Israel phone firm's West Bank wall gag fails to amuse

Sun Jul 12, 2009 3:34pm EDT
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By Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Alastair Macdonald

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A television advert for an Israeli cellphone firm showing soldiers playing soccer over the West Bank barrier has sparked cries of bad taste and prompted Arab lawmakers on 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 neighbors, 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 U.S. 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."

"RACIST COMMERCIAL"   Continued...