To many prospective visitors to Israel it may seem like a technicality that the Western Wall is located in the disputed territory of East Jerusalem. Not so to the British Advertising Standard Agency, which has banned the holy site from an Israeli tourism ad in the UK, calling it “misleading.” And while the Brits are certainly correct to note that “the status of the occupied territory of the West Bank [is] the subject of much international dispute,” the accusation of false advertising strikes many as a nit-picking attempt to undermine Israel’s reputation and significance to Jews.
In response, the Israeli Tourism Ministry referred to a 1995 agreement with the Palestinian Authority placing “the upkeep of holy sites and the determination of tourist visiting-hours under Israeli jurisdiction.” But more to the point, the Tourism Minister as well as the Board of Deputies of British Jews called the prohibition “absurd.” We’re inclined to agree, if only because the Kotel is such a potent Jewish symbol that, advertised or not, it will likely remain a major draw for tourists to the nation, not to mention the fact that, as the Board’s chief exec pointed out, “thousands of tourists and pilgrims pass through Israel every year to areas where their very presence helps the Palestinian economy, and like the flawed argument for boycotts, this objection seems to be being advanced by those who care more about gestures and less about the livelihoods of ordinary people in the region.”
In other words, fighting symbols with symbols is, well, absurd. But it’s not likely to cease anytime soon. The Kotel’s inherent significance “is not as obvious to the world as it is to us,” said one peace advocate. “Only an agreed upon political solution regarding the future of the city, and for that matter the wider conflict, will prevent embarrassing developments like this.”