UK Press Commission: Tel Aviv is Capital of Israel

The British Press Complaints Commission ruled that UK media has the right to refer to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

Soldiers at Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusale
Soldiers at Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusale

The British Press Complaints Commission ruled that UK media has the right to refer to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

The highly controversial ruling comes in response to a photo posted by The Guardian nearly a month ago portraying passengers on Jerusalem’s light rail observing a minute of silence in commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.

The caption, which originally referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompted a correction that read, “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 Guardian style guide states: “Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.”

The Honest Reporting media watchdog submitted an official complaint to the United Kingdom Press Complains Commission asserting that Jerusalem is, in fact, the declared capital of the State of Israel.

In its decision, the Press Complaints Commission stated that, "While it is correct to say that Israel classes Jerusalem as her capital city, this is not recognized by many countries and those nations enjoying diplomatic relations with Israel have their embassies in Tel Aviv. As such, the Commission was of the view that the newspaper was entitled to refer to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. There was no breach of the Code in this instance."

This ruling was defined by the commission’s official code on media reporting, which states that newspapers should avoid publishing “inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” and that in the event of doing so, the “distortion once recognised must be corrected promptly and with due prominence.”

The UK Foreign Office asserted that, “Israel maintains that Jerusalem is its capital city, a claim not recognised by the UK and its international community. The UK locates its embassy in Tel Aviv.”

HonestReporting denounced the ruling as well as its timing, which coincided with Jerusalem Day, describing it as a rehashing of British “imperialism.”

“This is astonishing and outrageous. Aside from a sovereign state’s right to determine its own capital, international convention maintains that a capital city is usually where a state’s central political institutions reside,” the media watchdog claimed.

“We believe that this flawed ruing has the potential to further delegitimize Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, giving the media carte blanche to follow The Guardian’s lead,” it asserted.

Numerous other media outlets refuse or refrain from recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

In 2007, The BBC sparked controversy when it apologized for referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  

Fraser Steel, head of the network’s editorial complaints issued an online correction stating, “We of course accept that the international community does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that the BBC should not describe it as such...I apologise for this factual mistake. I appreciate that the status of Jerusalem is of particular concern to Palestinians, and it is important that it is not misrepresented.”

In response, Israel’s foreign ministry affirmed that, “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It is the right if every sovereign state to determine which city will be its capital. If this is not accepted by everyone today, I am confident it will be in the future.”