Israeli television viewers are likely to be taken by surprise in the coming days when, during a commercial break, they are confronted with an Arabic phrase in bold black letters flashing across the screen against a red ornamental background.
"Are you already against it without even knowing what it says? All we wanted to say is have a nice day," reads the Hebrew phrase that follows.
The new publicity campaign the brainchild of the Mosawa Center for Arab Rights in Israel has already debuted on Channel 2 and Channel 9+, on local radio stations and on electronic screens throughout the country. The ads are slated to appear soon on the Internet and in the local Russian press.
"The purpose of this campaign was mainly to cause the Israeli public sitting at home, or walking down the street, to ask itself why it had a negative reaction to everything Arab, even if it is the simplest phrase," said Mosawa spokeswoman Abir Kopty.
"Whenever I'm talking on my cell phone in the street or on a bus," Kopty told The Jerusalem Post, "people immediately look at me. They are taken aback, even though it's the kind of simple sentence that people exchange in the street everyday."
According to Kopty, the idea is "to ask people why they feel afraid when someone says 'good morning' in Arabic and to invite them to get to know us through our language."
A second stage of the campaign, according to Kopty, will involve an advertisement for a forthcoming festival in Nazareth, to take place between October 16-25. Kopty defined the festival, which is being organized by Mosawa and by the Municipality of Nazareth, as "an invitation to come and visit us, learn about us, hear about our successes and the things that distress us."
The festival will include a range of conferences on cultural and political issues, including a human-rights film festival, a media conference entitled "The Way to Objective Journalism," a conference on the legal status of the Arab population in Israel, and a conference on Arab identity and the identities of Jews of Middle Eastern origins.
While there had been much media interest in the campaign, Kopty said, references to it on Israeli Web sites had received many negative responses.
"The people writing these responses are exactly the people we want to reach," Kopty said. "We don't want to convince those already convinced, but rather to approach that part of the public that is really anti-Arab and to confront them with their own feelings."
The campaign, Kopty added, was part of a larger strategy for Arabs to play a more public role is the civic life of Israel.
"The Israeli media hardly acknowledges the Arab population of Israel," Kopty said. "It is not fairly represented in the media despite the fact that we finance it from our taxes like every Israeli citizen. We want to become visible," she added.
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