Football game or tear gas and bullets? Palestinians put racist ad to test
By Haitham Sabbah • Jul 23, 2009
The row over a racist advert of Cellcom – an Israeli mobile phone operator, which shows Israel Occupation Forces soldiers playing football with Palestinians on both sides of the Apartheid Wall, continues.
In the Cellcom advert, IOF soldiers on patrol along the Wall stop their army jeep when it is hit by a soccer ball from the Palestinian side of the 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.”
The advert has been extensively criticized for making light of the Palestinian suffering inflicted by the West Bank Apartheid Wall.
The Palestinians put controversial ad to test. A video recently posted on YouTube has tried to reenact the game in reality, and found that the result could not be further removed from the situation on the ground: when the Palestinians kick the ball to the other side of the Wall, what they get in return is a salvo of tear gas grenades and bullets.
Protesters in Bilin tested the “fun” claimed by Cellcom to find that it “smells” and can “kill you” if you play it with Israelis.
One of the activists in Bil’in said: “We wanted to show everyone how the soldiers really behave, contrary to what was shown in the ad. This is a message from the protestors on what really goes on at the separation fence – this is what we get from the soldiers, tear gas.”
The Israeli ad prompted Arab lawmakers in Israel to demand it be taken off air. MK Ahmed Tibi called to scrap this television commercial.
What the Israelis sees as “Just a little fun” is actually an Apartheid Wall that separates families and prevents children from reaching schools and clinics, yet the advertisement presents the Wall as though it were just a garden fence in Tel Aviv.
Cellcom, however, has remained defiant and stood by the commercial.
“We are a communications company that facilitates human interaction,” they said. “We don’t deal with politics. We’ve had very positive feedback about the advert. There was absolutely no cynical intention behind it.”
The ad went out during the same week as Palestinians marked the fifth anniversary of a World Court ruling that Israel’s walls and fences in the West Bank were illegal.
Hagai Matar, an Israeli activist, said that the violent atmosphere near the fence was far from resembling the pastoral, pleasant atmosphere reflected in the Cellcom advert.
“While the people of Bilin suffer from frequent and repeated harassments by the army, while the residents are subjected to nightly arrests, violence and tear gas, not only during rallies but also in their yards, the people of Bilin continue to use amusing and creative ways to protest the separation fence,” he said.
I got really too nauseous watching the ad. You see the Israeli occupation forces playing with ?!… the people that they are incarcerating behind the Apartheid Wall. But the most grotesque and disgusting part of this TV ad is the fact that the Palestinians basically aren’t seen. Why? Because they are not there waiting for the football, but for … This ad correctly portray the occupation as monsters or aliens … This is the alienation that Israeli society feels toward the Palestinian people. In reality, if a Palestinian comes close to the Apartheid Wall to return a football … he is likely to get shot.
Cellcom should take this racist commercial off the air immediately and apologies for the Palestinian people. Refusing to do so only confirms the fact that racism is a culture that is widely adopted, believed and practiced in Israel.