A marketing gimmick exploiting the current Gaza crisis by a leading car rental company backfired as it angered Muslim clients.
Hertz, the largest car rental company in the world, hurriedly insisted that Israeli airline El Al take an advertisement off its website that offered free car rentals to British passengers who flew to Israel showing "solidarity" during the invasion of Gaza.
The ad said: "Now, more than ever is the time to come to Israel. Come express your solidarity with Israel. Fly with El Al and receive three- or four-day car rental for free!"
It has been running on El Al's website since January 8, the fifth day of the invasion. The angered British Muslim community said it was appalled by the advertisement.
Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, one of Britain's leading Muslim civil rights groups, said: "If a company like Hertz would pull out of this deal with El Al it would speak volumes, and mean so much to so many people. We would applaud such a decision."
The Hertz Corporation said the advertisement was run by their Israeli franchise operator, which they were not aware of.
They said they did not want to be associated with the offer and said they had called on El Al to remove it. They have already insisted that their logo be taken off the promotion.
The ad had a clearly visible Hertz logo and when users clicked on it they could view the terms and conditions, which stated that the deal with Hertz Israel was valid for El Al tickets to the country.
The deal was launched on January 8, five days after Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza.
A Hertz spokesperson apologised to individuals offended by the promotion run by El Al and their Israeli franchise operator who trades under the Hertz brand.
A senior advisor from the Dubai Executive Office, said: "I suspect that Hertz might not have known about the promotion, although they should have. Such campaigns are not enforced by any political stance. They are merely misguided and foolish marketing tactics to make more money not taking into consideration the cultural, political and otherwise social constraints of local communities.
"Multinationals operating in the region have to understand the peculiarities of the markets they operate in. However, this happens also when a local agency is operated by somebody else, and does not report to the head office. Regional offices in international corporations have a certain amount of autonomy."
The senior advisor added that punishment of the international company, however, could be somewhat an over reaction, should the Hertz Corporation be boycotted based on the Israeli franchise operator's adoption of a similar marketing strategy.
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