The National Basketball Association (NBA) removed “Palestine—occupied territory” from list of countries on its official website on Friday following request from Israeli official.
In a new website the league set up for the 2018 All-Star Game in Los Angeles that enables fans to vote for their favourite players, fans are directed to a page where they are instructed to pick which country they are from. The website lists the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” along with other countries.
In a letter to the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev called Palestine "an imaginary state” and said the listing was not in line with President Donald Trump's recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
"I view the inclusion of the delusional ‘Occupied Palestine’ in the list of countries appearing on your official website as legitimatising the division of the state of Israel," Regev said in the letter, claiming that it hurts Israel and the many Israeli NBA fans.
"I would like to express my disapproval and am asking you to immediately remove ‘Palestine–occupied territory’ from the list of states," she added.
Blaming a third party, the NBA immediately said it was not responsible for the wording of the listing and removed it.
“We do not produce the country listings for NBA.com, and as soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated. We apologize for this oversight and have corrected it,” said the NBA's president of social responsibility, Kathy Behrens, according to Israeli media reports.
Regev thanked NBA officials for removing the listing, saying: “Israel’s lands are not occupied; therefore, what was written was false and should have been deleted.”
The move drew a storm of criticism from the public.
"You do have to laugh at America really. Israel now has such control that it tells Americans what they can put on their own websites. And the Americans apologise for offending Israel," ironically said Phelim Murnion, a Twitter user.
"The NBA should erase Israel from its league, given it is in violation of international law and is an apartheid regime and illegal occupation," said Benjamin Zac, a human rights activist.
"Let me fix this. Powerful Israeli lobby forces NBA to change its website to reflect a lie," another activist said in a tweet.