Israel’s Health Ministry has removed a humorous ad from its official Facebook page on COVID-19 and social distancing, following a protest from the Chinese government.
The clip stars an angel identified as “Covid, Cupid’s step-brother,” representing the coronavirus, who says he’s “originally from” Wuhan, China, the cradle of the outbreak. The public campaign coincided with Tu B’av, which is celebrated as Israel’s Valentine Day.
“Made in China. But do I work properly or what?” says Covid at the start of the clip. The toga-dressed angel also has a bat clipped to his shoulder, in a nod to the source of the pathogen.
The Chinese embassy in Israel registered a complaint, prompting the Health Ministry to remove the ad from its Facebook page, though it was still available on YouTube and elsewhere.
“It’s unbelievable, they simply see everything, everywhere,” a source in the Health Ministry told Channel 12, referring to the Chinese complaint.
The ad was produced by Israel’s Government Advertising Agency, Lapam.
Though the ad remained on Lapam’s YouTube page through Wednesday, by Thursday afternoon it appeared to have been set to private.
Since the virus emerged in China late last year, over 700,000 people have died worldwide, including 565 in Israel.
For years, Israel has been working to dramatically expand trade with China, one of the world’s largest markets. It retains good ties with Beijing, though in recent months has faced pressure from the United States to diminish its relationship, amid an escalating US-China showdown.
Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump told Chinese tech company ByteDance to sell its hugely popular TikTok app to an American company or see it shut down by mid-September. Washington says TikTok gleans massive amounts of personal data from hundreds of millions of users, which could be passed on to Chinese intelligence.
The US is expanding its China-targeted Clean Network program to include Chinese-made cellphone apps and cloud computing services that it claims are security risks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday. Pompeo said the US wants to ban untrusted Chinese apps from the app stores of US mobile carriers and phonemakers.
Agencies contributed to this report.