Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The Marriott International hotel chain sent a letter to an Israeli travel agent addressed to "Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Area."
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2002]
Origins: As we noted in a recent page about Coca-Cola, the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East makes for a precarious business climate, one in which any company doing business in both Israel and other Middle Eastern countries is subject to being denounced by one side as a supporter of the
On the Israeli side, a not uncommon claim is that a particular multi-national company has identified part (or all) of Israel — in writing or on a map — as "Palestine," leading to outraged calls for a boycott of the company and denunciations that the company is deliberately slighting Israel to court the larger Arab business market. Usually, these reports turn out to be unverifiable, the product of misunderstandings, or the work of a third party over which the vilified company had no control. In the item quoted above about Marriott International hotels, the issue is an example of the latter.
According to a Vice-President at Marriott Resorts, Inc., the basic details are correct: the chairman of an Israel-based travel agency did indeed receive a letter sent by Marriott bearing an address of "Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Area." However, that address was not the product of a deliberate decision by Marriott's corporate offices — the letter was generated by Marriott's automated reservation and commission system, and the addresses used by that system are obtained from the database of a Swiss organization which registers travel agents all over the world. Someone at the Swiss organization changed the designation for Jerusalem, and that change was automatically picked up by Marriott's computers.
Obviously, Marriott doesn't have a corporate policy of designating Jerusalem as an "Occupied Palestinian Area," as the web page for their Renaissance Jerusalem Hotel clearly identifies it as being located in Jerusalem, Israel. Moreover, since Marriott has undertaken efforts in recent years to become a market leader in the hotel business in Israel, they would have to be nothing short of completely foolish to deliberately offend Israelis in this fashion.
Marriott indicated that they would make strenuous efforts to get the Swiss organization to alter its designation for Jerusalem now that the matter has been called to their attention, and they acknowledged that they were remiss in not sending a timely letter of apology to the offended Israeli travel agent.
Last updated: 2 December 2007
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