Floods of complaints have forced the Israeli government to withdraw tourism posters from London Underground for featuring a map that treating the occupied Arab lands as part of Israel.
"(The ads are) a disingenuous attempt to remove the Palestinians from the public mind, and create a false impression about what constitutes Israel," Hugh Lanning of the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign told the BBC on Saturday, May 23.
The posters were "selling a lie" by suggesting tourists could visit Gaza while the strip is subject to a strict Israeli blockade under which even some doctors and humanitarian workers have been denied entry, he said.
The Israeli tourism ministry has posted posters in London Underground stations featuring a map that shows the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights within the borders of Israel.
The posters have triggered hundreds of complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority, which polices the rules of the advertising codes.
The posters also triggered protests from the Syrian embassy in London, describing the ads as "offensive".
"The move follows days of lobbying to get rid of the advertisement," Syrian Embassy spokesman Jihad Makdissi said.
Although Israel pulled out from Gaza in 2005, it maintains a tight blockade on the strip, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.
Israel is also occupying the West Bank and is continuing its settlement activities in the occupied territory.
Israel is also occupying the Syrian Golan Heights since the 1967 Middle East war, insisting that it would never give up the strategic plateau.
Israel confirmed that the posters were being taken down for a "professional mistake".
"No more map adverts would be posted", Oren Drori, Head of Marketing Administration for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said.
"The existing ones would be removed as they reached the end of their scheduled display times over the next two weeks."
Drori described the adverts as a "professional mistake" with no geopolitical intentions.
"We are not tearing anything down," he said.
He said he did not think maps should be used on billboards to advertise tourism in any country and the adverts had not been sufficiently vetted.
But the ministry had decided to "fast-forward" to the next set of posters scheduled in the campaign, after learning that there was "a bit of a harsh response" to the map advert, he said.
The Israeli Tourism Ministry denied mixing politics with tourism.
"We don’t mix politics and tourism," spokeswoman Shira Kazeh said.
"So the decision was made to pull the poster earlier than planned."
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)