Close Encounters of the Levantine Kind

or shall I call this one: Where’s Richard Dreyfuss when you need him?

A new cellphone ad on Israeli TV has already made someone start a Facebook page against it. In the ad, Israeli soldiers are seen playing soccer over the Separation Wall with the unseen enemy on the other side. An excellent analysis of the ad can be read here, by journalist Dimi Reider.

But who is it on the other side? Are they from another planet? Do they mean us no harm? Let us communicate with them via foot and ball and see if their intentions are sincere. For, after all, as the ad says at the end, “What is it we all want? Just a little fun, that’s all”.

Find the differences:

OK, there are few differences, but still…

The sad thing is, is that the ad agency that made this probably got it right – I’m sure there were thousands of Israeli families who were touched by this, who love this “kitcsch”, who secretly hope that their Palestinian enemies are watching on the other side (of the wall, of course, and in Gaza, with no electricity – oops) and understanding that, damn it, all we want is peace and to play soccer with you dudes!

(Part 2, Part 3)


32 Responses to “Close Encounters of the Levantine Kind”

  1. 1 Karen
    July 11, 2009 at 23:16

    Do you think it’s pure coincidence that the ad came out just in time to mark the 5th anniversary of the ICJ’s ruling on the separation barrier? (BYT that is the international community’s preferred way to refer to the fence / wall because it gets round the debate of whether it is a fence / wall and because it is such a “barrier” to peace). Or perhaps this is Israel’s long-awaited official response to all that international criticism?

  2. 2 Shelly
    July 12, 2009 at 00:09

    This is grotesque. There is no other word for it. Well, maybe one more, SICK!

  3. 3 Liat
    July 12, 2009 at 01:49

    Creepy alright – it is for sure not the grisly reality we all know that the Israelis have created to the peaceful fun loving Palestinians. … We all know it is not all that pretty and easy: our soldiers are not all fit, fun and loving. In fact – they want to be in the army for the rest of their lives holding guns and looking for some Palestinian children to shoot at (and if they are all in school studying with their mums – Israeli soldiers get even more excited – because here is a chance to have 2 birds in one bullet); The Israeli girls are not pretty and enjoy searching Palestinian men in checkpoints. In fact this is what turns them on ….
    And please – lets not forget – the underdog Palestinians. how can we even think they have any interest of playing soccer with the people who lock them in just for fun in order to slowly watch them suffocate and get even more turned on by it….
    We all know this. The media makes sure we know it. But as disgusted I am from all these “true realities” – it was refreshing to get some balance. Some YING YANG.
    I, quite frankly, liked the advertisement.
    It gave me some balance: some positive lies to balance the negatives ones.
    WHY NOT?

    • 4 shmookty
      July 12, 2009 at 05:24

      Karen – Are you implying that in fact Israel is ruled by McCan Erickson? 😉

      Shelly – Whatever it is, it’s just done in very bad taste.

      Liat – I honestly think you have no clue what this post is about. I recommend reading Dimi’s post which I linked to, to maybe understand what makes people angry about this commercial. Your “sarcasm” about what turns on Israeli soldiers is soooo off, so out of context, I don’t even know where to start – and as someone who did his 3 years in the army, I kind of find it offensive, too. I’m proud of my soldiers, and I wish that at the age of 18 they were really playing soccer like they should, and not policing foreign territories and people.
      And as usual, I won’t get into the useless left-right banter with you (tempting as it may be), it’s just a waste of our time, dear 🙂

      • 5 Shelly
        July 12, 2009 at 13:37

        I beg to differ with you. It is more than just “bad taste.” That is too gentle.
        It attests to a level of insensitivity, crudeness and even cruelty that is symptomatic and even emblematic of parts of (thankfully not all) Israeli society. In my mind it ranks along with the unforgiveable act of Magen David Adom taking and then throwing away the blood of Ethiopian immigrants – this happened many years ago. Forgive me if I am getting worked up. As someone who has worked in advertising I am imagining hot-shot copywriters, art directors, account execs, brainstorming to think of this “incredible” concept. They, and Cellcom, should be very ashamed.

  4. 6 Liat
    July 12, 2009 at 06:11

    My dearest Ami – my respond Was to Dimi’s post (not yours)– I just added it here too…sorry to upset you “al haboker”…let us all just concentrate on the beautiful last sentence of your post, which we all honestly share – “damn it, all we want is peace and to play soccer with you dudes!” love it. No sarcasm here! Promise!! xx

  5. 8 shmookty
    July 12, 2009 at 14:39

    Shelly – you’re very right, it’s much more serious than just “bad taste”.

  6. 9 Seth
    July 12, 2009 at 16:28

    Ever been to the West Bank? Most towns have electricity. How come you don’t juxtapose this with the way Palestinian media portrays Israel and have a serious conversation?

    • 10 shmookty
      July 12, 2009 at 17:19

      I have been to the West Bank.
      And I was referring to electricity in Gaza, which is scarce.
      And I expect more from Israelis.

      • 11 Seth
        July 12, 2009 at 18:58

        Hamas is to blame for the electrical problems in Gaza, the problems were not so much until they overthrew Fatah. Back to the ad, I do not see what is so wrong with showing that whoever is over the fence still has humanity and that the soldiers are just like them once you break down the socially constructed differences. It says nothing about agreeing with the wall or any other policy. The wall, whether people agree with it or not, is an obstacle in some way and as such it can be overcome.

      • 12 shmookty
        July 12, 2009 at 19:23

        Seth, I feel like you haven’t even read my post. Just a knee-jerk response is what i feel. I’m no supporter of Hamas. My issue, as an Israeli, is with Israeli policy, and in this case, an Israeli commerical and what it says about us. That’s all. Please refrain from the usual “but what about Hamas” crap. I couldn’t care less about them. Let’s talk about us. And if you wish, let’s just agree to disagree (which is what I prefer, if you don’t mind.

      • 13 Liat
        July 13, 2009 at 00:38

        I agree with Seth and see nothing wrong with the ad. Also with how we look and what we do. Israelis are being amazingly patient, human and everything you wish us to be.
        I know you know that behind this Fence there is a neighbour who teaches a whole generation from the age of 2 how to kill you…and does so with Mickey Mouse.
        Have you ever posted anything about that?
        When will the double-standards and hypocrisy end?

        lets agree to disagree as always? 🙂

      • July 13, 2009 at 21:22

        You are the one who brought up Hamas in the first place by complaining about the scarcity of electricity in Gaza. An advertising that humanizes the situation does nothing the hurt the Israeli or Palestinian people, quite the opposite in fact.

      • 15 shmookty
        July 13, 2009 at 22:03

        Seth, the Gaza power plant needs fuel to run. Israel doesn’t supply it regularly. Brush up.
        Actually, I never mentioned Hamas. YOU were the one who made the connection first. You blame power cuts on Hamas, I blame them on Israel – and Hamas.

  7. 16 Shlomo
    July 13, 2009 at 18:46

    These guys do a much better job than selling cellphones:

    HATTLER live: Assalamu Alaikum
    high definition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrcJI3RxwZA&fmt=22
    medium quality http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrcJI3RxwZA&fmt=18

    Music video nominated for the 2009 “Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics”

    PoliticsOnline and the World eDemocracy Forum announced the list for nominations of the 2009 “Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics”. 26 initiatives are nominated. They all have political impact and make innovative use of the internet.

    One of the nominees is Hellmut Hattler, a world-renowned bass guitarist from Germany (Kraan, Tab Two, Hattler). With his online campaign, only on YouTube, Hellmut Hattler draws attention towards the occupation of Palestine – and gets positive feedback from all over the world.

    Your vote for HATTLER

  8. 17 Karen
    July 13, 2009 at 20:05

    To Seth and Liat.

    There is a very important difference between Israel and Hamas. Hamas are a terrorist organisation, Israel is a democratic state. That is the reason why Israel is held up to far higher-standards than murdering terrorists like Hamas.

    And I think we should all be thankful that Israeli democracy means that we have the freedom to discuss these issues and criticise decisions we don’t agree we. I know where I’d rather live…

    • 18 Liat
      July 14, 2009 at 02:10


      You have just made my point even clearer. We are not terrorists who act outside the law, therefore we are not criminals, and therefore we should not be treated as criminals. But it seems that no matter what happens – we are the criminals while the terrorists are the underdogs. Where else can you find logic such as this one?

      we should all be thankful for Israel.

  9. 19 Lee
    July 13, 2009 at 22:24


    I do not understand why you say that it is a double standard and hypocritical to examine the acts of your own country without feeling the need to point out what the Palestinians do and have done. None of the blog posts or comments have in any way excused or made excuses for Hamas or it’s acts. It is my opinion that when both sides are only willing constantly point out the atrocious behavior of the other, it only serves to isolate the sides and drive them further into their already stated position.

    Your comment reminds me of an interview I saw on CNN during the latest Gaza conflict. A former senior official of Hamas was asked several times if Hamas was willing to stop shooting rockets into civilian areas. No matter how the question was phrased or how many times it was asked, his only response was to question why the interviewer was not asking the Israelis to stop the bombings and to compare the death and injury tolls between the two sides. His response was essentially to ask “why should I examine my own acts when the other guy is clearly wrong?” Sound familiar?

    Its possible, that because I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian that I do not understand the subtleties of the issues, but I do know this: until both sides realize that the other isn’t going away, no solution is possible. Maybe both sides could benefit by taking their fingers off the trigger, stop shouting about who killed who when and who did what wrong for the past 60-something years, and take a good look inside. It’s a simple question, but it is one that does not get asked enough by people in conflict – What have I done to make this situation worse?

    • 20 Liat
      July 14, 2009 at 01:58


      Thank you for your response. I agree 100% with what you say “that when both sides are only willing constantly point out the atrocious behavior of the other, it only serves to isolate the sides and drive them further into their already stated position.”
      So really it doesn’t matter to which side we belong but that we are pointing out evenly. Fairly. Not only pointing at one side all of the time.

      And If I may I would like to rephrase your question and ask – what have each side done to make the situation better, not worse.

      Israel has always examined its acts and made big changes. It has done beyond much to try and make a situation – which wasn’t created by Israel itself – better for the other side, for the rest of the world and for other elements that are not even part of the conflict. Funny (or sad really) – Israel is trying to make it better for everyone else but for itself, and it is never enough. Not to the other side, not to the rest of the world and unfortunately not to some Israelis as well. “Why?” – is for another talk-show..

      The double standards and hypocrisy will end when the systematic judgment of Israel stops or at least be along side with the judgment of other conflicted areas; when listing the massive efforts made by Israel to resolve this conflict and not only listing all the faults; when educated individuals judge hypocritical jokes such as the UN human rights council rather than use its material against Israel; when facts re the whole history (politically, socially, religiously) of both sides is being told and considered; when there is a fair use of terms (big difference between “Separation Wall” and “Security Fence”) and when there is no fear to be taken as a racist (or to be blown up) when looking at the problem in its face and calling it by its name – Radical Islam. It is in Iraq, it is in Iran, it is in Afghanistan, it is in America, Russia, India, Europe…..but it is not in Israel.

      The situation is much more complicated than a conflict based on “who was here before”. If that was the problem – I assure you – we would have peace and quiet long long ago.

      • 21 Lee
        July 14, 2009 at 03:27


        I do not understand how you made such a conclusion from my post. Only pointing out the atrocious behavior of your adversary is the logical equivalent of only pointing out what your side has done right. In propositional logic, such an occurrence is called a contrapositive. They do wrong, therefore we are right = We do right, therefore they are wrong.

        And I realize that the conflict is more complicated than who was here first. While I needn’t state my qualifications, I will say that I am quite well read on this particular conflict and while I primarily support Israel, I am capable of making cogent arguments for either side. Since however, the point here is (again) not to bait you into a debate about how we as Israelis and Jews are right, and they as Arabs and Muslims are wrong, I will refrain from debating you on the merits.

        The point is to consider the question that I posed that Israel (and the US for that matter) should ask itself, “How have I made this situation worse?” When you examine your own actions, you might see the issue from the other side’s point of view. You might even realize that what Israel has done and is doing (regardless of right and wrong) clearly is not working. The definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

        What is the harm in Israel examining its own actions and its own reactions (such as TV commercials) to such actions? Why can’t the “middle east’s only democracy” engage in some self-reflection? Why can’t Israelis say to themselves, “you know, we are not guilty of blowing up coffee shops, but maybe we DO do things to the Palestinians that make them so mad that they feel like they have to.” And that is not an endorsement of terror; it is merely a plea for self-reflection. Not who is more wrong or more right. But what do WE do that is wrong?

        I will begin (on a small scale). I am an American Jew. Many American Jews feel that for the past 8 years, US policy towards Israel was the best it ever had been. We steadfastly supported Israel for the past 8 years. We stayed out of Israel’s way and let Sharon and Olmert handle situations as they saw fit. We made sure that when the conflict flared up, the US’s only job was to block Security Council Resolutions condemning Israel and to encourage restraint on behalf of both sides. Our President stood up in front of the world and asked if it was possible that Israel was right and the whole world was wrong; and he answered “yes.”

        I supported this policy. After 9/11, I felt that Israel was a country constantly under attack and that a “by any means necessary” approach was on the right side of a black and white issue. I felt (and still do feel) that the UN is biased against Israel and resolutions condemning Israel but not Hamas/Fatah/PLO, etc. are both unfair and futile.

        Today, I examine our policy for the last 8 years. I also take the lessons we have learned in Iraq: instability in a middle eastern country attracts terrorists like a pile of shit attracts flies; treating an entire civilian population like they are the enemy breeds more terrorists; killing civilians breeds more terrorists. We have (merely) begun to succeed in Iraq because we have started to win the so-called “hearts and minds” war. If you give a person clean food and water, regular electricity, and a chance to earn a living to support his or her family, the cars and cafes explode with far less regularity. Then you have the moral high-ground to quietly conduct counter-terror operations against those that remain.

        Removing Hussein from power has mainly caused Iran to be able to stop fearing from another possible Iran/Iraq war. Iran now can divert those resources to building a nuclear weapon. Also, they now have extra resources (money, weapons, etc.) to funnel to Hamas and Hezbollah.

        Our policy towards Israel for the past 8 years has left us with little credibility and more anti-American feelings in the Arab world. At the same time, we have made our friend weaker and our enemies stronger. Shame on us.

        I see our (the US and American Jews) role as being Israel’s best friend in the world. But a good friend does not just blindly support you no matter what. A good friend can tell you when you are wrong and still remain your friend.

        Israel, sometimes you are right and sometimes you are wrong. I will not hesitate to tell you that you are wrong the next time.

        Can you say the same about yourself?

    • 22 Liat
      July 14, 2009 at 04:34


      1.It is not about they are wrong so we are right. It is not a competition. It is about if already judging – then judging fairly. Both sides.

      2.It is not about how we Jews and Israelis are right and how they, Arabs-Muslims are wrong. It is about being expected to negotiate nicely with a radical force who does not even believe in your existence.

      3.It is not about Israel not self reflecting its actions. It is about the lack of credit and the constant overlook of the changes Israel has made to resolve the conflict. Your question about the matter just confirms it.

      4.Your approach re terrorism is almost like asking a raped and abused woman what has she done to aggravate the rapist.

      5.on that note – what have the Jews done wrong in 1929,1936, 1948,1954 to aggravate the Arabs and have them butcher them? I could probably ask – what have the Jews done to aggravate the Nazi’s?

      oh – and Dr Phil also says – “best prediction of future behavior is past behavior”….

      • 23 Lee
        July 14, 2009 at 06:24


        You are right. The best prediction of future behavior is past behavior. So I predict that Hamas will continue to bait Israel. And Israel will respond as it always does. First with border closings and supply cut-off. Hamas will fire more rockets. Then Israel will respond with the military. Hamas will step up its rocket attacks. And Israel will step up its offensive. They will keep attacking one another until another war breaks out. A war that is totally impossible for either side to win – Israel has overwhelming military might, Hamas has a smaller, quicker, more versatile, and extremely dedicated force that is on its home turf, operates within civilian populations and has nothing to lose – A recipe for a stalemate a’ la Vietnam. Facing the difficulty of victory and the immense international pressure that they are particularly sensitive to, Israel will stop the campaign. Both sides declare victory to the media and regroup until the next flare-up.

        Is that a good prediction?

        You have repeatedly said that you feel that Israel doesn’t get enough credit for what it does right. Is it about getting credit or is it about finding a way to co-exist?

        You may be right about the events of 60-80 years ago. But would you rather be “right” or would you rather have peace?

    • 24 Liat
      July 14, 2009 at 07:07


      To answer your rhetorical questions – we share (I hope) the hope for the same outcome.
      Sorry I’m using Dr. Phil again – but a very good point he often makes is that “you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge.”
      This is a viscous cycle. You are right. No winners here – very true.
      As said before – it’s not about being right or to win. It is no a competition. I agree it’s about finding a way to co-exist. But how long can you bang your head against a wall that repeatedly proves to you – it does not wish to co-exist with you?
      May I suggest that all the efforts which are being invested into re-educating Israel be invested where it’s needed? There is a whole generation that is being taught to kill and be killed in the name of Allah, a massive force that violates human rights (women, gays, children and non-Muslims) and a whole culture that needs to be revisited in order to be ready to co-exist with other cultures. Israel is not the problem – not the fence, not the settlements, not the right or left, and for sure not an ad for a cell-phone.
      I need to go back to work: talking about some real issues.

  10. 26 Danny
    July 15, 2009 at 18:40

    If I may be allowed to add something concerning Lee’s last comment. You made your point strongly. However, as it turns out, ostriches are (or were) indigenous to this part of the world. Some reports (unverified) say that the last one was shot in 1962 but it was reallly around the early part of the 20th century that they apparently became distinct. Unfortunately, the behavior attributed to them (head in the sand) isn’t. Many Israeli’s, as you say, have figuratively adopted that kind of approach.

  11. 28 unadulteratedtruth
    July 22, 2009 at 16:22

    i’ve written an article about this ad on my blog that discusses cellcom’s mistakes, check it out. it has pics and video.

    Here’s a link: http://unadulteratedtruth.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/cellcoms-israeli-commercial-sidelines-palestinian-suffering/

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