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Jewish Journal

Israel & e-Urban Legends

by Matthew E. Berger

March 7, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Is Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc. doctoring maps of Israel in its promotional material in order to woo Arab customers?

That's what the latest *urgent* message being passed around on the Internet alleges.

But like many Web campaigns, this hysterical report is false -- and Jewish organizations are coming to the aid of Fuji and Sony, another company erroneously accused of the same crime.

This is not the first false information being disseminated on the Web, especially when it comes to Israel and the Jews. Previous e-mail "urban legends" have claimed that Wal-Mart stores were selling globes with Israel labeled "Palestine" and that the Sprint long-distance service was billing Israel calls as "Palestine."

The Wal-Mart claim was wrong, while Sprint said international standards obligated it to designate calls to the 970 country code as being to the Palestinian Authority, which it had inadvertently abbreviated to "Palestine."

This latest anonymous e-mail reads: "Fuji Co. removed Israel from its complimentary world map which is distributed to their customers with a purchase.... Yes, in Fuji stores abroad you receive the world map without Israel!!!"

Later in the e-mail it tells people "Subaru is Fuji." In fact, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. is the parent company of Subaru of America, Inc. Though it shares the same common Japanese name, the company is unrelated to the film manufacturer.

Fujifilm has received more than 500 e-mail complaints on the issue in the last few days. Its representatives say a third-party wholesaler in the Ivory Coast produced and distributed -- without permission -- a calendar bearing the Fuji logo that excluded Israel.

"Apparently this third-party wholesaler created a calendar with a map, and put our logo on the map," Fuji spokesman Tom Shay said. "They did not have permission to use our logo."

Officials at several Jewish organizations have been besieged with complaints from people upset over the Fujifilm rumors.

The Anti-Defamation League listed Fuji's response on its Web site. Because of the call volume, even the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, which normally deals with media issues, was forced to circulate an e-mail with the Fuji and Subaru responses to the incident.

Shay said Fujifilm has not decided whether it should be more proactive in fighting the rumor.

"We are really watching it very closely," he said. "We certainly don't want to add to the issue if it is going to resolve itself over the next few days." -- Matthew E. Berger, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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