E-mail rumor has Jews angry at Wal-Mart


NEW YORK, Dec. 19 (JTA) – In what may be another case of an e-mail rumor run amok, the Anti-Defamation League is laying to rest allegations that Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are selling globes nationwide that denote “Palestine” but not Israel.

E-mails spreading the rumor are circulating throughout the Jewish community, prompting numerous calls to ADL offices across the country, said ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum.

In fact, the Chinese-made “Semi-Precious Stone Mosaic Globe” – a decorative gift that sells in some stores for $249.99 – does indeed identify the State of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital.

But in a curious twist of the half-century threat against Israel, it is something called “Palestine” – and not the Jews living in Israel – that seems to have been pushed into the sea. Above “Israel” and below “Lebanon” to the north, the word “Palestine” inexplicably appears on the globe, “kind of floating in the Mediterranean, without dots or demarcation,” Shinbaum said.

“Should it say Palestine? Clearly there is not an entity today that is called Palestine. There is a Palestinian Authority. But more importantly, Israel and its capital are so indicated.”

That brought relief to Tom Williams, spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores, of which Sam’s Club is a division.

“We’re gratified to see that Israel is correctly on there,” Williams said in a telephone interview from Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

The glitzy globes are landing stateside through different importers. Only some of them say “Palestine,” Williams said, though none replace Israel with Palestine.

As for why the word Palestine is even on there, Williams said, “We don’t know. We’re looking into it, seeing what’s what. It’s a decorative piece more than a globe you would actually use.”

He said several calls from the media notified him of the situation and was unaware of if or how many customers complained.

The fact that so many in the Jewish community were worked up over it illuminates one pitfall of the Internet, Shinbaum said.

“Now you can instantaneously put out information, misinformation, rumor and innuendo, and it kind of becomes fact, because it’s out there,” she said. “And the person who initiates this usually calls for some kind of action.”

In August, CNN came under fire and eventually returned Jerusalem to its place beneath the “Israel” heading on its Web site’s weather map.

However, protests against McDonald’s earlier this month petered out when it was discovered that Israel’s outlets were excluded from the chain’s Web site due to a decision made by the Israeli franchise owners, not McDonald’s.

While the ADL relies on eagle-eyed activists to notify the organization of genuine slights, inaccuracies or injustices, Shinbaum said, “People who get e-mails should be careful before they act on the e-mail, to make sure that what they’re being asked to do is the right thing to do.”

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