Occupation is fun!

Posted: July 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »


I posted here yesterday the new Cellcom commercial, which I believe breaks some records in bad taste, even by Israeli standards. I would like to add now one more thought about the way this commercial represents the current moment in Israel.

I agree with Dimi Reider who writes in his blog that:

Ads aimed at the general market, like this one, are invaluable time capsules, representing public mood much more faithfully than any art. They can’t afford to affront and lose a single customer – and thus they document not just what a society really is, but what it really thinks itself to be, which can be just as decisive as facts and figures. 

This goes even further: this commercial was done by McCann Erickson Israel, the largest advertising company in Israel, for what is probably their biggest client – Cellcom, Israel’s leading cell phone provider. So one can assume that many people were involved in writing and approving the commercial, including McCann Erickson’s top directors and managers. In that sense, the commercial is no “mistake” by some low level copywriter.

Now, I would like to offer an assumption: I bet the people who wrote this commercial are not right-wing people (it is not such a radical though – according to the socio-economical profile of the people in the advertising business, they are likely to be voting for Kadima, Labor and even Meretz). What I mean is that although some people in Israel find this commercial to be in bad taste, even offending, the Israeli mainstream sees nothing wrong with it – in fact, some comments on the internet even regarded it as one that advocates peace, since instead of fighting, the soldiers and the (unseen) Palestinians are having fun playing soccer.

The fact that the Palestinians are invisible in this commercial, that the wall the soldiers are playing around was built on their lands – and that Palestinians are killed while protesting against it – the fact that in reality, if a Palestinian comes close to the fence to return a football or to wave a flag he is likely to get shot; the whole reality of the occupation, is something Israelis are refusing to see. Like the voice over at the end of the commercial says (“What do we all want? Some fun, that’s all”), we see ourselves as your usual happy-and-fun-loving-Mediterranean-nation, only in uniform.

Israelis can be liberal or conservative, religious or secular, left wing or right wing people, but as a whole, the vast majority of them are totally absorbed in their own pain, and don’t care at all about the Palestinians – even though the reality of Palestinian and Israeli life is unseparable, and has been so since the dawn of Zionism.

A well informed person in Europe or the US knows more about what’s happening in Ramallah or Hebron than your average Israeli, living only 30 minutes drive (if you can pass the roadblocks) from these towns. You can’t even blame the Israelis: In most Israeli papers and news stations, stories about the Palestinians are considered boring, practically a none-issue. You can see more of them on a European Channel than on Israeli TV.  The current trend in the debate is refusing to use the word “occupation” – which is considered a radical lefty term – and even denying the very existence of a Palestinian people, as if we could only prove that they are not a nation, we wouldn’t be forced to give them individual rights. Israelis are living in a world of constant Cognitive Dissonance, in which it is possible to speak about our forever-united-Jerusalem, while in fact the city is already divided into two by a wall more than twice higher than the Berlin Wall.

I should also add that this view is shared by Israel’s supporters around the world, and especially in the US. Occasionally I get to read the meta-blog “Jewlicious”. Most bloggers there, I gather, consider themselves Obama supporters, and even Liberals. But when it comes to Israel, things change. Here, they can write a post which makes fan of Palestinians’ life under the siege in Gaza, and never understand the problem with it.

That’s why discussing these issues with Israelis and their supporters has become so difficult, even frustrating. What exactly can you say to the advertising person who made the Cellcom commercial? How can you begin describing the situation, when even words like “occupation” and “Palestinians” are considered politically biased? Israelis have convinced themselves that (a) the situation is not their fault, and (b) that the whole world is against them. And if this is the case, they conclude they can do whatever they want, and dismiss any criticism as your typical anti-Semitism.

I’ve discussed here before the question of Apartheid. I often wandered what did the people of South Africa think about their country. Did they went on seeing it as a democracy, even when the rest of the world cut all connections with them? How could they explain to themselves this difference in perception? Well, I think I’m beginning to understand. You create your own image of yourself, and than you build a wall around you. After that, nothing prevents you from viewing your soldiers as fun loving people – instead of asking yourself what is it exactly that are they doing there – and your army patrol as a Rio de Janeiro style celebration.

4 Comments on “Occupation is fun!”

  1. 1 tamar said at 3:48 pm on July 12th, 2009:

    Kol hakavod. Thanks for airing this disgusting story. The admen/adwomen have lots of good company, with decades of the “profession” reaping rewards for crafting clever copy and branding that $ell$ products and services. Little else matters to companies and their marketeers. I plan to change my Israeli cell phone provider. Economic boycotts work if enough people participate.

  2. 2 Addison said at 8:53 pm on July 12th, 2009:

    Thank you for this very thoughtful analysis. I wrestle with how to talk to my American Jewish friends (who are liberal) about the occupation. I think that ultimately, I cannot do it, as I have encountered many of the attitudes you describe in your post and it is ridiculous for me to attempt to confront the cognitive dissonance. I think that if it can be done, it can only be done by Jews. So thank you, and keep writing.

  3. 3 KIMO AL QUDS said at 11:10 am on July 13th, 2009:

    Lets see 150+ nations concieved since the end of WW2. Only one3 has had to fight fore its survival continuously since its birth. WHY? Why wont ARABS allow Isrelis to live in peace. Just look at the Arab states formed since WW2 none of them have been imperiled for 61 straight years. Then Arabs started blowing themselves and innocent civilians up. Arabs start 5 wars with Israel, not c ounting their BS intifada and lose yet still expect to make credible demands?? Had the Arabs won what would be ISraeli demands? There wouldn’t be any as ISrael and its jewish population would be dead. Right of returen for ARabs? 880 thousand Jews were forceibly thrown out of countries they had lived in for thousands of years by Arabs but there is no right of return for them. Let the ARab squatters rot where they are let each Arab govt open up their lands and citizenship to the refugees as Israel has done as the Jews cannot return to the lands they had lived. Why then should the Arabs. Remember they lost and have kept on losing after starting the fights. GAZA is the same way. If Ireland was rocketing England daily or like the nazis did in the last months of ww2 with their v2 rocket launchs what would be the response? Just play nice and maybe the bad boys will stop? BSBSBFS! The Brits would have done everything in their power to stop it. Now they embargo Israel for trying to stop THEIR WOMEN AND CHILDREN FROM BEING SLAUGHTERED BY arab ROCKETS. BRITS HAVE IT WRONG AND THE bRITS SHOULD BE EMBARGOED WORLDWIDE. CUT OFF FUNDS CALL IN LOANS . OCCUPIED LAND? It is inhabited by Israelis and it is their right tO inhabit every inch of it. SCREW THE ARABS AND THEIR WHINNY FOLLOWERS. IT AINT THEIR LAND. iT NEVER WAS NOR WILL BE. ISRAELIS THAT THINK OTHERWISE SHOULD LEAVE ISREAL AND LIVE WITH THEIR ARAB BRETHERN TO SEE THE DIFFERENCE

  4. 4 Ayyad said at 11:08 am on July 20th, 2009:

    I concur. This advert is morally degenerate, and is a very grim reflection on the Israeli society. Imagine a ‘dancing negro’ commercial in the U.S. It would be totally unacceptable.
    In real life, people dont play games by the wall, they try to get their lands back, getting shot at and poisoned with cs gas.
    this is how the ad looks in real life: