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Saudi official slams "racist" Israeli Nissan ad

Shows rich Arabs attacking fuel-efficient car

A Saudi official has demanded an apology from auto-maker Nissan after Arab sheikhs were portrayed in a “racist” manner in an Israeli-made TV ad for a new fuel-efficient car.

The ad – produced by Israeli advertizing house Inbar Merhav Shaked – shows a group of irate and violent Arab oil barons attacking Nissan’s Tiida electric car -- the new centerpiece of the car-makers green lineup.

The ad starts off with the wealthy-looking Arabs leaving the hotel and encountering the new Nissan vehicle. When they discover its fuel-efficient features, one man – shown wearing the traditional long white dress with a gold-lined black cloak – kicks the tire, then jumps onto the hood and starts pounding his fists on the windscreen.

All the while, security guards try to restrain him, as he shouts and screams and curses at the car.

At the end of the commercial, the voice-over says, "It's clear the oil companies won't like you."

Speaking to MBC TV – the parent company of Al Arabiya – a Saudi official demanded an apology from the car-maker.

"It's my opinion that Nissan made a huge error by igniting these [racist] instincts," Hani al-Wafa said. "We need to apply punishments... against these things. In order for Nissan to keep its interests in the region, it must apologize."

A spokesperson for Nissan in Israel, Daniella Ribenbach, told The Jerusalem Post: "It's a humorous campaign that was loved by both the Jewish and Arab worlds." She declined to comment further on the matter.

The Israeli advertising agency also declined to comment.

Nissan's electric vehicle, introduced on Wednesday, is set to go on the market in Japan and the United States in 2010, and globally by 2012, The Post reported. The car is designed to provide more power than hybrid models, and has zero emissions.

One commenter on YouTube “moeali777” said that Arabs, not just Saudis, were offended by the ad. He wrote it was a “BAD COMMERCIAL NISSAN, heres why: 1. Arabs...buy 20 times more Nissan vehicles than Isrealis; 2. If the arabs did a commercial like this ... how do you think the jews will react?; 3. Nissan better appologize or else they lost a s**t load of buyers.”

Another YouTube user, who goes by the name “zaydoun65” was more philosophical: “I'm Arabic from Kuwait and I think it's a funny ad, but surely the Israelis knew what they were doing when they made it? Lighten up people!”


(Compiled and edited by Ayesha Bhatty).