Waitrose slammed for Israeli 'propaganda'

Published a brochure on the Taste of Israel - a move which upset many

Updated: 
The Taste of Israel brochure distributed by Waitrose

Palestinian campaigners have hit out at Waitrose for distributing a brochure that, they say, is geographically inaccurate and attempts to airbrush Palestinian history.

The Taste of Israel brochure was produced by the Israeli Government Tourist Office (IGTO) and distributed with the supermarket's Kitchen magazine last month.

"Taste of Israel beautifully illustrates the diversity and brilliance of Israel's cuisine," said Naama Oryan Kaplan, director of the IGTO, UK and Ireland. "We hope this inspires readers to visit soon and try out some of these dishes and recipes too."

But, say Palestinians, many of the recipes - za'atar, tahini and falafel, for example - are not Israeli at all. And, more importantly, it contains tourist features on towns within Israel which ignore their Palestinian heritage.

"The booklet is a prime example of Israeli government propaganda, highlighting its efforts to distract the public abroad from its brutal military occupation of Palestinian land by replacing the image of an apartheid regime with that of a tourist-friendly, culture-loving country," says the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

"It is also a shocking example of the Israeli appropriation of Palestinian culture – in this case, food – in an attempt to erase the memory of Palestine from the land and replace it with Israel."

The row follows a recent ban on another IGTO brochure by the Advertising Standards Authority. The leaflet, distributed with newspapers earlier this month, showed a panorama of the walled Old City with the text "Israel has it all".

But with the Old City regarded generally as occupied Palestinian territory, the ad was ruled misleading by the ASA. "We considered that readers would regard the ad as presenting the Old City of Jerusalem as being part of Israel. However, we understood that the status of the territories in question was the subject of much international dispute," it concluded.

And in 2009, London Underground ads produced by the IGTO were banned for including a map showing Gaza, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights to be part of Israel.

"Despite all these rulings by ASA, the IGTO continues to use false advertising in its tourist promotions," says PSC director Sarah Colborne.

"It is therefore up to UK companies, such as supermarkets and national newspapers, to wake up to IGTO, see it for the propaganda machine it is, and stop carrying and distributing its inaccurate adverts."

The campaigners have complained about this latest ad to the ASA, which should make a ruling soon. Dozens of customers have contacted Waitrose's complaints department, and many more have expressed their outrage on Twitter.

But the company is defending the distribution of the brochure, with William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Kitchen Magazine, commenting: "Waitrose Kitchen is not political - we take adverts from a wide range of different businesses and organisations".

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