LONDON (AP) – An Israeli tourism poster is being pulled from the London subway after the Syrian Embassy complained that the map on it appeared to show the Golan Heights and Palestinian territories within Israel’s boundaries, officials said Friday.
Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority received more than 300 complaints about the ad, a promotion for the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat, according to the agency’s spokesman Matt Wilson.
The Syrian Embassy and pro-Palestinian groups complained about it because the featured map appeared to show the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, within the borders of the Jewish state, according to the Israeli Tourism Ministry and the British standards authority.
Syrian Embassy spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the move follows days of lobbying to get rid of the ad, which he called offensive. Although Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, Israel maintains a tight blockade on the narrow strip of land and remains in the West Bank.
Israel’s hold on the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured from Syria, is a particularly sensitive issue for Syrians. Damascus has said it will not make peace with Israel until the land is returned.
Israeli Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Shira Kazeh said the decision was made to pull the poster earlier than planned because “we don’t mix politics and tourism.” Transport for London confirmed that the posters were being taken down, but referred further questions to CBS Outdoor Ltd., which manages advertisements on the London Underground railway.
A message left with CBS Outdoor was not immediately answered. A call placed with the Israeli Embassy in London was not immediately returned.
The sensitive politics of Middle Eastern mapmaking have posed problems for U.K. companies in the past. Last month British airline BMI apologized for excluding Israel from its electronic in-flight map.
Israeli media had reported that on BMI’s London-Tel Aviv flights, Israel and most of its cities were not marked. Only Haifa was identified, by its Arab name, Khefa. BMI explained that the plane had been acquired from a defunct airline that flew to several Arab countries.