist to that part of the world would be interested. We noted the web addresses on the cover of the insert but considered that consumers would understand that these were included as a means by which to access further information. We noted the logo of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism on the booklet, but we considered that this would be understood as information on who produced the insert. Because we did not consider that the insert implied that all the places to visit were in the State of Israel we concluded that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.