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Michelin Guides Sue Israeli Satirist over Spoof

Michelin Guides have recently filed suite against Israeli expat satirist Shimon Tzabar, publisher of a pamphlet titled MUCH BETTER THAN THE OFFICIAL Michelin Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps, and Torture Chambres. Below is an excerpt from the guide, followed by Tzabar's defense submitted to the British Hight Court.

Shimon Tzabar

19 Jul. 2004

Update: 19 Oct. 2004

The court case was yesterday (18/10/04), in the High Court of Justice in London. After I admitted that I printed 500 copies and all were already distributed and that I have no intention to print and distribute more copies, Michelin decided to end their litigation with no demand for paying costs, fines, etc. That is the end of that saga.

shimon tzabar


Excerpt: The Guide (pp. 6-11):

Before we start our guided tour of Israel's prisons, concentration camps and torture chambers, it would make sense to ask why we are doing this. Why should anyone go on such a tour? The answer is simple: to see history in the making.

Usually, it is through newspapers that history unfolds before our eyes. In the case of Israel however, we cannot trust newspapers. They mix everything up and make us confused. We cannot distinguish any more between anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Israeli government policy. The only way to know the truth is to go there in person and see with our own eyes and watch history, true history, in the making.

Going to Israel is quite simple. Anyone can do it; with or without a travel agent. The problem, once you are there, is how to see the prisons. There are two ways to see prisons, one is from the outside and the other is from the inside. For the sake of watching history in the making, there is not much one can see from watching from the outside but, after all, it is better than nothing. Since this guide serves everyone, we thought we would help people to reach the prisons and concentration camps and to see them from the outside as well as from the inside. We therefore, where possible, provide telephone and fax numbers of the prisons and police stations concerned. It will be obvious that to see the prisons from the inside, one has to be arrested. For Palestinians or any other Arab, this is not a problem. But for people who are not Arabs and may speak Arabic but don't have the proper accent, it is not so easy to get inside a jail. So, we have to give some guidance as how to be arrested.

Of course, it is easy to commit a crime and be arrested, but we can't recommend such an ungraceful solution, especially since being arrested as a criminal may land you in the wrong jail. So, you have to do something political. You can demonstrate against the mistreating of Palestinians or try to stop bulldozers demolishing their homes or even try to save children from being shot. But this carries with it another danger. Instead of being arrested you may be shot yourself, or buried alive by the bulldozer.

This is not a hypothetical suggestion because it has already happened to a few English and American people. We must admit that there is no 100% safe way to be arrested. Watching history in the making, especially in Israel, carries some risk with it, but we will try to help make that risk as small as possible. The safest way to be arrested, although this also carries a risk with it, is to look like a Palestinian Arab. This can easily be achieved by putting on some Arab garb, such as, for example, an Arab head dress or a kafiyeh, as it is commonly known. Once you look like a Palestinian you have a good chance of being arrested. Your chance is actually so good, that you don't have to do anything in particular. You can be arrested for anything, even for smiling (in the wrong place or at the wrong person!) Once you have been arrested, don't talk or answer questions. Don't open your mouth even if you do understand what is being said. We would especially stress that whatever happens, never protest because if you do it in any other language apart from Arabic (in the correct accent), you might be released at once or worse still, you could be expelled from the country.

There is also another and much more important reason not to open your mouth. This is especially important if you want to observe what Israelis are capable of and are actually inflicting on the Palestinians. If you don't talk, they will assume that you know and have something to hide, so they will employ physical and psychological means to make you talk. They will start by beating you up. There are different methods of beating. One of them for example is known as the 'bending method'. After they have handcuffed your hands with plastic wire behind your back, and seated you on a small chair without a back support, two people will hit you: one, sitting in front of you, will push your chest with his left hand and, at the same time,will slap your chin with the palm of his right hand, while the other person, just standing behind you, will hold your head with his left hand, and box your left arm with his right fist. We go into these details so that you will know what to expect.

Other methods of first stage torture include the 'tripping game'. While your eyes are covered and you can't see, you will be given the command to go forward. The moment you move, a soldier will trip you with his boot. These are mere examples but there are a lot more surprises once you are in the hands of the Shabak, the Israeli army police.

You may rightly ask how we know all this. Is it from personal experience? The answer is no. We copied this information from a booklet by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel which was published in Jerusalem, in April 2003. You can order this booklet yourself, by writing to: Public Committee Against Torture in Israel / PO Box 4634 / Jerusalem 91046 / ISRAEL. (see also: related links)

Here is one concrete example of a torture case, as published on December 12th 2003 by the Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (Case ISR101203.CC):

“According to the information received, at around 2 pm on April 24th 2003, a 16-year-old Mejad Abdalatif Fatah Sabach was arrested by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers near Kfar Geva/Jenin (see Map 1, pp. 12/13). He was in a taxi on the way to school. The soldiers handcuffed him, stripped him of his clothes down to his underpants and hit him all over his body, including the head. They reportedly subsequently tightened his handcuffs so much that the marks were still visible, two and a half months later, when he submitted his complaint.

“While they were transporting him blindfolded to the prison facility at Araba, the soldiers beat him again. When they arrived, they threw him into the camp with his hands and feet tightly handcuffed. [Editors Note: It turns out that Araba is not a prison as such, but in fact a small Palestinian village south-west of Jenin which is occupied by a whole brigade of Israeli soldiers, called Hativat Menashe]. He was left that way until 10 pm, without receiving any food or drink. He was then transferred to the Salem detention facility (see Map 9, pp. 28/29). On arrival, four soldiers, using the butts of their rifles and sticks, beat him on the head, face, in the stomach and on the legs until he bled. This lasted until 2 am.

“Mejad was subsequently taken to the Kishon detention center (see Map 2, pp. 14/15), where he was questioned for three hours while seated on a small chair, with his hands and feet handcuffed and his body bent backwards. After this, he was put in solitary confinement for a week. During this time he was interrogated twice, once for 6 hours and once for 3 hours.

“He was then taken to Megido Prison (see Map 9, pp. 28/29). After having been held there for 15 days in a tent with 20 other prisoners, he was sent back to the Kishon Detention center for another week in solitary confinement. On the 7th day of detention there, he was taken for interrogation which lasted from 10 am to 5 pm.

“During this interrogation, Mejad was placed in a painful position, his back stretched backwards, with his interrogator kicking him in the legs. The following day, he was again interrogated for three hours, seated in the same position. The many kicks that he received made it difficult for for him to stand. After this interrogation, he was taken back to his cell, where he remained until June 20th 2003, when he was taken to the Hasharon Prison. There could be some confusion here because there are 2 prisons called Hasharon. One is situated on Road 553, near Tel-Mond, (see Map 4, pp. 18/19) which belongs to the Prison Service, and the other belongs to the Police and is near Petach-Tikwa (see Map 5, pp. 20/21), where he is still being held”.


On top of physical torture one can also expect psychological torture. Since psychological torture involves vocals, and is executed in Hebrew or in Arabic, those who don't know these languages will not understand a word and, therefore, have nothing to fear.

Bon voyage.


Letter submitted to the British High Court, Chancery Division, in London, in response to a suite by famed international publishing house Michelin, against the MUCH BETTER THAN THE OFFICIAL Michelin Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps, and Torture Chambres:

Michelin 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 other, real or imagined damages, like damage to reputation for example, I will refer 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 a 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 letters, the title which is: “MUCH BETTER THAN THE OFFICIAL Michelin guide” if it is better, it cannot be a Michelin guide. This must be clear to everyone. In addition, I printed on the spine: “THE TOURIST GUIDE THAT NEVER WAS. These additions are clear evidence that it is not a genuine Michelin guide but a spoof.

The idea came to me from the Campbell Soup silk-screen print, by the artist Andy Warhol. He took a commercial logo and made an art object 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 is 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

In spite of all that, 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 humor to tolerate a spoof based on one of their products, especially for such an 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, objecting to what I had done, I was sure that they did not mind. So, I enveloped all the pamphlets with this cover 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 rain repeatedly spattering

its words, filling 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!


[oznik.comment: We have been able to obtain a copy of the Much Better than the official Michelin Guide and wish to inform our readers that in addition to detailed maps and brief descriptions of Israeli prisons, jails, concentration camps, and torture chambers, this pamphlet also contains a translation of a memoir published in Israel, but nowhere else. Checkpoint Syndrome by Liran Ron Furer, is a personal account of an Israeli soldier's experience as an occupier, and his being haunted by this memory. A note found among the pages of the book says: "We asked for permission to translate Checkpoint Syndrome from Hebrew into English but it was denied. Since we think the book is of great importance, we have decided to translate and publish it without permission. The Editors."]


Shimon Tzabar is a satirist, poet, and artist. A new edition of his book, The White Flag Principle: How to Lose a War (and Why) (buy from an independent book shop, buy from Amazon) was published by Four Walls Eight Windows in Feb. 2003. Tzabar is editor of Israel Imperial News.