Posted Thursday, July 23, 2009, at 10:43 AM
A new ad for a mobile phone service in Israel has stirred up some controversy. At the start of the spot, we see a group of Israeli soldiers patrolling the West Bank wall. A projectile hits their jeep, causing them to scatter and draw their rifles. Turns out the object was merely an errant soccer ball that flew over from the Palestinian side of the fence. The soldiers kick the ball back. Soon enough, an impromptu foot-volley game is under way with the unseen Palestinians. Voice-over: "At the end of the day, what are we all after? Just a little fun! Let's everyone have some fun. It's so cool! It's Cellcom!"
Some have denounced the ad for its breezy, upbeat take on a miserable situation. Which is fair enough. The spot is clearly well-meaning, but the bubblegum pop song and cheerleading Israeli chicks do seem a tad out of place in this particular context.
The big mistake, in my view, was to portray the Palestinians as faceless "others." This severely undercuts the ad's feel-good vibe. Resultant message: We can all have fun together—so long as I never have to see you or talk to you! (Imagine the classic "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" ad if, instead of gathering together on one happy hilltop, young people from every nation serenaded each other through bulletproof partitions.)
By the way, if you're wondering whether a scenario like the one in the ad could ever take place, wonder no more. A video response purports to demonstrate what actually happens when Palestinians kick a soccer ball over the fence. The ball doesn't come back. But teargas canisters do.