My Take

Confusion over the question of Israel's 'capital'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 3:13am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 3:13am

I am intrigued by the clarification in this newspaper today. It says: "The report … referred to Tel Aviv as Israel's capital. The city is considered Israel's financial and business capital."

The question you naturally ask is: so which city is Israel's capital?

This is an issue that plagues many a newspaper that remains neutral in reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2012, The Guardian experienced the same problem. If you wonder why our correction is so short, well, it's partly because explaining any more, like The Guardian did, would invite trouble.

In April that year, the left-leaning British newspaper ran a correction apologising for "wrongly" identifying Jerusalem as Israel's capital in a photo caption. Its style guide at the time referred to Tel Aviv as the country's capital.

The correction led Honest Reporting, a pro-Israel group in Britain, to complain to the Press Complaints Commission. The commission initially supported The Guardian, but after Honest Reporting threatened to launch a judicial review, the commission relented and asked the paper to defend its position.

That led The Guardian to revise its style guide in August, acknowledging it was wrong to call Tel Aviv Israel's capital. The revised guide states: "Jerusalem is the seat of government and Tel Aviv is the country's diplomatic and financial centre."

However, it also insisted that Jerusalem is not the capital either because it is not recognised as such by the international community.

It's worth noting here that even the United States, Israel's closest ally, does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital. Israel took East Jerusalem from Jordan during the six-day war of 1967, thereby taking control of the entire holy city.

The Knesset, Israel's parliament, has indeed declared Jerusalem the capital. But the international consensus is that the city's final status can only be determined through a settlement with the Palestinians, who also claim the holy city as their own.

Both The Guardian and Israel are right, up to a point. The newspaper is surely right not to call Jerusalem the capital. However, it is certainly within Israel's right to insist that Tel Aviv is not the capital either.

Confused? I am!