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Wed 15 Jul 2009 10:33 AM

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Israeli mobile phone ad sparks Arab outrage

Commercial for Cellcom makes light of Palestinian suffering, Arab lawmakers say.

A television advert for an Israeli mobile phone firm showing soldiers playing football over the West Bank barrier has sparked cries of bad taste and prompted Arab lawmakers Sunday to demand it be taken off air.

The jaunty commercial for Israel's biggest mobile phone company Cellcom makes light of Palestinian suffering and shows how far Israelis fail to understand their neighbours, critics said. The company stood by the ad, however.

It shows a ball falling on an Israeli army jeep from the far side of a towering wall. A game ensues, back and forth with the unseen Palestinians after a soldier dials up "reinforcements," including two smiling women in uniform, to come and play.

The advertisement made by McCann Erickson, part of US Interpublic Group, ends with the upbeat voiceover: "After all, what are we all after? Just a little fun."

Since the ad went out last week – as Palestinians marked the fifth anniversary of a World Court ruling that Israel's walls and fences in the West Bank were illegal – some Israelis have taken to blogs and social networking sites to voice dismay.

"Aside from being a great contender for the 'creepiest ads of all time', this one-minute ad says a lot about how mainstream Israel likes to see itself and the Palestinians," journalist Dimi Reider wrote in a blog which concluded most of his fellow Israelis did not understand Palestinians' rage at the barrier.

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of Israel's parliament, said he had written to Cellcom demanding it pull the ad. "The barrier separates families and prevents children from reaching schools and clinics," he told Reuters. "Yet the advertisement presents the barrier as though it were just a garden fence in Tel Aviv."

Few Palestinians watch the Israeli stations where the advert aired but there was outrage among liberal Israelis on the web.

A Hebrew-language Facebook group called "I too got nauseous watching the new Cellcom ad" had signed up 218 members. They demanded "take this racist commercial off the air immediately."

Israeli blogger Ami Kaufman told Reuters: "We see Israeli soldiers playing with ... the people that they are incarcerating behind the wall. But the most grotesque, most disturbing part of this ad is the fact that the Palestinians basically aren't seen ... They're like monsters or aliens ... This is the alienation that Israeli society feels toward the Palestinian people."

Noam Sheizaf, another Israeli journalist and blogger, said it distorted reality: "In reality, if a Palestinian comes close to the fence to return a football ... he is likely to get shot."

Asked to comment, Cellcom said its "core value is communication between people" regardless of "religion, race or gender." It said the commercial illustrated the possibility for people of diverse opinions to engage in "mutual entertainment."

A spokeswoman said it was a coincidence the ad came out so close to last Thursday's anniversary of the 2004 decision by the World Court that Israel had no right to build hundreds of miles of walls and fences on Palestinian land it took in a 1967 war.

Israel built the barrier with the declared aim of stopping suicide bombers. For Palestinians, it has become one of the most hated symbols of Israeli occupation, a land grab whose course round Jewish settlements would cripple any state they establish. (Reuters)

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Schlomo 11 years ago

It is often taken as their attack against critics, calling people who despise Israel for all it stands for as simply "anti-semitic". The country is illegal, dishonest and failing in a big way, so no wonder they don't give a damn as to who they offend. They are doomed because they stole land, killed children and lied about their nukes. The holocaust was too long ago for them to use as an excuse, so now they just play football with Palestinians' rights.

Reem 11 years ago

I wonder why Zionist can get away still with their pathatic blackmailing of the long overused boring anti-semitism claim! Isn't what they have been doing for the past 60 years is anti-arab planting themselves as the only non arab state between all arab nation and abusing them at any chance they get? "Politics is very simple when we understand true History"

macca 11 years ago

These words say it all...."Israel built the walls to stop the suicide bombers", blame them !!! and blame them wherever they are, stop supporting them and stop supporting what they do, and stop financing them. Let the Jews live in peace.

Mounir 11 years ago

As a palestinian, i would like Palestinians to focus more on how the current 'president' (whose presidency actually expired in January of 2009 and yet for some reason he is not out of office yet) Mahmoud Abbas, and his right hand thug Mohammed Dahlan have been accused (with official proof) of collaborating in the murder of Yasser Araft by a very, very senior PLO leader, Mr. Qaddoumi. Until the internal rift between palestinians is fixed, we should not be bothered with what 'the other side' is doing. If they want to make light of the wall that was built by Palestinian labourers using Palestinian cement provided by a member of the PA, then let them. We got bigger things to worry about.