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Was Arabic ad on Israeli TV a clever publicity stunt?

An Israeli department store probably anticipated the controversy its prime-time Arabic-language commercial would kick off and is now reaping the benefits of notoriety among large swaths of Israelis.

Racism toward Arabs in Israel is so rampant that Israeli web commenters respond with automatic hysteria every time they encounter them. Advertisers for the Hamashbir Lazarchan chain of department store are familiar with the harsh and violent discourse prevalent in Israel today, and knew very well the kind of uproar that would be sparked by their advertisement that ran during the Euro 2016 soccer finals July 10, the first Arabic-language ad broadcast during prime time on Israeli commercial television. 

Responses to the ad couldn't have been more predictable if they were written in advance. For instance, Sharon Uziel's comment on Hamashbir’s Facebook page was unequivocal: “A chain that encourages terrorists.” On the other hand, Maya Bakal-Ron wrote in a no less extreme tone on the same page: “Good for you for advertising in Arabic!! A breakthrough in the right direction!!” — as if national aspirations for coexistence and peace stood behind the ad. The commenters seemed not to understand anything. Their emotional response, however, played right into the strategy behind the ad.

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