PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Monopoly, the iconic game of capitalism, has been drawn into the dispute over Jerusalem.
Hasbro Inc. issued an apology Thursday after an employee, responding to complaints from pro-Palestinian groups, eliminated the word "Israel" after the city in an online contest to select names for a new Monopoly board game: Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition.
The company also pulled all country names from other cities on the site when even more people complained, including the Israeli government, because Jerusalem was listed as the only city without a country.
The Pawtucket-based company is asking people to vote at the Monopoly Web site on which cities will be included in the new edition. Until Tuesday, every city on the site listed a country, including Paris, France; Cairo, Egypt and Jerusalem, Israel.
But an employee based in London decided on her own without consulting senior management to pull "Israel" from Jerusalem after hearing complaints from pro-Palestinian groups and bloggers who argue that the city is not a part of Israel, Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness said Thursday.
The issue has been a sensitive one for decades: Israel captured the eastern part of Jerusalem — home to Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites — in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future independent state.
David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs at the Israeli consulate in New York, said Monopoly has a lot of fans in Israel, especially this year with Jerusalem a candidate for a spot on the Monopoly board. But after Israel was removed, he said the consulate started getting calls, first from Israeli fans, then fans elsewhere. He sent Hasbro a letter asking why Jerusalem had been singled out, he said.
"All the other cities had the country attached to their names," Saranga said. "We felt very upset."
Hasbro management was alerted to the change Wednesday when its London office saw a spike in traffic on the site and figured out what happened, Charness said. The company then pulled every country name, so Paris and Cairo also are now listed alone, he said.
"It was a bad decision, one that we rectified relatively quickly," he said. "This is a game. We never wanted to enter into any political debate. We apologize to our Monopoly fans."
Saranga said Hasbro responded quickly and professionally. While he wondered whether it was necessary to remove all the country names, he said he was satisfied with Hasbro's response.
Charness added that the game, due out in the fall, was never meant to include countries. The countries were added to the Web site to make it easier to vote.
Voting in the contest ends Feb. 29 for the Top 20 cities and March 9 for two wild card cities nominated by voters. The top vote-getting city will get the prime Boardwalk spot: as of Thursday, it was Istanbul, Turkey.