Unprecedented Arabic-only ad on prime time Israeli TV causes stir
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Unprecedented Arabic-only ad on prime time Israeli TV causes stir

Some are outraged, others impressed at Hamashbir department store commercial during Euro 2016 final; store deletes it from Facebook page

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

An Arab Israeli woman stands in the Hamashbir Lazarchan department store in an Arabic-only commercial aired on prime time TV (screen capture: Channel 2).
An Arab Israeli woman stands in the Hamashbir Lazarchan department store in an Arabic-only commercial aired on prime time TV (screen capture: Channel 2).

Israelis watching the Euro 2016 finals on Sunday night were treated to a first in the country — a commercial entirely in Arabic on prime time TV.

The advert for iconic Israeli department store Hamashbir Lazarchan was broadcast on Channel 2, and shows a middle-aged woman played by Arab Israeli comedian Ranin Basharat wandering around the shop in awe as she urges her husband to marry her for a second time so that she can choose wedding gifts from the selection in front of her.

The ad was promoting a special offer from Hamashbir — anyone spending over NIS 10,000 shekels (approx. $2,575) in the store is eligible for a free five-day trip to Istanbul, a popular destination for Arab Israelis. Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s eight million citizens.

But within hours of the commercial being aired, Hamashbir’s Facebook was inundated with comments from Israelis angry at the broadcast of a commercial in Arabic.

“What an embarrassment. You air a commercial like that on Al Jazeera, not on a main channel and especially not while the whole country is watching,” wrote one angry commenter, according to Israeli marketing blog Mizbalah.

“We won’t forget or forgive your commercial,” another person wrote, using a phrase generally used in response to the crimes of the Holocaust, but increasingly invoked over Palestinian terrorism.

Others praised the commercial, with some calling it “brave,” and others terming it “awesome.”

The company, however, deleted the commercial from its Facebook official page following the backlash.

https://www.facebook.com/AdStatus/videos/1391156607567828/

According to Mizbalah, the creators of the commercial acknowledged that they had hoped it would go viral due to the controversy. Hamashbir CEO Rami Shavit was the one who pitched the idea, the blog said.

On Monday, Shavit told Army Radio the advertisement was simply about reaching a target audience.

“We have a huge Arab audience, and we’re proud of them,” he said.

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