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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK

World: Middle East

Protests force Israeli wine label change

The Islamic sites dominate the skyline of Jerusalem's old city

An Israeli wine maker has agreed to change the design of one of its labels which depicted holy Islamic shrines on the label.

Al-Aqsa Mosque and the adjacent Dome of the Rock - both prominent features of the Jerusalem skyline - appeared on the label of the "Jerusalem 2000" brand produced to mark the coming millennium.

[ image: The company has stumbled into a major diplomatic row]
The company has stumbled into a major diplomatic row
The association between alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam, and religious sites has proved highly offensive to Muslims around the world.

The owner of Baron Wine Cellars, Yonathan Tishbi, said his company had never intended the label to offend anyone, but it has been changed in response to complaints.

Officials at the winery said new labels would come out next week, but would not say what they will look like. Bottles already distributed will not be recalled.

Uncorking controversy

Protests were led by the Secretary General of the Arab League, Esmat Abdel-Meguid, who said the issue illustrated Israeli disdain for Muslim feelings.

As well as religous sensibilities, the label touched on the ultra-sensitive question of the future of Jerusalem, whose future status is due to be discussed by Palestinians and Israelis in the coming months.

[ image: For Muslims, alcohol and religion don't mix]
For Muslims, alcohol and religion don't mix
"This insolence is consistent with Israeli policies of Judaizing Jerusalem," Yasser Arafat's Palestinain Authority said.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry called for a strong response from the Islamic world to confront what it saw as ridicule.

The action "once again proved that (Israel) will not miss any opportunity to affront and insult the cultural heritage of the Islamic civilization," a spokesman in Tehran said.


It is not clear if protests will cease at the news of the re-branding.

Recent months have witnessed a noticeable resurgence of campaigns to put pressure on businesses which have adopted positions unacceptable to Arabs or Muslims.

[ image: Arabs have also objected to Israeli portrayal of Jerusalem at Disney World]
Arabs have also objected to Israeli portrayal of Jerusalem at Disney World
In August, the Burger King fast-food chain withdrew from a restaurant bearing its name in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

The dispute over an Israeli-funded exhibit at a millennium attraction at Disney World in Florida remains unresolved.

But if the wine-label 'insult' resulted from naivety, there have in the past been deliberate and sinister attempts at creating offence.

In April, an Israeli court sentenced a Jewish extremist to three-and-a-half years in jail for plotting to throw a pig's head into the sites' enclosure.

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