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Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 17:10 UK

Palestinians mock 'bad taste' ad

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The original advert for mobile phone company Cellcom

Pro-Palestinian protesters have made their own version of a controversial Israeli mobile phone advert.

The Cellcom ad, widely criticised for bad taste, shows troops enjoying a game of football with unseen Palestinians on the other side of a high concrete wall.

At protests against Israel's West Bank barrier, activists filmed themselves kicking a ball to Israeli troops.

The video footage shows their gesture being met with tear gas canisters and their ball left trapped in barbed wire.

We threw the football to the soldiers, but they sent tear gas and stinking water back at us
Abdullah Abu Rahme, Bilin protester

The Cellcom advert, which first aired earlier in July, opens with a football landing on the bonnet of an Israeli military vehicle patrolling along the West Bank separation barrier.

After initial apprehension, one of the soldiers kicks the ball back over the high wall and seconds later it comes flying over once again.

Seeing the opportunity for an impromptu kick-about, the troops call in reinforcements, more jeeps arrive and everyone enjoys themselves with an upbeat tune playing in the background.

"After all, what are we all after? Just a little fun," says the voiceover.

The advert was derided by critics for trivialising the fraught issue of the separation barrier and portraying the Palestinians as an invisible other.

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The version of the Israeli mobile phone ad made by pro-Palestinian protesters

Abdullah Abu Rahme, a leader of the weekly protest in the frontline village of Bilin, said their video - which uses the same sound track as Cellcom - was to show "we are here, we are suffering, this wall killed our life".

"We threw the football to the soldiers, but they sent tear gas and stinking water back at us."

Israeli Arab politicians have already called for the Cellcom advert to be removed from their airwaves.

"The barrier separates families and prevents children from reaching schools and clinics," Ahmed Tibi told Reuters news agency.

"Yet the advertisement presents the barrier as though it were just a garden fence in Tel Aviv."

Cellcom has said its "core value is communication between people" regardless of "religion, race or gender".

The advertisement illustrates the possibility of "mutual entertainment" for people of diverse opinions, it said.

Deadly fire

Bilin protesters - who include local Palestinians, Israeli activists and internationals - say they are non-violent. The Israeli military says the protests are "unauthorised", that stones and Molotov cocktails are often thrown and Israeli security infrastructure damaged.

Israeli forces frequently disperse protesters with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and a foul-smelling liquid spray.

Six protesters have died from Israeli fire in Bilin and nearby Naalin in recent years, with two killed in recent months.

Israel began building the West Bank barrier - part wall, part metal fence - in 2002. It said it was to stop suicide bombers, but Palestinians see the structure as a land grab.

The barrier's route has been widely criticised internationally for looping into Palestinian areas around Israeli settlements, rather than following the Green Line, which marks the boundary that separates Israel from the West Bank.

International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the barrier is illegal where it cuts into the West Bank and called for it to be pulled down.

A spokeswoman for Cellcom said it was just a coincidence that the advert was aired the same week as the fifth anniversary of the advisory verdict.



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