Responding to a specific complaint, the commission overturned its earlier decision and ruled that the Guardian newspaper had “violated principles of accuracy” when it referred to Tel Aviv as the Israeli capital. The precedent-setting ruling finally provides clarity on the long-running issue.
While acknowledging Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital was “arguable,” the complainants successfully reasoned that Tel Aviv was not the Israeli capital, and should not be referred to as such.
Board of Deputies Vice-President Alex Brummer said: “This ruling is welcome. It is not for the press to determine national capitals. It is time that all media outlets recognised this without qualification.”
The Zionist Federation’s Alan Aziz also welcomed the decision. He said: “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It’s time the national media and UK government stopped treating Israel differently to other nations by not recognising its capital.”
The complaint was brought by pro-Israel media watchdog HonestReporting, after the Guardian published a correction on 22 April in which it “corrected” an earlier reference to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.
Reacting to the judgement, HonestReporting’s CEO Joe Hyams said: “Fatuous claims over the status of Tel Aviv as a means to delegitimise Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital will now no longer be acceptable.”
The ruling will come as a blow to the Guardian, which has been heavily criticised by the Jewish community for its coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, acknowledged these problems. He said: “It is concerning when Guardian journalists take an unrelentingly antithetical line towards Israel. But to deliberately misrepresent facts is inexcusable.”Amir Ofek from the Israeli embassy in London added: “It was wrong to begin with, so why did the Guardian need a commission to tell them it was wrong? They should know it already.”
The ruling sets a precedent on British coverage of Israel and has already been used to force corrections from two other publications.
The Daily Mail this week corrected its reference to “the Tel Aviv government” to “the Jerusalem government,” and the Daily Telegraph corrected a reference to “the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv”.
Amendments made by all three publications were judged sufficient by the commission.
The capital of Israel has been a contentious issue in the British media for decades. The Jewish state proclaimed Jerusalem its capital in 1950, but the United Nations Security Council subsequently condemned the move, calling on states to withdraw embassies from the city