The tourist guide that never was

[.......] I decided to look at different ways to spread the message. An idea came to me: to send our message through pre-existing and well established channels. My first target was the Michelin's tourist guides. I decided to publish a Michelin Guide to Israeli prisons, jails, concentration camps and torture chambers. I knew that this was a bit risky. If the guide looked too much like a Michelin guide, Michelin would, probably take me to court. If it did not look like a Michelin guide, it wouldn't attract the attention that I wished for. It looked like I would have to tread on a thin line. Thinking more about it, I said to myself, why should I tread carefully? After all what could Michelin do to me? Even if they take me to court, and win the case, why should I care? They can fine me, but I've no money and no assets. If I don't pay the fine, they can put me in jail. If they will do that, the Palestinian case will get publicity and this is what really matters. If one fights a war, one should expect to pay a price. What I had to be careful about though, was not to drag other people with me. My main worry was the printer and people who donated money for this project. I had enough experience in publishing to know that no printer will dare to print something that will put him to such a risk. I decided therefore that the book itself would not mention or even give a hint of any connection to a Michelin Guide. It would only be the cover of the book that would make that connection and the cover could be printed on a good home printer attached to a computer.
I took a Michelin guide cover, copied it, and as the last line of defense, I added, just above the Michelin logo MUCH BETTER THAN THE OFFICIAL and on the spine THE TOURIST GUIDE THAT NEVER WAS. The main message was, of course, in the book itself. So, when one turned the cover, one was confronted with the front page that read:

The Grand Tour of the Palestinian Holocaust

The Israeli efforts to get rid of the Palestinians and settle Jews in their place in the whole of the Holy Land.

And the world looks on and does nothing just as it did during the Jewish holocaust.

The Introduction stated:

Some might object to our calling the policy of eliminating the Palestinians, which is what the Zionist Israeli government is doing, a Holocaust. The fact that the Jews were the victims of a Holocaust does not give them the copyright on the name or on the concept. Holocausts are not a Nazi invention. There were a lot of Holocausts in human history from very early times. Many communities have been wiped out by other communities and the Jewish Holocaust was one of many.

The Nazis in Germany wanted to eliminate the Jews from Europe. They had their methods to achieve their aim. The Zionists in Israel want to eliminate the Palestinians and they use sometimes similar and sometimes different methods to those the Nazis used. The Nazis didn't start the Holocaust with the gas chambers, this came much later. They started by declaring the Jews as undesirable sub-humans. The Israelis have done something similar. They haven't officially declared the Palestinians to be sub-human, but they have treated them as such. Once you have treated a group of people as sub-humans, it is not quite so serious a crime to kill them, to beat them up […] or to burn down their synagogues or mosques. (When it happened to Jews, it was known as a pogrom). The Zionist regime has encouraged the Israeli people to treat Palestinians in a similar manner.

The next step for the Nazis was to arrest the Jews and put them in concentration camps. The Israelis have arrested some Palestinians, but they are clever: instead of building concentration camps they have turned Palestinian towns and villages into concentration camps by enclosing them behind barbed wire fences and (now) a concrete wall; behind these they do their arrests and shooting. When Palestinians object to the way they are treated, their objections are regarded as acts of terror. This is true not only when young Palestinians blow themselves up in Israeli coffee shops and market places, but also when children throw stones at Israeli soldiers. Resistance is then used as an excuse for more arrests, house demolitions and killings. It all serves the Zionist aim of crushing the Palestinians. This is the creeping Holocaust happening under our eyes today.

Editorial Staff

Before we go any further, we would like to give you some information about the producers of this guide. This guide was produced by a small group of native Israelis who left the country of their birth after the war of 1967. When that war, in which some of them served as soldiers, ended, they discovered that it had not been a defensive war against invading armies, as they were told at the time, but a war provoked by Israel itself, in order to conquer the West Bank and annex it, while driving out its native inhabitants. The editors of this guide are Shimon Tzabar and Rami Heilbronn.

When the Michelin Guide book was ready, I started to distribute it. I sent it to journalists and some people in the public eye. I also started to sell it at demonstrations and in meetings about Palestine, and spread the message on the Internet, and so did others who got to know about the book. More and more people asked for it and gradually it has become a collectors' item. It is not that often that Michelin produces a guide book for prisons! I sent one copy to the Michelin headquarters in France with a note inside with my address. I said to myself that if they want to charge me, let them do it sooner rather than than later. After a short while I received two letters from two different firms of solicitors, DLL LLP and Lloyd Wise,

The two letters were almost identical. The Lloyd Wise letter started:

"Dear Mr. Tzabar,

Re. Michelin Guide

We act for the Michelin group of companies. Enclosed is a picture of the front cover of a book entitled "Much Better Then the Official Michelin Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps and Torture Chambers …" and so it went on in a learned, boring, lawyers literary language for 3 pages, ending with the threat that "…. If we do not receive our request and undertaking by close of business on Wednesday 26th May 2004, our client reserves its right to take whatever further action it deems necessary……

Yours faithfully"

In short, they told me to stop distributing the guide; to send them all the remaining copies and apologize. Otherwise Michelin would take me to court. I was not surprised, and told Lloyd Wise in a polite letter to get lost, and immediately wrote another letter to the Michelin head office in France:

Dear Mr. Hiebel

Re Much better than the Michelin Guide

I assume that by now you know about my letter of the 3rd of June that I sent to DLA LLP in response to their charges.

In this letter to you, I want to elaborate on the example of Andy Warhol that I mentioned in my answer to Lloyd Wise. Andy Warhol used the Campbell soup logo to attack capitalism and commercialism by reproducing endless pictures of Campbell soup. The company producing Campbell soup was aware that Warhol was using their logo without permission, but instead of taking him to court they realised that it was the best advertisement they ever had .

I did not give you the example of Warhol to ask for permission to use the name and the Michelin logo on my brochure. I am not even asking you to answer this letter. What I do ask, is to take these two companies of lawyers (DLA LLP and Lloyd Wise) off my back. Continuing to harass me about the cover of the brochure will not do Michelin any good. I'm not going to destroy the few brochures that are still left with me, brochures that I sent only to my friends and their friends, who think likewise. If the lawyers will continue to demand that I destroy these brochures or the cover of these brochures, I won't do it. I'll rather go to court. I'll repeat in court the same arguments that I made in my letters. I'm not sure that I'm going to win the case, but whatever happens, the press and the media will make a meal out of it and the public will get the impression that Michelin has gone political and is trying to defend the Israeli government in their use of violence and warfare against the Palestinians. If I lose the case, a fine and other payments may be imposed on me. If the fine and the payments will be such that I'll not be able to pay them, the court may send me to prison. The public will get the impression that Michelin is not only defending Israel's violence against the Palestinians, but is also sending to jail an old, disabled pensioner of 78 years of age. I don't think that this will enhance the reputation of Michelin.

Yours truly, Shimon Tzabar

As I shortly found out, my letter did not help. I received an official Court Order, delivered to me by hand, to appear at the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, on Monday, the 18th day of October 2004, to answer the accusation that I robbed Michelin of some of its property rights and profits (robbed was not the word used, but I employ it here, to make a long story, short). Having read Michelin's accusations, I sent my carefully written defense to the Court and here it is, in full:

Michelin's claim against me is invalid, for the following reasons:

1. The "book" that Michelin is referring to, is not a book in a commercial sense. The "book" that the claimants are referring to, is not a book in a commercial sense. It doesn't have an ISBN number or a publisher. It has not been sent to the British Library as the law requires of any book published in this country and has not been sent to any bookshop to be sold to customers. It is a political pamphlet, given free or in exchange for a small donation that some people send us voluntarily or at our request, to cover the cost of printing and postage. A notification of the existence of this pamphlet and a request for a donation was only sent to a few people who are on my e-mail address list.

Since it is not a book in the commercial sense, it could not have caused any loss or financial damage as Michelin claims. As for the other, real or imagined damages, like damage to reputation for example, I will refer to these later on. This pamphlet is a political publication. It attacks the government of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians; for their imprisonment and torture, for the demolition of their houses and for the killing of hundreds of innocent people, including children. To make it impressive, it is written in a literary style of satire that I've learned from Jonathan Swift.

2. The cover of the pamphlet is a visual satire to fit the style of the text. I assume that what the claimants are objecting to is not the pamphlet itself but the cover of that pamphlet. That cover, which was printed separately and added to the pamphlet later on, is in the same spirit of satire as the text is. I chose the subject of the satire on the front page to be that of the famous Michelin guide. However, I made it clear that it is not a real Michelin guide. I made this clear by printing, on the cover, in bold white letters, the title which is: MUCH BETTER THEN THE OFFICIAL. If it is better, it cannot be a Michelin Guides. This must be clear to everyone. To make it even clearer, I have printed on the spine: THE TOURIST GUIDE THAT NEVER WAS. All this is clear evidence that it is not a genuine Michelin guide but a spoof. The idea came to me from the Campbell Soup silk-screen by Andy Warholl. He took a commercial logo and made an object of art out of it. Since I am also an artist I thought that I can create something in the same spirit.

3. The accusation that I have caused damages to Michelin, cannot not true. I have already explained in paragraph 1), why my publication could not have caused financial damage to the claimant. As for damage to reputation, I must say that the way I used the name of Michelin in the cover of the spoof, could only add to their reputation, not to damage it. I used their name to make the international public aware that Israel is trying to eliminate the Palestinians. I tried to prevent a holocaust. I am sure that Michelin, as a company that employs many people, supports humanitarian causes but as a commercial company they cannot express it.

4. Michelin has given me a tacit permission to distribute it by not getting in touch with me when I sent them the booklet prior to its distribution. In spite of all the above, I still wanted to make sure that Michelin did not object to the spoof. Being a French company, I was sure that they would know what satire is and would have enough sense of humility to tolerate a spoof based on one of their products, especially for such a humanitarian cause. To make sure that they did not object, I made one copy of this cover, enveloped a pamphlet with it and sent it to Michelin with a note of my address stacked among the pages. Since I did not receive any response from them for over three weeks, I was sure that they did not mind. So I enveloped all the pamphlets and started to distribute them among my friends.

Allow me to end my defense by quoting a short poem written by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:

You will ask: where are the lilacs
And the metaphysics petalled with poppies
And the repeatedly spattering
its words, filling rain them with holes and birds?…
You will ask why his poetry does not speak of
dreams and leaves, and the great volcanoes of
his birthplace?
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood in the streets
Come and see the blood in the streets!

I came to the courtroom. Some of my friends were already there. Since I represented myself, I was allowed an adviser to sit next to me. I chose Daniel Machover, who is a solicitor, just in case. The Judge entered. Michelin's lawyers read the accusations. The Judge asked me how many copies had been printed. I answered that I had printed 500 copies. "And how many copies do you still have left?" I answered that I was left with only a few, maybe five or six copies. "Are you going to print more?" the Judge asked. "No," I answered, "I have no more money left". At this point the Judge decided to have a break and left us to ourselves. Daniel had a short discussion with the Michelin lawyers. He returned after a few minutes to tell me that Michelin were withdrawing the charges, unconditionally, without any demand for a fine or for an apology.

The trial was too short for my liking, but there was nothing I could do, and even this short episode had some results. An article about the court case appeared in the Guardian, it featured on the BBC news and, on the next day, in the Jerusalem Post in Israel.
I wonder if I could regard the Michelin project as a success. Can I claim that I managed to help the Palestinians, even a little? No, I cannot claim that. The Israeli army continues to kill Palestinians and demolish their houses, as before. It seems that justice is a nice aim, worthy to fight for, but military power is no less powerful and at the end it might even win. I was forced to think again about this thing called justice. What is it? Why do some of us fight for it with a conviction that, in the end, justice must win? Could the answer be that we have been brainwashed by the movies, where at the end, justice always wins? If true, are we near the end? Perhaps, we could wait a bit. But if not, we will have to wait a long time.