Fact Check

Marriott Letter

Did Marriott Hotels International send a letter to an Israeli travel agent addressed to "Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Area?"

Published May 15, 2002

Claim:   The Marriott International hotel chain sent a letter to an Israeli travel agent addressed to "Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Area."

Status:   Sort of.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2002]


Marriott Hotel Chain Determines: All Of Jerusalem Is "Palestinian Occupied State".

One of the largest hotel chains with hotels all around the world,the Marriott Hotel Chain, recently wrote a letter to the chairman of Erez Travel and Tourism, Uzi Yalon, in which his address was listed as:
"Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Area".

The Marriott Hotel chain is based in Washington, and its hotels have served as popular convention sites for many Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Jewish Presidents, and many Israeli delegations to Washington have stayed at the hotel.

Mr. Yalon was outraged. He wrote back a letter to the hotel chain's board:

"I was born in Jerusalem which has always been a part of the State of Israel. I am not prepared to assist in marketing a hotel chain which defines my city in such a way, and I plan to impart this to the rest of my colleagues in the upcoming convention of Israeli travel agents."

The Marriott administration did not reply to his angry letter.

Mr. Yalon also sought the intervention of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and outgoing Tourism Minister, Benny Elon.

Mr.Yalon did not delay carrying out his threat. He reported to the "Tourism" journal, the professional Israel organ for travel agents, that he is stopping marketing for the Marriott chain in Israel, and he calls on all other travel agents to follow his example.

The local representative of the Marriott hotels is an East Jerusalem tourism company run by a member of the Husseini family, Shakiv Husseini. The former regional director was also a Palestinian. Jews should consider whether they prefer to give their business to a company that is sympathetic to the Palestinian cause at the expense of the truth.

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

  Sources Sources:

    Gerstenfeld, Dan.   "Marriott Looking to Become Market Leader Here."

    The Jerusalem Post.   7 December 1998.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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