Cellcom, Israel’s biggest mobile phone company, is coming under fire for a new commercial which shows Israeli soldiers having fun kicking a soccer ball with unseen Palestinians on the other side of the contested wall that separates Israel and the West Bank. Knesset member Ahmed Tibi has called the ad racist and asked the company to stop running it. “The barrier separates families and prevents children from reaching schools and clinics. Yet the advertisement presents the barrier as though it were just a garden fence in Tel Aviv,” he wrote in a letter of protest. And Saeb Erekat, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it’s “despicable to use the suffering and occupation as a means of advertisement.”

By contrast, and somewhat surprisingly, Yariv Oppenheimer, who heads the leftwing activist group Peace Now, is supporting the commercial. Its message, he told a television station, “is that there are people, normal human beings, on the other side of the fence who simply want to play football. For a commercial advertisement it is a brave move and I believe it is welcome.” For its part, all Cellcom wanted was “to get the message across that when people separated by religion, race and gender want to communicate they can, under any circumstances.”

Anger Over West Bank Football Advert [Jewish Chronicle]
Ad Showing West Bank Barrier Angers Palestinians [AP]
Israel Phone Firm’s West Bank Wall Gag Fails to Amuse [WaPo]