Foreign Ministry slams Guardian newspaper for insisting Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital

‘When a claim is so factually wrong as to insult intelligence, then unfortunately the word “lie” is not too harsh,’ spokesperson says

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Guardian's website (screenshot)
The Guardian's website (screenshot)

Israel reacted with unusually sharp criticism Wednesday to a British newspaper’s designation of Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, calling it a “blatant lie” that insults people’s intelligence.

On Sunday, the London-based Guardian newspaper ran a correction of a photo caption it had run two days earlier that described Jews in Jerusalem as being in Israel’s capital.

“The caption on a photograph featuring passengers on a tram in Jerusalem observing a two-minute silence for Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance for the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, wrongly referred to the city as the Israeli capital,” the correction read. “The Guardian style guide states: ‘Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.’”

Indeed, the newspaper’s style guide includes the above entry, adding that designating Jerusalem as capital is “a mistake we have made more than once.”

Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Ilana Stein told The Times of Israel: “Actually, it’s the Guardian who owes an explanation to its readers for publishing something that cannot be described but as a blatant lie. When a claim is so factually wrong as to insult intelligence, then unfortunately the word ‘lie’ is not too harsh, and one cannot but wonder about the motivation of such a conceit.”

The Guardian’s policy vis-à-vis Israel’s capital raised ire among some British readers. Writing on CiFWatch, a blog critically commenting on the Guardian’s Israel coverage, one person asked: “Is there any other country in the world for which the Guardian’s style guide defines the capital as being other than the city that country has selected as its capital? If any newspaper’s ‘style guide’ decreed that London is not the capital of England, would that not be ludicrous? Is the next step for the Guardian style guide to decide that Israel is not a country but Palestine is, even though exactly the opposite is true?”

Most of the international community does not recognized Israel’s designation of Jerusalem as its capital, saying the city’s status needs to be determined in future agreements. Virtually every nation has its embassy in Tel Aviv.

Last month, the Foreign Ministry decided not to respond sharply to the US State Department’s refusal to consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel. A State Department spokesperson had resolutely rebuffed questions as to what Israel’s capital is, merely stating that the issue of Jerusalem has to be resolved through negotiations.

“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital by decision of the Knesset and nothing can change that,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel at the time. “Every country is entitled to choose its own capital and it is not for others to designate anyone else’s capital. It’s our capital, no matter what anyone else is saying.”

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