Light-hearted it may seem, but the latest ad from Israeli telecommunications company Cellcom is plain offensive for many in the region. The scene shows IDF soldiers playing football with (unseen) Palestinians, across the separation wall. A concept which, according to its critics, ridicules the Palestinians' situation.
“The ad is loyal to the argument for constructing the wall”
Ghassan Abdullah is an IT programmer from Ramallah, West Bank.
Not many people have seen this ad in the Palestinian Territories as it's in Hebrew and broadcast in Israel. We don't have access to the same channels. The wall we see in the ad is not the only wall for us, there's also another; an information wall.
The ad is loyal to the argument for constructing the wall, which was called up by Ehud Barak during the annual Herzliya Conference in 2000. His speech went something like ‘We don't want to see them and we don't want them to see us'. The separation is a reality that we live with everyday. Israeli people are banned by the government from coming into the West Bank. They face a fine of between 3,000 and 5,000 shekels [between 540 and 900 euros] for doing so. The Israeli authorities simply don't allow their citizens to meet Palestinian people. If they knew more about us, they would realise that we're not the monsters they make us out to be.
What's also important to note, is the comments that Israelis have been making about this ad. Even if they are criticising it, they do consider that the wall was built to protect them, whereas this wall was really built so that Israelis could steal Palestinian land."
The reality of the matter...
“It is all the more outrageous because it takes place in a fun set-up”
Tzika Besor is a blogger and IT consultant from Yavné, central Israel.
No commercial has ever entered into politics so boldly as this one. They used the wall as a non-political icon, a trivial thing, as if there's no problem with it. The wall is not about fun. It's a sad fact of life and many Israelis see it as an evil necessity.
The fact that the Palestinians are invisible in the ad makes it seem like we can only have fun if Palestinians remain unseen, if they accept the occupation, abandon the idea of self determination and accept the constraints imposed on their movements. In some way, the advertising agency has tried to convey a positive message about Israelis and Palestinians playing together. But the price to pay for that is that Palestinians cannot be seen, and that their desires and struggles remain ignored. It is all the more outrageous because it takes place in a fun set-up.
On top of that the ad also has a sexist aspect as female soldiers only play cheerleaders. I think the ad depicts the bluntest portrayal of Israelis - that they're sporty male soldiers, having fun, living in a self-centred world, unable to see past it to the people beyond."
The advert causing the trouble
- What's going on?
- Give them their ball back.
- Come on, let's go guys.
The ball is returned
- Alright, let's have some fun!
- Three soldiers at the ready... hold your positions....
- So cool!
Voiceover: "At the end of the day, what are we all after? Just a little fun! Cellcom Media, a world of fun: music, video, internet. Let's everyone have some fun. It's so cool! It's Cellcom!
The ad was commissioned by Cellcom and created by Israeli subsidiary company of McCann Erickson.
On Sunday a number of Israeli Arab ministers called for the ad to be removed immediately. A group appeared on Facebook called "I'm disgusted by Cellcom's new ad" (in Hebrew), because they consider it racist.